Protecting American interests around the globe, the U.S. Navy faces a myriad of threats. From terrorists and anti-ship rockets, to mines, torpedoes and even ballistic missiles, there are plenty of hazards to worry the brass.
But here at home, one naval installation has discovered a new menace, capable of knocking out key communications in a matter of seconds.
However, this particular hazard doesn’t involve suicide bombers, long-range missiles, space weapons, or even explosives. Indeed, this latest threat can be found in most backyards, or any other wooded area. It typically weighs a pound—or less—and belongs to the Sciuridae family.
We’re referring to the common tree squirrel, and last Saturday night, one of the furry rodents disrupted phone service at Virginia’s Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. Four days later, “land line” phones at the base still aren’t working, making communications difficult.
“It’s a real pain,” said a civilian employee at the base personnel office, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He said workers are using e-mail and cell phones as a work-around.
A senior official at the weapons station, who asked not to be identified, said the problem began when a squirrel came in contact with an electrical transformer. The rodent was electrocuted and the transformer exploded, knocking out power for a time, and seriously damaging a key component of the base phone system.
Since then, callers to the installation have heard nothing but busy signals, and weapons station personnel have been unable to reach anyone, on or off the base.
Technicians were still working on the problem Wednesday morning, but there was no indication as to when phone service might be restored. Mark Piggott, a public affairs officer at the base, said software for the phone network had to be re-loaded manually, a process that could take three to six days. That means phone service might not be restored until the weekend.
While the base is not completely without communications, the problem does affect some key nodes, including secure voice phones based on land-line networks.
Classified intranet communications systems, which handle data at the Secret and Top Secret/SCI levels, remained in operation, providing other options for sharing information. …