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US Naval Support Activity Souda Bay
Crete, Greece
3529'N 2411'E

The mission of US Forces at Sigonella, Rota, and Souda Bay is to provide Command Control and Logistics Support to US And NATO Operating Forces. These three facilities are undergoing a transformation from Maritime Patrol Airfields to Multi-role "Hubs" providing crucial air-links for USAF strategic airlift in support of CENTCOM and Africa Area contingency operations.

NSA Souda Bay is physically located on the large circular shaped Akrotiri Peninsula, which forms the northern face of the Souda harbor. A Hellenic Naval Base occupies a large portion of both the North and South coast of the Souda Bay harbor along with the port village of Souda. The US Naval Support Activity (NSA) Souda Bay is located on the Hellenic (Greek) Air Force Base by the village of Mouzouras 17 Kilometers (approximately 10 miles) east of the city of Hania. The command is collocated with the Hellenic Air Force at Souda Air Base. NATO Maritime Airfield Souda Bay, Crete, is operated by the 115th Combat Wing of the Hellenic Air Force. The U.S. Navy is a tenant activity. The Hellenic Air Force provides host nation responsibilities for the operation of the utilities and buildings. The U.S. Naval Support Activity is responsible for the support of U.S. Sixth Fleet Aircraft, U.S. Navy Air Detachments deployed at Souda and transient U.S. Military Aircraft.

The 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade fired a live Patriot missile for the first time ever in Europe. Souda Bay, Crete, an island of Greece, is where history was made 21 October 1999 when 69th ADA's Delta Battery 6-52 Battalion from Ansbach, Germany fired the Patriot missile. The reason the team fired its first live Patriot missile in Europe was because Germany offered logistical support and ran the NATO range in Crete. The Germans were fine hosts and allowed us to fire one of their missiles here. It truly became a combined NATO team atmosphere."Troops from Greece, Belgium, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands were involved in the exercise. The Patriot missile destroyed its drone target approximately 25 miles from the shores of Crete.

NSA occupies an area of approximately 110 acres on the North side of the air base, which is the home of the Hellenic Air Force's 115th Combat Wing. The airfield also serves as the civilian airport for the Hania region of Crete. However, the civilian terminal is located at the opposite end of the runway and is not within walking distance. The airfield has one main runway, which has a concrete surface, and two parallel taxiways. The runway is 11,738 feet long and 148 feet wide. The south parallel taxiway is 9,850 feet long and 72 feet wide. The north parallel taxi way, is 9,850 feet long and 100 feet wide. The field elevation is 430 feet at the approach end of runway 11 and 92 feet at the approach end of runway 29.

The U.S. Naval European Meteorology and Oceanography Detachment, Souda Bay, Greece was established on July 1, 1972, as a Naval Weather Service Office and is a tenant command of the U.S. Naval Support Activity, Souda Bay. NAVEURMETOC DET is located in the Air Passenger Terminal building adjacent to the NSA hangar. The detachment spaces contain working spaces for Flight Weather Briefing, Aviation Weather Observation, communications, supply, and an administrative office. Flight Weather Briefing is conducted within a joint Air Terminal Operations, Flight planning room

A VQ-2 detachment is permanently based at Naval Support Activity, Souda Bay [Crete, Greece]. Souda Bay is also the site of the NSA's Consolidated Reconnaissance Operations Facility (CROF).

From 1962 to 1969, the USS TALLAHATCHIE COUNTY (AVB 2) was the single US fleet unit operating locally at Souda Bay, Crete, Greece. This was the first step taken by the United States Navy in supporting forward-deployed SIXTH Fleet units from this far eastern Mediterranean island.

US Naval Detachment, Souda Bay was commissioned on 28 May 1969. At that time, a 16 personnel complement under the command of a First Class Petty Officer made up the entire detachment. As time passed and the detachment expanded, the base personnel count rose to 93 enlisted personnel and 3 officers (1 August 1972). The following department/activities comprised US NAVDET, Souda Bay: Mobile Mine Assembly Group Detachment Six; Naval Communication Station, Greece Detachment; Naval Inshore Warfare Task Unit, Europe; and Naval Weather Service Environment Detachment.

The mission of the NAVDET was to maintain and operate facilities providing base support for US Naval Forces operating in the Mediterranean, including transient, temporary, and permanently based ships, aircraft, units, detachments, and personnel during normal and contingency operations.

On 1 October 1980, US Naval Detachment, Souda Bay was disestablished and US Naval Support Activity, Souda Bay, Crete, Greece was established. In December 1990, in addition to the previous Detachment's mission, the Naval Support Activity's mission increased to include support of US Air Force and Navy Reconnaissance missions. As of 1994 the Naval Support Activity had 17 officers and 210 enlisted personnel due to this increased mission and increased port operations in Souda Harbor.

