Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island Editorial by Ralph Williams
Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island is a specialized supply base for Marine Corps expeditionary forces. As such it differs from a traditional base and with its small military contingent uses the nearby bases of Mayport NS and NAS Jacksonville for many support facilities for their troops.
Originally named Goat Island, accessible only by boat, Blount Island was home to a family who lived there for over 35 years. After World War II, with the increase in the size of cargo ships, the United States Army Corps of Engineers altered the water traffic of the St. John’s River by creating the Dames Point Cut, providing a straight channel as opposed to the St. John’s River’s natural twists and turns. Soil from the dredging project was combined with four marsh islands to create Blount Island. With access to major highways I-10 and I-95 and an extensive rail network run by CXS, Jacksonville has become a major transportation port in the U.S. The island is split between the Blount Island Marine Terminal, which is a civilian container facility that handles 80 percent of the cargo containers entering the port, and the Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island. After the Vietnam War in the 1970s, Marine Corps doctrine defined that military hardware be prepositioned for Marine Expeditionary Forces going into theaters of conflict or disaster aid. This has evolved into a complex network that, with our Allies, is positioned throughout the world. Like its sister maritime supply bases, MCSF Blount Island is a very large transportation supply base. The bases’ command structure is subordinate to Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia.
I have never been to Blount Island Command although I lived in the area and have visited both of the city’s Navy bases. The reason was not an aversion to the Marines, I served with them in Iraq in 2004 and have the utmost respect for them and their proud military branch. The base is not a place to visit unless you work there. I drove to the main gate on a weekend when little commercial activity was in view. Despite this, I still saw semi-trucks picking up their cargo from the commercial side of the port. It is an industrial area with no businesses outside the gate or anywhere near it for over a mile. One could imagine a flurry of activity during the weekday as the area is a very busy maritime port. While in the area, I decided to visit the El Faro Memorial at Dames Point Park which is located at the foot of the Dames Point Bridge. Seen nearby from the base, it is a large majestic bridge completed near the same timeframe that the Marine Corps base was built in the 1980s.
El Faro Memorial at Dames Point Park
The El Faro Memorial at Dames Point Park is a city park in close proximity to Blount Island Command. Located beneath the majestic Dames Point Bridge, this city park was renamed in 2016 on the anniversary of the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro. The 40-year-old cargo ship had sailed from Jacksonville on its way to Puerto Rico when it encountered category 3 strength hurricane Joaquin which resulted in the ship taking on water in heavy seas. The El Faro lost propulsion and sank at the eyewall of the storm with all 33 hands onboard. The city renovated the park and in remembrance of the lost crew placed monuments on it to commemorate their lives. A lighthouse monument with the entire crew’s names engraved on it can be seen by the ships passing by. Near this monument is a row of anchor chain with tribute markers to the individual men and women on board. While I was at the park, a cargo ship similar to the El Faro passed by. Having served as a sailor aboard a ship myself, the park was a somber and respectful experience to the crew’s memory.
Facilities and Quality of Life
As a specialized supply base, MCSF Blount Island lacks many of the permanent facilities of traditional military bases. The presence of two major Navy bases in the area, NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport, negate the need for anything auxiliary needed on base at this time. There is no commissary, golf course, bowling alley, or movie theater located on base. NAS Jacksonville is a 24-mile drive while NS Mayport is 18 miles away. The recently completed Wonderwood Connector helps connect the base to NS Mayport and is a beautiful daytime drive full of marsh and river views. As an alternate scenic route to NS Mayport, take the main road from the base, Heckscher Drive, east to the Mayport ferry which is at the mouth of the St. John’s River and the Atlantic Ocean. Although on outward appearance it resembles a transportation port more than a military base, I noted from the bases’ website that for those checking-in they should be in their Alpha uniform (class A). The base is located on a beautiful riverfront location where one can see natural scenery such as dolphins and pelicans along with the busy ship traffic that enters the Jacksonville shipping port, JAXPORT. As a specialized type of supply base, military personnel live in temporary and off-base housing. Off-base housing inquiries are directed to the NS Mayport and NAS Jacksonville military housing websites.
Although the base is all about the business of supplying our Marine forces, it resides in a beautiful part of Florida along the St. John’s River. Just as being stationed at one of the other two military bases in Jacksonville, Blount Island Command enjoys exceptional Northeast Florida weather with moderate to warm temperatures year-round. Located in between downtown Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Beaches, it’s convenient location places it close to many places of interest and all the area has to offer.
Summary of Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island
Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island is a modern, specialized base to support the Marines Maritime Prepositioning Forces (MPF). As such, it was built to achieve this purpose with little added infrastructure. As one of the Marine’s most modern bases it is a great place to be stationed for those specializing in supply and for Marines looking to transition into the maritime transportation industry after they complete their service. Being stationed at the base with its focused mission orientation will certainly enhance the service record of a Marine with an MOS related to supply. For leisure, the Jacksonville area makes this an excellent duty station to be at for off-duty time.