NAVAL AIR STATION BRUNSWICK, Maine (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Brunswick (NASB) held its disestablishment ceremony May 31, ending 68 years of service to the Navy.
NASB, situated on 3,200 acres in along Maine's mid-coast, originally opened in 1943, and was primarily used as a training base for the British Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm.
With the end of World War II, the base was put into caretaker status until it re-opened in 1951.
In 2005, the base was tapped for final closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
"The Sailors, civilians, and contractors of Naval Air Station Brunswick have done a remarkable job," said Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, the Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations & Environment. "This is a major milestone, and I'm extremely impressed with everyone's efforts to prepare the base for redevelopment. This station has consistently met the deadlines and surpassed standards for redevelopment. It is my hope that the Navy's departure will pave the way for future development and job growth in this area. If this can't be a Naval Air Station, then it can be a business opportunity for the community."
During the closing ceremony, other speakers also saluted the long years of service by Sailors and civilians, and highlighted the tight bonds that grew between base personnel and the local community over the decades.
"We have been part of the community here," said Capt. William A. Fitzgerald, the base's 36th and final commanding officer. "But that is only because the community embraced us. You welcomed us into your neighborhoods and schools. You allowed us to become part of the woven fiber of this area."
In a nod to the base's history, Capt. Fitzgerald honored several former commanding officers in attendance, presenting them with Naval Air Station Brunswick ballcaps and nametags.
Fitzgerald also presented plaques to representatives of the local communities and the state of Maine for their support over the years.
At its height, NAS Brunswick employed some 4,000 Sailors and civilians to support the mission of patrol reconnaissance.
Many alumni returned to goodbye to the base where they flew and serviced the P-2 "Neptunes" and P-3 "Orions" that made up the bulk of patrol reconnaissance history.
VP-26, now stationed in Pensacola, Fla., sent a lone P-3 "Orion" as a silent witness to the historic ceremony.
In addition to speeches - including the keynote by retired Rear Adm. Harry Rich - the ceremony included history displays of the squadrons that had called NAS Brunswick home, a slide-show of photographs, and other walks down memory lane.
Rich, a Maine native, reminisced about the powerful influence a childhood experience at NASB had on his decision to seek a commission as a naval aviator. He further shared recollections of his tour at Brunswick later in his career and the way the people of Brunswick welcomed and supported his family and command.
Music for the ceremony was provided by the Brunswick and Mt. Ararat High Schools bands, while PS1 Leonard Bell of the BNAS Personnel Support Detachment sang the National Anthem.
The final touch was the lowering of the American flag for the final time at the installation.
The ceremony was immediately followed by a reception held by the Mid-Coast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which is charged with writing NAS Brunswick's next chapter.
"The Mid-Coast Regional Redevelopment Authority has done a wonderful job lining up businesses for the Brunswick Landing, which is the new facilities name," said Rear Adm. Robin Braun, of Brunswick and currently mobilized as the Deputy Director of Operations at U.S. European Command. "We can move from one era into another, and bring more jobs to the area to replace those Navy jobs lost."
"The (informal) state motto is 'the way life should be,' and Brunswick epitomizes that," continued Braun. "It is a great town to raise a family, it has been a great Navy town, and a wonderful place to come home. This place has had a huge impact on thousands of sailors over the years and will definitely be missed."
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