NSA Orlando Editorial by Ralph Williams
Located in the City of Orlando in Central Florida, the facilities are a 14-mile drive east from Downtown Orlando and I-95 either along East Colonial Drive or the Spessard L. Holland East West Expressway toll road. The base lies on the Central Florida Research Park. Begun in 1978, the research park is home to 10,000 employees including several Department of Defense research centers, the University of Central Florida, and private corporations. Naval Support Activity Orlando is the last remaining active duty military installation in the Orlando area. Tenant commands include Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD), the U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), Research, Development and Engineering Command United States Army Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC), Marine Corps Program Manager for Training Systems (PM TRASYS), and the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation (AFAMS). Over $1 billion in contracts are awarded by the U.S. military each year for activities in or near the park.
Orlando has a long history of being host to military bases. Until the mid-1970s, Orlando was home to an Air Force Strategic Air Command military base, McCoy Air Force Base, which housed the very large B-52 bomber and other large military hardware. It also hosted the tactical air base of Orlando Air Force Base (now the civilian Orlando Executive Airport). From the late 1960s, Orlando also hosted a large Navy boot camp and training base, the Orlando Naval Training Center. Recruit Training Command Orlando, one of the main tenant commands, served as one of three Navy boot camps along with RTC Great Lakes and RTC San Diego. I went to boot camp at RTC Orlando in 1981, Company 083. In the 1970s it also became the sole site for recruit training of all Navy enlisted women, thus it was the Navy’s first co-located recruit training site for enlisted men and women. Besides having a boot camp that trained up to 8,000 recruits at a time, the base also trained sailors out of boot camp studying in subjects such as basic electronics theory and more advanced studies including nuclear power plant theory. I also attended these schools and was stationed on this base for almost a year in the early 1980s while in boot camp and training schools. In the early 1990s, the Navy base was chosen for closure as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission. Its last class of recruit graduates graduated in late 1994. The Navy base was transferred to the City of Orlando which redeveloped it into upscale residential housing and park areas known as Baldwin Park. The former McCoy Air Force base is still in use as the civilian Orlando International Airport. NSA Orlando, initially opened in 1988 as a Warfare Center within the Naval Air Systems Command and re-designated in 2003 as Naval Support Activity (NSA) Orlando. It is located on the east side of Orlando's city limits in the Central Florida Research Park, adjacent to the University of Central Florida.
Facilities and Quality of Life
This facility serves as a testing and support center for the U.S. Navy’s research, development, testing and evaluation, acquisition, life cycle program management, and product support of all aviation, surface and underseas training systems, devices, and programs for the U.S. Navy and all aviation training systems for the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as providing inter-service coordination and training systems support for the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard. The staff at this facility include civilian engineers and technicians as well as military personnel. It resembles a tech campus more so then a traditional military base. Here, one may find a computer simulation of a ships main propulsion system or that of a helicopter propulsion system. This type of realistic training (without using the real hardware) dates back to the early 1940s with an emphasis on realistic “synthetic training devices.” I used such a training system when studying radar troubleshooting and repair methods in the 1980s with touch screen computer monitors long before the technology was available for personal use. Here you will find state of the art technology that the Navy uses to not only design training systems for the fleet but to project out when maintenance and repairs will be needed on equipment in use at sea and in the air. As a technical facility, access is restricted to those personnel stationed or working there. However in the Orlando area there are nearby facilities such as a Navy Exchange with groceries at the Orlando Executive Airport.
As a technical support facility rather than a traditional military base, there are no housing options available on-site. The DoD lodging website lists the Air Force bases of Patrick AFB on the East Coast and MacDill AFB on the West Coast as being the closest lodging available on a military base. The Orlando area is home to the DoD owned Shades of Green Resort which is located on Walt Disney World property and offers active duty and retired military personnel significant savings over a Walt Disney run resort. Reservations can be tight so make sure you plan your stay there well in advance. A full-sized Navy Exchange with a large grocery section is located near the site of the old NTC Orlando at the Orlando Executive Airport. It gets rave reviews for being a type of “hidden” gem when vacationing in the Orlando area. Also located there is an ITT ticket and tours office for further discounts at Orlando attractions and shows.
Orlando and Central Florida Area
Located in the heart of Central Florida, NSA Orlando is a high-tech military facility boasting state of the art training and development of systems for the fleet. The area, once home to extensive agricultural orange groves, has been rapidly developed over time to becoming one of the largest cities in Florida. Orlando needs no introduction as a prime tourist destination for travelers from all over the world with famous theme parks such as Universal Studios Orlando, Sea World, and the famous Walt Disney World. Whether stationed there or passing through for a vacation, Orlando offers all who come an experience they will remember fondly.