Dam Neck is part of Naval Air Station (NAS), Oceana and is home to the Fleet Combat Training Center, Atlantic along with 13 other tenant commands. Dam Neck is located on the Atlantic coast, five miles south of the downtown resort of the Virginia Beach. Founded in 1941 as an anti-aircraft range, the base still boasts the the Navy's only open-ocean, live firing training facility featuring major caliber weapons.
Dam Neck is host to 12 tenant commands. Over 5,600 instructors, students, and support personnel live or work at Dam Neck. Each year, over 17,000 students graduate from one of over 200 courses of instruction. As the host command, FCTCLANT Dam Neck provides the support function of berthing, messing, medical and dental, disbursing, public works support, and recreation facilities for the base. FCTCLANT Dam Neck also graduates over 11,000 students a year in approximately 30 courses of instruction. Over 20 of these courses are taught via the Video Teletraining (VTT) network. Known as the "electronic schoolhouse", VTT provides an interactive link between students and instructors at Dam Neck and Norfolk, and sites along both the east and west coasts.
With an annual student throughput of over 1,600 students annually, Operations Specialist "A" school is one of FCTCLANT Dam Neck's largest courses of instruction. During 14 weeks of intense instruction, young men and women learn the basics of operating complex combat and command control systems.
Other major commands include Tactical Training Group, Atlantic (TACTRAGRULANT), Navy Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center (NMITC), the Fleet Combat Direction Systems Support Activity (FCDSSA) Port Heuneme Division, Naval Ocean Processing Facility (NOPF), Marine Air Control Squadron Twenty Four (MACS 24), Commander Underwater Surveillance (COMUNDERSEAUR), Commander Naval Special Warfare Development Group (COMNAVSPECWARDEVGRU), Composite Squadron Six Detachment (VC-6), Personnel Support Detachment (PSD), Medical and Dental clinics (active duty only), and Navy Family Services Center (NFSC).
An FBM Training Center, Dam Neck, Virginia, was opened on 24 September 1964, with the dedication of Raborn Hall, named after VADM William F. "Red" Raborn, the first Director of SPO.
Dam Neck rests on over 1,100 acres of highlands, marshes, coastal beaches and sand dunes with 3.2 miles of the some of the most beautiful beach front in Virginia. The delicate ecological balance is preserved through active environmental preservation and recycling programs. An environmental engineer and park technician protect the natural resources and wildlife and oversee recreational hunting and fishing activities.
Dam Neck's unique location has many advantages for the Navy. Strategically located within 30 minutes of 50 percent of the U.S. Fleet, joint forces, and NATO Commands, as well as in close proximity to NAS Oceana and major Army and Air Force Commands, Dam Neck has a distinct advantage in providing training and testing services to the Fleet.
Electronic links with the Norfolk Naval Base, NSWC Dahlgren, NAWC Patuxent River, and ACSC Wallops Island provide a broad range of electronic signals for joint testing and training in the adjoining VACAPES Operating Area, which offers the only test and training space in the world covered by land-based SPS-48, SPS-49, and SPY-1 radars. Further connectivity exists between Dam Neck, Newport News Shipbuilding, and Virginia academia facilities to allow joint cooperative testing, training, and research.
Available on-line hardware at Dam Neck provides the Joint Task Force an environment to support both tactical team training and combat systems testing utilizing common sets of equipment that support the Battle Force Integration Test (BFIT) via the Distributed Engineering Plant (DEP). This combination of electronic connectivity via a high-speed digital switch (HSDS) and a Dam Neck base wide-area network (WAN) provides the operational user or acquisition manager with access to the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) Land-Based Test Site, Intel, Links, C4I data, Tomahawk, search radars, and Over-the-Horizon Link data. The Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) compliant Battle Force Tactical Training System, in conjunction with other base trainers, provides Defense Simulation Internet (DSI) connectivity. The multifunctionality of this site in conjunction with the available hardware assets, support services, and intrafacility DIS connectivity provides an ideal environment and location for multiservice development testing, integration testing, training, and independent verification and validation (IV&V) activities.
