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Cheltenham, Maryland
US Naval Communications Station Washington DC

The Naval Communications Detachment Cheltenham was disestablished 30 December 1998. The Navy saved an estimated $2 million dollars by not updating the aging infrastructure, and also saved another $1.4 million dollars in annual operation and maintenance costs. At the peak of activities, the station had more than 500 military and civilian personnel and their families.

The Messaging and Information Systems Department of the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) is located in Cheltenham, Maryland. This site continues to support various Navy-specific command, control, communication, computer and intelligence (C4I) programs in addition to those sponsored through the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). capabilities grew with the addition of testbed assets at the Navy Support Division, JITC Washington Operations Directorate in Cheltenham, Maryland, and the Joint Demonstration and Evaluation Facility (JDEF) in Arlington, Virginia. The JITC maintains the Joint Demonstration and Engineering Facility (JDEF) as well as a headquarters element in Arlington, Virginia.

In 1938 The Naval Radio Station Cheltenham was established in Cheltenham, Maryland, near Andrews AFB. The facility was located on a wide expanse of wooded trees and farms that originally encompassed more than 559 acres of land the Navy bought from a local farmer. In August 1940, the Navy had five communications intelligence intercept sites with diplomatic targets which were all linked directly (or indirectly through Army circuits) to Washington via radio and landline communications. These sites were Winter Harbor, Maine; Amagansett, New York; Cheltenham, Maryland; Jupiter, Florida; and Bainbridge Island, Washington.

In August 1953, it was re-designated the Naval Communications Station, Washington, DC. In addition to its communications functions, Naval Communications Station, Washington, DC, provided base and housing security (the majority of the housing on the installation was built in 1941), limited on site medical and dental care, MWR facilities, postal service, and administrative and public works support to tenant commands.

The station's Automatic Teletypewriter Switching Center was installed in 1959. This major switching station was capable of handling almost 2 million words every 24 hours. The public demonstration of the Navy's Moon Relay Communications System in 1960 bounced radio signals off the moon to send signals and pictures. It took 2 1/2 seconds to communicate with Naval Communications Pearl Harbor, via the surface of the Moon.

In July 1975, it was renamed the Naval Communications Unit, Washington, DC. In 1980, 200 acres were transferred to the State of Maryland for a Wetlands Park. And in 1997, 124 acres were transferred to the Department of Energy. In 1996, the operational telecommunications message center was relocated to the Washington Navy Yard, leaving Naval Communications Detachment Cheltenham, for the first time, without an operational communications function. The installation was re-desginated Naval Communications Detachment Cheltenham.

The Military Affiliate Radio System is a Department of Defense sponsored program, established as separately managed and operated entities by the Army, Navy and Air Force. The program consists of licensed amateur radio operators who are interested in military communications. They contribute to the MARS mission by providing volunteer auxiliary or emergency communications on a local, national, and international basis as an adjunct to normal communications. The Navy MARS headquarters station (NAV) was located at Cheltenham, Maryland.


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