Naval Air Station Cecil Field
NAS Cecil Field was the largest military base in the Jacksonville, Florida, area. Including nearly 2,500 acres at OLF Whitehouse, the Cecil Field complex consisted of 22,939 acres; in addition, the base leased another 8,379 acres. As directed by Congress in BRAC 1993 and BRAC 1995, NAS Cecil Field was scheduled to cease Navy air operations in late 1999 with full Navy operational closure in mid-2000. When the lights were all been turned off and the doors locked, all that was left of the largest military installation in the Jacksonville area and the South's only Master Jet Base will be 30,000 acres of land, some buildings and equipment, and memories spanning six decades. The base officially closed September 30, 1999. Approximately 17,200 acres were transferred to the private sector, the remainder was transferred to NAS Jacksonville.
NAS Cecil Field is comprised of four separate facilities, the Cecil Field Complex (Cecil Field), the Outlying Field ("OLF") Whitehouse, the Yellow Water Weapons Department and the Pinecastle [Pine Castle] Electronic Warfare Target Area / Warfare Range.
Cecil Field was named in honor of Commander Henry Barton Cecil. Shortly before World War II, a 2,600 acre tract of land was purchased in Duval County and construction began on the "U.S. Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Cecil Field." The base got its start in June 1941, and operations were jump-started just 11 days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Cecil Field was commissioned as a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) in February 1943. VF and VSB units of Advanced Carrier Group, Atlantic arrived at Cecil Field in late 1942 to commence replacement pilot combat training. In March 1943, the fighter training unit moved to nearby Lee Field, in Green Cove Springs, and NAS Cecil Field became the principal war-at-sea and dive- bombing training center for the Navy. From 1943 until the war ended, Cecil Field was a pilot's last stop before assignment to combat in either the Atlantic or Pacific fleet.
It operated at full capacity during the war years and after the war. Disestablished at the end of World War II, it was then re-established and disestablished until finally designated as a Naval Air Station on June 30, 1952. The station was rejuvenated as an operating base for fleet aircraft units which ushered in the "jet age" for the Jacksonville area.
In the mid-1950's Cecil Field's growth was given further impetus when the station was selected to serve as one of four bases specifically used for the operation of jet aircraft. In 1951 the land area of Cecil Field was increased to 4,600 acres and additional new buildings and faccilities were constructed. Naval Air Station Cecil Field occupied 19,664 acres, and was projected to be Navy's largest master jet base.
It was RF-8 Crusaders from VFP 62 out of Cecil Field who detected the presence of missiles and monitored the Soviet buildup during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Squadrons from NAS Cecil Field were aboard every Atlantic Fleet aircraft carrier deployed to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict. During this period, 13 Cecil Field pilots were listed as POW or MIA. The POW/MIA memorial located behind the base chapel has become the chosen site for retiring AGs and METOC officers to hold their retirement ceremonies.
The first Atlantic Fleet Squadrons to fly the A-7 Corsair II, the FA-18 Hornet, the S-3A and S-3B Viking, and the ES3 Shadow were all based at NAS Cecil Field. Cecil Field squadrons again made history during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, marking the final combat deployment for the A-7E Corsair II and the first combat operations for the S-3B Viking.
The first weather observations were recorded at Cecil Field in May 1949, with the first meteorological equipment installed in December of the same year. In those days, weather observing and forecasting services were provided by the Meteorology Division of the Air Operations Department. The "weather guessers" of Cecil Field first became a detachment, as Naval Weather Service Environmental Detachment (NWSED), Cecil Field when, in an effort to centralize control of support from the Navy's shore-based meteorological units, the CNO established the Office of the Naval Weather Service on December 29, 1965. In September 1979, almost 14 years later, the name changed to Naval Oceanography Command Detachment (NOCD), Cecil Field.
The aviation infrastructure located on the Base includes four runways; eight hangars, which total over 750,000 square feet of space; 537,000 square yards of ramp space; a control tower; and aviation fueling systems. In addition to these facilities, the station features aviation maintenance and training facilities, which include flight simulators, jet engine test cells, avionics repair facilities, and classrooms. The aviation facilities have been developed over a 50-year period and are located south of Normandy Boulevard. In addition to aviation facilities, the Base features various buildings and facilities which support the aviation training and operations facilities.