Naval Support Activity routinely functions as a Naval Operating Base, Naval Air Station, and Naval Weapons Station. At Souda Bay, Chiefs and First Class Petty Officers fill the responsibilities normally held by commissioned officers at other bases, and junior officers fulfill the duties normally held by officers of senior grades.

Since 1992 and through the year 2001 numerous construction projects were in progress, base-wide providing necessary upgrades in operational capability and quality of life. Souda is designated an isolated overseas duty station (type 3) which counts as sea duty for rotation purposes. There are nine permanent tenant commands, a deployed Seabee detachment, and four year-round USAF and Navy operational detachments for a total military population of approximately 460 and US and Greek civilian population of approximately 440. New BEQ's were constructed in 1996 and 1998 but adequate quarters are still very limited and priority is given to E-4 and below personnel. All E-4 and below are required to live in the BEQ, with very few exceptions. There are ten CPO rooms and assignment is made on a "first come, first served" basis.

The pier area at Souda Bay is primarily a Hellenic Navy Base, but a commercial pier is designated. Only small ships can be accommodated, and alongside depths are limited to 33 ft. A fuel pier is located on the north side of Souda Bay approximately 3 1/2 nautical miles east of the main portion of the port. The concrete fuel quay is 450 feet long with an axis of 100/280 Three anchorages exist at/near Souda Bay. A small-ship anchorage (mooring buoy array), is located at the west end of Souda Bay about 0.3 to 0.8 nmi northeast of the Naval Base. A second anchorage, referred to as the inner bay anchorage is located in Souda Bay approximately 1.9 n mi east of the Naval Base in depths of 390-490 ft. This anchorage is used by aircraft-carrier sized vessels for liberty visits. The inner bay anchorage bottom is rock and gravel with only fair holding qualities. Anchor dragging is possible; ships may have to use their engines to maintain position in the anchorage. The fleet landing at the Naval Base is used by small boats from ships using the inner bay anchorage. A third anchorage, referred to as the outer anchorage is situated outside Souda Bay, 6 to 7 n mi east of the main port area. The depth is about 215 ft. This anchorage is used primarily for limited personnel and supply transfer from the Naval Base. The bottom is flat with rock and gravel. Holding is only fair; anchor dragging may be experienced in strong winds. The fleet landing at the fuel pier is used by small boats from ships at this anchorage.

Although protected from significant winds from most directions by the surrounding topography, westerly winds funnel between the main island of Crete and the Akrotiri Peninsula and can cause berthing problems at the port. Westerly winds can occur at all times of the year with strengths up to 25 kt not uncommon and gale strength possible. In one case, pilots would not berth a U.S. Navy ship at the fuel pier because of the strong wind. Also, passenger ferries must sometimes wait for winds to decrease before berthing.

Because of the Souda harbor orientation and the local topography, wind forecasting is critical for ships whether steaming in and out of the harbor or moored pier side. Funneling due to the mountain ridges on either side of the bay can cause extremely strong winds in certain conditions. The inner portion of Souda Bay provides excellent protection from open sea wave motion, but offers little protection from strong westerly winds. The primary wind problem in the port is caused by west to west-northwesterly winds which become super-gradient after funnelling through the valley west of the port. The wind can cause problems with berthing operations. The outer anchorage is exposed to strong southeasterly winds, but a short move to a nearby area closer to the shore provides limited protection. During summer strong Etesian wind events produces 7-10 ft swell that reaches the outer anchorage but high winds are seldom experienced. Movement toward the head of the bay will reduce exposure to both wind and waves.

Greece is located on the southern most portion of the Balkan Peninsula in the east-central Mediterranean. The terrain is mountainous and the ranges extend into the Aegean Sea as peninsulas or chains of islands. Crete is one of many islands in this area and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Much of the elevated terrain is over 3000 feet and many summits reach over 6000 feet. The lowlands, located in both narrow coastal plains and the interior of Greece, comprise less than five percent of the country. In the north, the rugged mountains and plateaus play an important part in moderating the climate to the south. Generally the cold air masses of central Eurasia are unable to move south over the Rhodope Mountains of southern Bulgaria.

The Aegean Sea is bordered by Greece and Asia Minor (Turkey). This area is surrounded by complex topographical features. To the west, on the mainland of Greece are the Pindus Mountains; to the east the Alacam Daglar and Boz Daglar in western Turkey. The Sea of Crete is a southern extension of the Aegean Sea, bordered by Crete on the south, the Cyclades on the north, the straits of Kithira on the west, and the straits of Kasos and Karpathos to the east and southeast.

The island of Crete is located in the east central Mediterranean Sea, southeast of Greece. The land is rugged and mountainous. A ridge of mountains exceeding 3000 feet MSL extends the length of the island. The mountains are divided into three separate ranges with the western range being the longest, the central range the highest and the eastern range the lowest. A few north to south oriented valleys cut deep passages through the mountains, and deep gorges are common from the peaks to the sea on both the north and south sides of the primary ranges. The highest mountain (Lefka Ori) on the west end of the island is 8048 feet MSL. It is located 15 miles south-southwest of the airfield. Oros Idi, near Iraklion, in the center of the island, is the highest point on Crete at 8056 feet MSL.