The mission of the NAVSEA Dam Neck Combat Direction Systems Activity (CDSA) is to provide acquisition support, life cycle maintenance, testing, and delivery for carrier, amphibious, frigate, and non-AEGIS destroyer combat direction systems, advanced sensor distribution systems, and other software-intensive combat control and electronic intelligence systems and to perform such other functions and tasks as may be directed by higher authority. CDSA creates and maintains computer programs for several combatant platforms and multiple versions of programs for each platform. CDSA's technical experts represent various functional disciplines such as engineering, software development, logistics, configuration management, and systems integration. In essence, CDSA is a one-stop shop. The collocation of technical experts for each platform and various disciplines provides a unique synergistic effect in that common problems are identified using a systems approach and solved using standardized methods. This, coupled with an ideal geographic location, provides capabilities that are unique to the Dam Neck site. CDSA has evolved into a state-of-the-art software production and systems integration facility. In September 1997, it became the first Navy tactical software developer to attain the Carnegie-Mellon Institute's Capability Maturity Model Level III rating. Command assets include the High-Performance Computing Facility, the Multi-Functional Land-Based Test Site, the Collaborative Engineering Center, and connectivity to the Distributed Engineering Plant. The capabilities, work ethic, and facilities found at CDSA have made it an integral part of all Navy and Joint tactical systems developments.
The Dam Neck site is located on Virginia's Atlantic shore near where the first Jamestown settlers landed, where the infamous Blackbeard and other pirates were said to have buried treasures, where battles of the Revolutionary War were fought, where Blue and Gray clashed during the Civil War, and where German submarines sank American shipping vessels within yards of the beach during World War II. This area is full of colorful names such as London Bridge, Princess Anne, Cape Henry, Wolfsnare, Indian River, and Pungo. These names invite curiosity about the stories behind them and reflect the rich history of the English speaking settlers and Native Americans who once lived there.
Dam Neck is located in an area rich in history. In 1607, the Jamestown colonists landed just south of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay at what is now Fort Story. By 1617, the settlers expanded east of the Elizabeth River, and built homes near present-day Dam Neck by the 1630's.
The name Dam Neck became firmly established in 1881 when it was given to a life-saving station built where the Bachelor Officer Quarters are now located. The Coast Guard purchased the life-saving station in 1930, and used it as a signal station until the Navy bought the land during World War II.
On November 6, 1941, Lieutenant Phillip D. Gallery received orders to report to the "Anti-Aircraft Range, Norfolk." No one could tell him anything about his new duty station, so Gallery did some checking. He discovered that District Public Works was in the process of constructing two small frame buildings near a Coast Guard station about five miles south of Virginia Beach on the Atlantic coast. This was the beginning of Anti-Aircraft Range, Norfolk.
The base originally housed a firing line, one control tower, one magazine, one office and one shop. There were no quarters or messing facilities. On April 4, 1942, the activity was commissioned as the Anti-Aircraft Training and Test center with Lieutenant Gallery as Commanding Officer. The first barracks building, a mess hall and early classrooms were completed, and the staff consisted of two officers and approximately 40 enlisted men. Lieutenant Gallery solicited trainees from ships at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and the Naval Base Piers. Enormous interest in the center developed immediately after the assault on Pearl Harbor, and plans were made to establish many other similar activities throughout the nation. By 1944, Lieutenant Gallery was promoted to the rank of commander, and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his initiative and service to the Anti-Aircraft Range. He went on to become Commanding Officer of U S S Pittsburgh during the Korean conflict, and retired as Rear Admiral.
Before and during World War II, several shipwrecks occurred off the Virginia Beach Coast. One is marked by a quick, flashing red buoy located nine miles east of the drone launching pad and labeled "Dam Neck Wreck Lighted Bell Buoy." The 5,700-ton U.S. tanker TIGER was torpedoed and sunk there by a submarine on April 3, 1942 with 64,000 barrels of Navy fuel oil aboard.
After World War II, the fate of Dam Neck was in question for several years. All of the anti-aircraft training centers in the United States were closing, but somehow Dam Neck survived. Between the years 1945-1949, the center rested uneasily in a stagnant period expecting each year to be its last. Then a Fire Department was established at the center in March 1947, giving hope to the staff that the base would remain commissioned.