NAS Jacksonville Editorial by Ralph Williams
NAS Jacksonville rests along the shore of the St. John’s River. Some of its facilities are in view of the river and can be seen on the north while driving over I-295 along the Buckman Bridge, while further north of the base can be seen a distant Jacksonville downtown skyline.
The base has a long history going back to the early 1900s as the site of an Army base. In 1940 it was commissioned as a Navy base and the start of a major naval complex to later include Naval Station Mayport. The base was built up extensively during World War II to include 3 large airport runways, a seaplane facility, over 700 buildings, an eighty-acre hospital, and a 1,500 person capacity prisoner of war camp. With the dawn of jet technology after WWII, NAS Jacksonville became home to the first Navy jet carrier air groups in 1948. NAS Jacksonville’s use has greatly expanded, in 1949 its capacity was more than half the “fleet air striking force in the Atlantic area from pole to pole.” For over 70 years NAS Jacksonville has grown in size and mission to its present state as a major Naval air asset.
My experiences serving at NAS Jacksonville involved being in the Navy Reserve. NAS Jacksonville serves a large number of reserve units throughout the North-East Florida area. Reserve duty is on weekends and the base’s traffic patterns are much less congested than during weekdays. Traveling on base during the weekdays, the incoming traffic in the morning and outgoing traffic at night can be very heavy, thankfully the base operators do a good job and have plenty of open lanes to keep traffic moving. The drive to work could be a factor in your decision on where to live if stationed there. Expect long commute times because of heavy traffic patterns over the bridge.
Facilities and quality of life
In search of what official accomplishments and quality of life initiatives NAS Jacksonville have done for those using the base, NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs Officer Kaylee LaRocque replied about several improvements recently completed with other major improvements ongoing,
“A new commissary opened in February 2017, the Navy Exchange was completely renovated in 2017, the Liberty Center for Single Sailors was completely renovated, Unaccompanied Housing (barracks) are currently undergoing a $13 million repair and renovation project to replace HVAC systems, carpet, plumbing and flooring. A $5.5 renovation project is being completed at Naval Hospital Jax Mental Health Facility. A new Navy Gateway Inns & Suites building with 126 rooms has recently been contracted. Plan to break ground in January 2019.”
With all of these improvements, the base has a good mix of new and updated facilities. From personal experience, the Navy Exchange and Commissary are very nice, both having new facilities. There is much needed parking as the new commissary draws in a lot of customers. NAS Jacksonville, centrally located, serves a large 150,000 person military community in the area.
For those dining on base, the food made at the base dining facility is very good. LaRocque stated, “Our galley - Flight Line Café earned their eighth consecutive 5-Star accreditation”.
The other food offerings consist of fast food courts and clubs.
Accommodations and Facilities
The Navy Gateway Inns and Suites located on base is ample in number of rooms. There is also a large recreational vehicle park and furnished cottages available on base. The many amenities on base include a championship style golf course, racquetball courts, a full gym, newly furnished bowling alley, an auto hobby shop, a marina with rental craft and bait and tackle, an arts and crafts shop, a church, social activities such as bingo, and others. The base also has one of the top-rated Moral Welfare and Recreational Departments rated as, “Five-Star Accreditation for outstanding facilities/programs. And Child Youth Programs also maintained Five-star accreditation.”
Military Hardware and Air Shows
For military hardware fans, the base has a large static display featuring many aircraft from the generations that used the base for over seventy years. This display is within the base so unless you have a military ID allowing base entry, you will need a friend with a proper ID to gain access or come on the base when they offer public tours and are open such as during the Blue Angels air shows.
Jacksonville Area Information
NAS Jacksonville base, located along the St. John’s River, has beautiful scenery and wildlife to view.
The Jacksonville area includes a wide range of experiences. From beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, to St John’s River locations, to inland wooded areas, Jacksonville can offer you an outdoor scenery for most occasions. The expanding city is the fourth largest in Florida. It is rich in college football rivalries, the University of Florida Gators, Florida State University Seminoles and the University of Georgia Bulldogs are the three major college teams people follow in Jacksonville. Professional sports in Jacksonville consist of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars, along with several minor league teams in baseball, soccer, rugby, ice hockey, and men’s basketball. The number of teams compared to 25 years ago reflect a growing city footprint.
Summary of NAS Jacksonville
NAS Jacksonville is part of the greater Jacksonville Navy Complex which includes a large surface ship harbor at Naval Station Mayport. Its role has been large in projecting navy forces on sea and in the air. With its far-ranging and growing purpose, the base will continue to be updated. The Jacksonville metro area is expanding and updating as well, making this a destination for many military personnel and retirees.