One of Jacksonville’s most iconic and notable locales is Naval Station Mayport. The third-largest fleet of ships in the country have been operating out of Mayport since 1942. What makes the massive complex unique is that a ship can leave port and be in the open sea in just 45 minutes, compared to other naval bases where that process can take hours.
Nineteen ships and four helicopter squadrons are currently stationed at Mayport. Recently, the ARG, the amphibious and readiness group that consist of the USS New York, the USS Fort McHenry and the USS Iwo Jima, have been assigned to the base. Around 10,500 people work and live on Naval Station Mayport, which also includes a little over 1,000 housing units. The operations conducted out of the base include anti-drug operations and anti-piracy efforts.
“Overall our piracy efforts have caused a remarkable dent in piracy nationwide,” Bill Austin, the Public Affairs Officer for Mayport, said. “These young men and women are involved in some pretty cool stuff.”
The quality of life on base is much better than it was in the past, when sailors would live on of the ships stationed at Mayport. Now they have two-room condos with living rooms, kitchens and laundry facilities.
“It’s extremely important we continue to improve quality of life for sailors and their families. If you want to keep good people, you’ve got to improve on the quality of life,” Austin said. “Mayport has that, I think, down to a science, from the families that live in homes, practically on the beach, to the programs we have.”
The base offers multiple programs with local universities and within the Navy itself. Austin said those on the base feel that Jacksonville is certainly a military town.
“It’s not only the base, but it’s the support from around the community and really I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
The base, which has its own airport, will host the Blue Angels this October as part of the City of Jacksonville’s Sea and Sky Spectacular. The Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the other naval base on Jacksonville’s Westside, hosted the event last year.
Austin said many people join the Navy right out of high school or shortly after graduation, and with enlistment comes a lot of responsibility very early in life.
“An 18-year-old man or woman has a responsibility of checking that helicopter rotor, and if he or she doesn’t do their job people die,” Austin said. “When you think about the level of responsibly that these young men or women have, it’s pretty inspiring.”