Naval Air Station (NAS) Meridian
Just 15 miles northeast of downtown Meridian lies Naval Air Station Meridian jet training facility. NAS Meridian hosts Training Wing One and training squadrons VT-7 and VT-9. VT-7 operates the T-45 (Goshawk) while VT-9 flies the venerable T2-C Buckeye. The main base of NAS Meridian occupies more than 8,000 acres, with an additional 4,000 acres at Joe Williams Field and the target facility SEARAY. The size of NAS Meridian may be compared to that of other major naval air stations such as NAS Pensacola, Fla., which has about 5,000 acres. More than 4,000 military, civilians and dependents work and/or live at the air station.
NAS Meridian supports aviation and technical training, and other tenant activities by providing timely, quality services and facilities in an environmentally safe, secure community. Departments working under the NAS Commanding Officer form the backbone for the entire installation's functioning. The Administrative Services Department provides general administrative services for the command. Responsibilities include: processing military personnel matters with the Personnel Support Activity Detachment, Meridian; processing special requests, leave and TAD orders, evaluations and command correspondence; maintaining command directives and correspondence files; providing duplicating services and messenger systems; and coordinating administrative systems and services throughout the command.
The Air Operations Department employs 230 military and civilian personnel to operate McCain Field and Joe Williams Outlying. Their primary mission is to support CTW-1 under-graduate pilot training. Additional services are furnished to support operations for NAS and transient aircrews. Air Traffic Control Division operates the control tower and radar final control systems. They provide flight planning services and issue clearances and instructions to pilots for all phases of military flight operations within the vicinity of the airport. Ground Electronics Maintenance Division (GEMD) ensures all assigned UHF, VHF and FM radio communications, air navigation aids, weather monitoring/reporting equipment and precision approach radars required to conduct safe and effective flight operations around NAS Meridian and its outlying field operate at or above designated performance standards. GEMD also provides sound support services and functions as point of contact for matters related to 3M, frequency management, equipment configuration and computer repair/assistance.
HH-1N Huey helicopters are used by the station's Search and Rescue personnel to provide 24-hour rescue coverage of the Eastern Mississippi/Western Alabama area. The 25-member SAR team consists of pilots, aircrewmen and hospital corpsmen who train constantly in first aid, helicopter rappelling and tree extraction. The team also assists in a wide variety of civilian emergencies, such as searching for missing persons, assisting with aircraft and boating mishaps and occasional MEDEVAC missions.
The Security Department at Naval Air Station Meridian is tasked with providing professional law enforcement and physical security service for the installation. The department is comprised of 44 specially trained military and civil service law enforcement personnel. Included in the department structure are investigations, operations, administration pass and tag, animal control and training divisions. Among the services provided by the department are station and perimeter security, traffic control, vehicle registration, firearms registration, pet registration and vacation home checks for on-station residents. A 36-person Auxiliary Security Force (ASF) augments and supports the Navy Security Force. The ASF is trained by a Marine cadre specializing in anti-terrorism, perimeter defense, riot control and other support activities. The Security Department training facility is one of the most impressive security training facilities in CONUS.
The Regional Counterdrug Training Academy (RCTA) is a civilian law enforcement training academy operated by the Mississippi National Guard. The RCTA occupies several buildings at NAS Meridian. Building 219 is the headquarters, Building 365 is the primary training building, and the Urban Training Facility or "MOUT City," located behind Building 219, is for practical exercises.
On July 16, 1957, the first shovel of earth was thrown, marking the beginning of the Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS), which was commissioned July 14, 1961. Captain W.F. Krantz received the golden key to the air station, and senior Mississippi U.S. Senator John C. Stennis was the guest speaker for the ceremony that opened the $60 million base. At that time, the operations area was named McCain Field in honor of the late Admiral John S. McCain of Teoc, Mississippi.
Training Squadron SEVEN (VT-7) arrived at NAAS Meridian July 12, 1961, then split to form its sister squadron VT-9 December 15. In September 1965, hundreds of planes from Florida bases arrived to escape the wrath of Hurricane Betsy. The Naval Auxiliary Air Station continued to grow, and by July 1968, the station became a full Naval Air Station. The years brought an increase in building development and family housing units. In 1968, and again in 1969, 300 aircraft from Pensacola arrived to escape the fury and destruction of Hurricane Gladys and Hurricane Camille, respectively.
