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Oldest Navy base in N.O. closes

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Written by
Janet McConnaughey
The Associated Press 

 

 

NEW ORLEANS — The Navy colors were folded and cased for the last time at a base where they waved for 110 years, and the Marine Corps flag was unfurled Friday, marking the formal closure of Naval Support Activity New Orleans.

The site’s long military history will continue with the Marine Corps, and the Navy will keep a strong presence in the area with the Naval Air Station at Belle Chasse, 10 miles south of New Orleans, Rear Adm. Tim Alexander said.

Lt. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, the new commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North, said his service first arrived in New Orleans in 1778, when “a company of Marines arrived in an appropriately named armed boat, the Rattletrap.”

Hummer, who took command Wednesday, has described the New Orleans building where about 1,100 Marines and 275 civilians moved in late June as “the envy of other Marine forces.”

The building is next to the former base, which the Navy now leases to New Orleans for a public-private partnership called Federal City. A real estate firm is negotiating contracts for the first public area, scheduled to open Sept. 15.

A new school — the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy, in which every student is also a Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadet — will move there next summer, after two of the original brick buildings, finished in 1903, are gutted and renovated. Its first class, 110 ninth-graders, are already at work in rented space, said the school’s commandant, retired Marine Col. William P. Davis.

The base was among about 150 smaller installations listed for closure in 2005, when the Pentagon also put 33 major bases on its shutdown list.

The Naval Air Station in Plaquemines Parish wasn’t in trouble — and, in fact, was where the Marine Corps Reserve Support Command originally was scheduled to move from Kansas City.

But well before the hit list was released, people began working on a plan to save the New Orleans base, which had 4,600 employees, a payroll of $142 million and no combat training mission.

The Pentagon accepted the plan, which called for the state and city to pay the estimated $166 million cost of the transformation but left the base open for work. The city now has a 75-year lease on the land.

The base was established in 1901 as a Navy dry dock. As senior flag officer, Hummer will live in “Quarters A” — a country retreat built in 1840, where the area’s senior Navy flag officer lived.

Hummer wished “fair winds and following seas” to the naval officers.

He finished with a bilingual mashup of Cajun French for “let the good times roll” and the Marine Corps motto, which is a short form of the Latin phrase “always faithful.”

“Laissez les bons temps rouler — and semper fi.”

 

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Written by demon53

August 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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