The Cecil Field Zone organization is structured utilizing a consolidated work force comprised of both PWC and Station personnel. This "one-stop shopping" organizational structure provides all public works management services for NAS Cecil Field as it prepared for closure as mandated by BRAC 93. In FY97, the Cecil Field Zone accomplished over $1.7 million dollars worth of contracted services for our customers located at NAS Cecil Field. BRAC facility closures through FY97 consists of 51 buildings and 61 magazines.
Naval Air Station Cecil Field was identified for closure by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission ("BRAC") and approved by the Congress and the President in July 1993. Upon this notice by the BRAC, the city of Jacksonville initiated the development of a reuse plan to guide transition of base property and facilities to other uses that support local goals for economic and community development.
The runways at Cecil Commerce Center consist of two sets of parallel runways. The North/South runways consists of one runway which is 12,500 feet and one which 8,000 feet. The East/West runways are each 8,000 feet in length. Each runway features high intensity runway lighting. Each set of runways has a full length in board parallel taxiway with medium intensity taxiway lights.
The 537,000 square yards of apron at Cecil Commerce Center consist of two parking spaces. One parking area is located along the North/ South runway. The second parking area is located along the East/West runway. Access to the apron parking areas are provided with 550,000 square yards of ramps.
The Cecil Commerce Center possesses eight hangars. Five hangars are adjacent to the North/South runways, and three hangars are adjacent to the East/West runways. The hangar space at Cecil Commerce Center totals over 775,000 square feet. Each hangar contains office space in the rear of the hangar. Hangar office space totals 150,000 square feet.
The base provided facilities, services, and material support for the operation and maintenance of naval weapons, aircraft and other units of the operating forces as designated by the Chief of Naval Operations. Some of the tasks required to accomplish this mission include operation of fuel storage facilities, performance of aircraft maintenance. Maintenance activities at NAS Cecil Field over the years generated a variety of waste materials including municipal solid waste, municipal wastewater treatment plant sludge, industrial wastes including waste oils, solvents, paints and spilled fuels, and waste pesticides. Contaminants of concern include pesticides, chlorinated solvents, waste fuels and metals.
The first environmental studies for the investigation of waste handling and/or disposal were completed between 1983 and 1985 under the Navy Assessment and Control of Installation Pollutants program. The base was placed on the National Priorities List in 1989. A Federal Facility Agreement was signed by Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Navy on October 23, 1990.
Nine Operable Units consisting of thirteen (13) separate sites have been identified as well as numerous potential sources of contamination. Investigations at NAS Cecil Field are in varying stages of completion. Field investigations for all designated operable units and other potential sources of contamination are either completed or nearing completion. Four Interim Records of Decisions (RODs) were signed in 1994 to address source removals at fours sites. These actions have removed or treated over 15,762 tons of contaminated soil.
Eight final RODs were approved between 1995 - 1999, which addressed ten (10) sites. Remedial actions for all approved RODs have been started. RODs for the remaining sites were approved during FY 2000/2001 and all actions started by the end of FY 2001. Remedial actions vary with complexity and expected duration. Types of actions include long term monitoring of creek sediments and surface water, natural attenuation, soil excavation with off-site disposal and air sparging of groundwater. The various remedial activities at NAS Cecil Field have and will address groundwater plumes of chlorinated solvents and petroleum waste products, as well as surface soils, sediments and sources contaminated with metals and organics.
Surface water runoff from the site is conveyed to local streams, including Yellow Water Creek, Rowell Creek, and Sal Taylor Creek, by a system of storm sewers and unlined ditches. The confluence of Rowell and Sal Taylor creeks lies on the western edge of the main station boundary. Sal Taylor continues southwest for 3 km before meeting Yellow Water Creek, the receiving stream of all surface waters leaving the site. Yellow Water Creek flows south from the Sal Taylor Creek tributary for 13 km to join Black Creek. Black Creek then flows southeast for 27 km to the St. Johns River, which drains to the Atlantic Ocean.
Black Creek is a very popular area for recreational fisheries and water-related sports, including swimming, boating, and water skiing. Recreational fisheries in the creek include those for blue crab, striped bass, and red drum. Blue crab are also fished commercially in Black Creek and eels are fished com mercially in its lower reaches near the St. Johns River. The lower St. Johns River near the confluence of Black Creek is tidally influenced and provides estuarine habitat for many marine and estuarine species, including nursery grounds for shrimp, spotted seatrout, weakfish, spot, Atlantic croaker, and red drum
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