Naval Air Station Pensacola

Naval Air Station Pensacola (NAS Pensacola) also known as “The Cradle of Naval Aviation”, is a United States Navy base located southwest of the Pensacola city limits. It is best known as the initial primary training base for all Navy, Marine and Coast Guard aviators and Naval Flight Officers, the advanced training base for most Naval Flight Officers, and as the home base for the precision-flying team known as the Blue Angels.

The air station also hosts the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) and the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (NAMI), which provides training for all naval flight surgeons, aviation physiologists, and aviation experimental psychologists.

The National Naval Aviation Museum, the Pensacola Naval Air Station Historic District, Fort Barrancas, and the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum are all located at NAS Pensacola, as well as the Barrancas National Cemetery.

The Pensacola Naval Complex employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel.

The land now occupied by NAS Pensacola has been controlled by varying nations. In 1559, Spanish explorer Don Tristan de Luna founded a colony on Santa Rosa Island, considered the first European settlement of the Pensacola area. The Spanish built the wooden Fort San Carlos de Austria on this bluff in 1697-1698.

Although besieged by Indians in 1707, the fort was not taken. Spain was competing in North America with the French, who settled lower Louisiana and the Illinois Country and areas to the North. The French destroyed this fort when they captured Pensacola in 1719. After Great Britain defeated the French in the Seven Years’ War and exchanging some territory with Spain, British colonists took over this site and West Florida in 1763.

In 1781, as an ally of the American rebels during the American Revolutionary War, the Spanish captured Pensacola. Britain ceded West Florida to Spain following the war. The Spanish completed the fort San Carlos de Barrancas in 1797. Barranca is the Spanish word for bluff, the natural terrain feature that makes this location ideal for a fortress.

Pensacola was taken by General Andrew Jackson in November 1814 during the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States. British forces destroyed Fort San Carlos as they swept through the area. The Spanish remained in control of the region until 1821, when the Adams-Onís Treaty confirmed the purchase of Spanish Florida by the United States, and Spain ceded this territory to the US.

In 1825, the US designated this area for the Pensacola Navy Yard was designated and Congress appropriated $6,000 for a lighthouse. Fort Barrancas was rebuilt from 1839 to 1844, the U.S. Army deactivating it on 15 April 1947. Designated a National Historic Site in 1960, control of the site was transferred to the National Park Service in 1971. After extensive restoration during 1971-1980, Fort Barrancas was opened to the public.

In 1971, NAS Pensacola was picked as the headquarters site for CNET (Chief of Naval Education and Training), a new command which combined direction and control of all Navy education and training activities and organizations. The Naval Air Basic Training Command was absorbed by the Naval Air Training Command, which moved to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. In 2003, CNET was replaced by the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC).

During Hurricane Ivan in late 2004, nearly every building on the installation had suffered heavy damage, with near total destruction of the air station’s southeastern complex. The facility was rebuilt in 2005.

Today, the Naval Air Station Pensacola is a popular tourist attraction. Just the Blue Angels alone have seen over 25,000 people attend events. Anyone visiting the Pensacola area should make a point of including the air station.

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