In August 1971, Training Air Wing ONE (CTW-1) was commissioned and Training Squadron NINETEEN (VT-19) was established. The Wing motto became "Readiness for Victory at Sea through Training." That October saw the arrival of the TA-4J, the new advanced jet trainer based on the A-4 "Skyhawk." In April 1973, President Richard M. Nixon, accompanied by Senator John C. Stennis and many other high-ranking military and civilian officials, attended the dedication of the new Naval Technical Training Center (NTTC). Known locally as the Stennis Center, it was officially commissioned April 17, 1974.
NAS Meridian was selected and upgraded to a Major Shore Command on October 1, 1982. In March 1984, NAS Meridian was one of 15 installations chosen for the Department of Defense Model Installation Program. In September 1985, the enlisted galley was dedicated to the memory of Marine Lance Corporal Roy M. Wheat, a Mississippi native and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in Vietnam.
In 1987, outlying field "Bravo" was renamed after Captain Joe W. Williams, Jr., NAS Meridian's second commanding officer and the recipient of the Navy Cross.
In August 1992 during the Gulf Coast evacuation for Hurricane Andrew, NAS Meridian provided transient support for 53 TH-57 helicopters from NAS Whiting Field enroute to NAS Memphis; additionally, temporary housing for more than 1,000 evacuated military personnel and dependents was also provided.
In July 1994, Training Squadron TWENTY-THREE moved from Kingsville, Texas, to NAS Meridian. More than 50 aircraft from NAS Whiting Field and NAS Pensacola were flown to Meridian in June of 1995, when Hurricane Allison threatened the Gulf Coast. In 1995, the station also provided shelter for more than 1,000 personnel during Gulf Coast evacuations as a result of Hurricane Erin in August and Hurricane Opal in October.
In October 1997, the combined bachelor quarters was dedicated to the memory of the first African American Naval Aviator Ensign Jesse L. Brown, a Hattiesburg native who was killed in action during the Korean War.
The T-45C "Goshawk," the Navy's most modern jet trainer, was introduced at NAS Meridian, Dec. 15, 1997. The ceremony marking the aircraft's arrival was attended by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Congressman "Chip" Pickering, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay Johnson, and other distinguished guests.
The City of Meridian, which lies 15 miles southwest of the naval air station, is a progressive and rapidly growing city. A brand new mall, Bonita Lakes Mall, just opened in October 1997. When pressed for a one-word description of the city, natives and visitors alike would probably choose "friendly." Others describe Meridian area as "beautiful," "accessible" and "a good place to raise a family."
Centrally located in the Southeast, Meridian is located 155 miles southwest of Birmingham, Alabama; 90 miles east of Jackson, Mississippi; 247 miles northeast of New Orleans, Louisiana; and 180 miles north of Pensacola, Florida. Airline, bus and train services are available. Modern highways criss-cross the rolling countryside, leading to major surrounding cities and numerous recreation and historical sites.
Many industries have chosen the area as home because of the strategic location for transportation purposes and excellent local labor force. Major categories of manufacturing are wood, clothing apparel, metal fabrication and electronic equipment. The city of Meridian is home for approximately 47,000 people. Many homes are located on rolling terrain, graced by native pines and hard-woods. There are a variety of local housing choices with reasonable rental rates and purchase prices. Numerous motels serve the many visitors and newcomers.
Secretary of Defense Recommendations: In another recommendation DoD would realign Naval Air Station Meridian, MS; along with Maxwell Air Force Base, AL; and Naval Station Newport, RI; by relocating religious training and education to Fort Jackson, SC, establishing a Joint Center of Excellence for religious training and education.
Secretary of Defense Justification: Consolidation of a Joint Center of Excellence for religious training and education at Fort Jackson, SC, creates a synergistic benefit by having each Service's officer and enlisted programs conducted in close proximity to operational forces. Realized savings result from consolidation and alignment of similar officer and enlisted educational activities and the merging of common support functions. This recommendation supports the following DoD transformational options: (1) establish center of excellence for joint education and training by combining like schools and (2) establish joint officer and enlisted specialized skills training.
Commission Findings: For the recommendation the Commission found no reason to disagree with the Secretary’s recommendation and justification. The Commission believes a Joint Center for Religious Education and Training at Fort Jackson will provide significant jointness benefits to the Chaplain Corps, and better prepare chaplains to comfortably minister to members of all service branches. The Commission also believes that during DoD implementation, course curricula can be developed to achieve both goals of consolidating training where appropriate, and providing service-unique training where necessary.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission finds the Secretary’s recommendation consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission approves the recommendation of the Secretary.
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