NSA Souda Bay is located on the northwest side of the island of Crete on the Akrotiri Peninsula. The peninsula is nearly circular in shape and approximately 6 miles in diameter. The immediate terrain is similar to a shallow bowl with rising land in all directions from the base; the land to the west slopes gradually to Stavros Beach. A plateau, with a mean height of 700 feet MSL begins abruptly near the northern boundary of the base. This extends to a low range of mountains oriented southeast to northwest with a mean height of 1000 feet MSL, located 1/2 to 2 miles north of the station. A peak of 1732 feet lies 2 miles to the northeast. NSA is a tenant of the 115th Hellenic Air force Base encompassing 110 acres on the northeastern side of the air field. It is approximately 6.5 miles east-northeast of Chania, Crete, 1 mile inland from the eastern shore of the Akrotiri peninsula.

The largest of the Greek islands, around 260 km (162 miles) by 50 km (31 miles), Crete separates the Aegean and Libyan Seas. On the boundary between Europe and Africa, it is an island full of contrasts - of mountains and plains, fertile plateaux and rocky scrubland, ancient villages and modern resorts. Crete is steeped in history and tradition. Local people are proud of their culture which includes Cretan music and dancing as well as traditional costume. The Old-style Cretan male costume of baggy trousers and high leather boots is still a familiar sight. Today, the island's sunny beaches, warm seas and affordable prices attract thousands of summer visitors, but Crete's history and its attraction for foreign visitors stretches way back before the first package tourist appeared on the horizon.

Crete has an important place in Greek mythology. Zeus, the father of the gods, was said to have been hidden here as a baby to save him from being murdered by his father. This was also the home of the legendary Minotaur, half-man half-bull, who feasted on human flesh; and the launchpad for Icarus' ill-fated flight which took him too close to the sun meldug his homemade wax-and-feather wings. Gods aside, the first human presence on the island dates from around 6000 BC. Three thousand years later, the Minoan civilization was bom, Europe's earliest major culture, and one which has left several famous archaeological sites here, such as Knossos, one of the top sightseeing attractions in all Greece. The Romans came to Crete, as did the Saracens, Italians (both Genoese and Venetians) and Turks, who passed the island from hand to hand until Independence in 1898, and Crete's eventual unification with Greece in 1913.

The capital of Crete is Heraklion, half way along the island's north coast. Ship Landing at Souda Bay, and the Naval Support Activity (NAVSUPPACT) base at Monzouras, lie some 150 km (93 miles) west near the town of Hania. Hania (also written Crania" or Mania) is a great little port town. It's the fommer capital of Crete with a picturesque old harbor laid out by the Venetians on a fommer Minoan site. A popular summer tourist center with beaches nearby, Hania also offers several diverse day tripping options and a great holiday atmosphere during the May to September season.

Crete is neatly divided into four regions (nomos) by its mountains. Nomos Hania occupies the westerly portion of the island divided from Nomos Rethimnis by the White Mountains. Nomos Heraklion is in the middle, and Nomos Lasithiou in the east. Distances may not be large in Crete, but traveling times are slow.

Ship Landing is in Souda Bay, one of the finest natural harbors in the Mediterranean. Most ships berth on the northern side of the bay at Marathi. Some smaller vessels may tie up at Souda itself, on the southern shore. Marathi is about 20 km (a 30-minute ride) from downtown Hania; Souda is slightly nearer.

There are no major "sights" in Hania, but exploring the picturesque Old Town is not to be missed. There are a couple of small museums here, free access to the crumbling ruins of the old seawall fortifications with views back to the Venetian waterfront, or you can walk right out around the harbor wall to the lighthouse for a great view of the port. Notable waterfront landmarks indude the domed Mosque of the Janissaries built by the Turks in the 17th Century. And, around to the east, seven of the original 17 steep-roofed 16th-Century Venetian shipyard buildings.

When excavations began at Knossos in 1900, the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans had no idea of their significance. One of the most important ancient sites in the world, the celebrated palace at Knossos dates from around 1700 BC, and was constructed on the ruins of an even older site. Against the advice of some more cautious types, Evans reconstructed parts of the palace buildings and this, whatever the purists say, gives Knossos its unusual and fascinating insight into how the ancient Minoans lived.

The stunning volcanic island of Santorini is a three-and-a-half to four-hour boat trip north of Crete. Once there, there are tours to picturesque villages, the ancient Minoan site of Akrothri, and 18th-Century Monastery of Profids Ilias with a museum of precious church valuables and priceless views (back to Crete on a clear day). In between tames, kick back on the black sand beaches, sample heady local wines, and investigate the local shopping opportunides.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:56:54 ZULU