Newcomers will see it right away: Hampton Roads and theU.S. military go hand in hand.
Every branch of the service is represented in this corner of southeastern Virginia: Start with the world's largest naval base and the only East Coast home for the mighty aircraft carriers. Fighter jets from the Navy and the Air Force soar overhead. Coast Guard cutters patrol the waterways. Soldiers and Marines deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the celebrated Navy SEALs.
Veterans live here. Veterans' organizations hold reunions here. When theU.S. militarydecides to act, it is more than something on television. People in Hampton Roads feel it.
The area is bristling with installations, although 2011 saw one major change to the roster. Historic Fort Monroe in Hampton was transferred from the Army to civilian hands, the result of a decision made in 2005 by a federal base-closing commission.
On Nov. 1, 2011, President Barack Obama used the Antiquities Act for the first time in his presidency to create a national monument on part of the Fort Monroe site. The Army deactivated the post just weeks earlier on Sept. 15.
Today, the scenic grounds are managed by the Fort Monroe Authority
Here's a roundup of our installations:
Langley Air Force Base, Hampton. In January 2010, Langley merged with Fort Eustis in Newport News to create Joint Base Langley-Eustis. While each installation maintains its distinct identity, support for both locations has been combined under the 633rd Air Base Wing. The main units on Langley AFB are Air Combat Command, 480th Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing, 1st Fighter Wing and 633rd Air Base Wing. Langley's 1st Fighter Wing operates and maintains the F-22 Raptors flown by the 27th and 94th Fighter Squadrons. The Virginia Air National Guard's 192nd Fighter Wing moved from Richmond to Langley AFB on Oct. 1, 2007, and began flying Raptors alongside active-duty airmen.
Fort Eustis, Newport News. Established in 1918, Fort Eustis is named for Brevet Brig. Gen. Abraham Eustis, a Virginia native and veteran of the War of 1812. The base is headquarters for the Army's 7th Sustainment Brigade, one of the most deployed units in the Army. It is also home to the Army Transportation Museum. Now, you can also find the headquarters of Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, which handles the Army's training and future-thinking. TRADOC had been located at Fort Monroe.
Naval Station Norfolk. More than 50 ships are home-ported at the naval station, which is the largest naval base in the world. Its airfield, Chambers Field, is home to 16 aircraft squadrons. There are roughly 54,000 active-duty sailors based at the station.
Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach. Once a swampy wasteland and now a master jet base, this installation was commissioned in 1943 and is now a complex with more than seven miles of runways. Oceana operates 18 F/A-18 Hornet squadrons. Its Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Units train maintenance technicians for the squadrons. The station is located on 5,916 acres, has 250 aircraft and has buildings valued at $823 million in plant replacement value. It is the largest employer in Virginia Beach.
Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. This joint Navy-Army base was established in October 2009, the first of its kind in Hampton Roads. It consists of the former Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek and the Army post Fort Story. Little Creek began as a training ground for World War II amphibious forces and today is home to squadrons of Navy SEALs. It has 18 ships home-ported there, including Landing Crafts, Air Cushioned (LCACs) and conventional waterborne Landing Crafts Utility (LCUs) plus smaller boats.
Coast Guard Training Center, Yorktown. It is a training facility for the Coast Guard as well as some foreign troops.
Yorktown Naval Weapons Station. The Navy stores, maintains and loads bombs, missiles and other ordnance for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet at this base. Don't ask if there are nuclear weapons. The only answer you'll get from a spokesman is, "I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on this base."
The station manages the adjacent storage facility formerly known as Cheatham Annex in York County. Army Sgt. Maj. Edward Ratcliff, a Medal of Honor recipient, is buried in a small cemetery at the weapons station. Ratcliff, who was born a slave in James City County, fought with the Union's 38th U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.
Camp Peary, Williamsburg. This officially is named the Armed Forces Experimental Training Activity. Don't tell anyone, but the CIA uses this 10,000-acre camp as a training center. Little is publicly known about the place. Neighbors have said they hear loud explosions coming from the camp, which is referred to as "The Farm." The number of workers there and payroll are not divulged.
Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth. This is one of the largest shipyards in the world. It specializes in repairing, overhauling and modernizing ships and submarines. It's the oldest and largest industrial facility that belongs to the Navy. In fact, it predates the formation of the U.S. Navy by 31 years. It was established in 1767 as the Gosport Shipyard under the British flag. Its founder was loyal to the Crown and fled at the start of the American Revolution. It fell to the colony of Virginia, and has stayed in the Old Dominion. It was here during the Civil War that the partially burned USS Merrimac was refloated and fitted with a coat of iron prior to its historic battle with the USS Monitor.
Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. Occupying a 112-acre site along the Elizabeth River in downtown Portsmouth, the hospital is located on the original site of Fort Nelson, which was built in 1776 to provide harbor defense for Norfolk and Portsmouth. It is the U.S. Navy's oldest hospital. The hospital and its branch clinics provide health care to the region's roughly 420,000 active-duty service members, family members and military retirees. It is also one of three major teaching hospitals in the Navy, with residency programs in 13 specialty areas. Each year, officers complete internships at the Naval Medical Center.
Navy Supervisor of Shipbuilding (Conversion and Repair), Newport News. This Navy office oversees the shipyard's work on Navy ships and submarines being built or overhauled.
Coast Guard, Atlantic Area, Portsmouth. The Fifth Coast Guard District focuses on safety and security of the oceans, coastal areas and marine transportation system within the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun