Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NAS Jax Breaks Ground for New P-3C Hangar

By Mass Communications Specialist Second Class (SW/AW) Rebecca Kruck

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- A groundbreaking ceremony was held aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla. on April 13 for a state-of-the-art aircraft hangar and facilities, which will upgrade the mission capabilities of the base.

The new hangar, which will stand at 277,000 sq. ft. once complete, will accommodate approximately 33 P-3C Orions and four C-130 Hercules aircraft from Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine. The project was initiated after the Base Realignment and Closure Committee (BRAC) ordered the closure of NAS Brunswick in 2005.

“This is a great day for NAS Jacksonville, a great day for Northeast Florida and a great day for our country because this event is a symbol of the bright future of NAS Jax,” said Rep. Ander Crenshaw, (R-Fla.), who spoke at the event. “When this groundbreaking takes place and the hangar is built, this will be the east coast home of all our marine patrolled aircraft, and that’s important not only to Jacksonville, but the national security of our country.”

“When this hangar is completed, it will be one of the Navy’s largest hangers. It will house 37 aircraft, 1,600 new personnel and that’s a big deal for our country," Crenshaw elaborated. "This is a $123 million project and I’m proud to be here today to be a part of this groundbreaking.”

“I’m excited to be a part of this event," said Jacksonville mayor, John Peyton. “I’m excited about the hangar, but I’m more excited about the people that are coming with it because they’re great citizens. They’re good neighbors, they coach our little leagues, they teach our Sunday schools, they’re patriots and they do great things for our workforce when they’re done serving here. It’s the people in the Navy that make this special relationship.”

Peyton said that he looks forward to welcoming the 2,500 families that will come to Jacksonville after the hangar opens in 2009.

Commanding Officer of NAS Jacksonville, Capt. Chip Dobson, mirrored Crenshaw’s comments about the future of the Navy.

“NAS Jacksonville is almost 67 years old and over the course of that time there have been many celebrations and ceremonies aboard the base," Dobson said. "This one is different because usually we’re recognizing people and accomplishments, but today we’re celebrating the future. This is future capability for NAS Jacksonville, future capability for the maritime patrol community and future capability for the U.S. Navy.”

This hangar represents only a portion of what is happening at NAS Jacksonville. According to Dobson, if one were to look down the base’s flight line alone, which is just over a mile, there is about a $250 million in recapitalization taking place.

Dobson also recognized a few key players who were instrumental in bringing construction of the new hangar to fruition.

“This has been a tremendous effort by a great team of people. We’re very excited about the team we’ve put together here,” he said.

Dobson recognized four people who have been instrumental to the project, NAS Jacksonville BRAC coordinator Freddy Byers; engineer and planning coordinator Jim Morgan; Navy Region Southeast Doug Mercer; and Vick Patton of Commander, Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk who has been involved in the construction of Navy hangars for a couple of decades.

The contractor for the project is M.A. Mortenson, based in Minneapolis, Minn.

Craig Southorn, the company's vice president said, “We began design work last fall and we look forward to the partnership we’ll have with the Navy and finishing this project safely and on a timely basis."

Once the speakers concluded, several officials picked up awaiting shovels to take part in the official groundbreaking. That group, along with Dobson and Southorn, included Rear Adm. Mark S. Boensel, commander, Navy Region Southeast; Rear Adm. B.C. Prindle, commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group; Capt. Sean Buck, commander, Patrol Reconnaissance Wing-Eleven; Capt. Michael Blount, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Command Southeast; Cmdr. Chuck Lewis, public works officer for NAS Jacksonville; Lt. Cmdr. Mary Ann Andrews; Lt. j.g. Zach Zimchek; Arthur Mosely; and Lt. Cmdr. Alexander Kohmen, the master of ceremonies for the event.

The ceremony was completed when Dobson manned a construction backhoe and sank the bucket into the ground. To the cheers of those in attendance, he excavated a load of fresh earth, slowly pouring it back onto the ground.