From abandoned military bases in Florida to those that are still fully operational, here we’ll explore why Florida, with its three sides of coastline, proves to be one of the most heavily populated states in terms of military bases.
Naval Air Station Lee Field
One of the abandoned military bases in Florida is located in Green Cove Springs on the west side of the St. Johns River. Named after Ensign Benjamin Lee who died in World War I, it was the center of naval training in the 1930s.
The base consisted of four runways, maintenance services, and housing for military personnel. It was used to train pilots for aircraft carrier landings during World War II and in August 1943 was renamed as Naval Air Station (NAS) Green Cove Springs.
By the end of World War II, NAS Green Cove Springs was downgraded to a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) and transferred to NAS Jacksonville.
Then, the naval base was decommissioned by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960 when he relocated the “Mothball Fleet” to Texas. From there, the city of Green Cove Springs sold the abandoned military base to Reynolds Metal Company for redevelopment who established Reynolds Industrial Park in 1965.
By the year 2000, the majority of Reynolds Industrial Park had fallen into decline with military relics spotted all throughout the landscape. The original air traffic control tower still remains as well as the airpark runway, yet both are in very poor condition.
Former Navy hangars and power plants were eventually sold to various private companies, yet much of the forgotten machinery still sits at the abandoned base. Lack of funding or impossible transportation options made revitalizing the area nearly impossible.
In 2012, there were plans to, yet again, attempt to redevelop Reynolds Industrial Park, creating a multi-use activity center. It was last noted that a portion of the unused runway is leased by car dealerships for temporary storage.
Nike Hercules Antiaircraft Missile Base
Nike Hercules Antiaircraft Missile Base is an abandoned military base in Key Largo, FL. Also known as B Battery, the base became operational in 1965 after the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War.
The base was where launch crews stood at the ready to fire nuclear-armed missiles at Soviet threats as they approached the coast of Florida. Now, with the base closed and abandoned for over 30 years, it turns out to be a haven for local wildlife.
The Key Largo wildlife refuge is working to protect endangered wildlife among this debris left behind from the Cold War by attempting to get rid of these military artifacts from the Nike Hercules Antiaircraft Missile Base.
To protect themselves, soldiers dwelled in bunkers which are still in the area and are likely to remain as they’d be too expensive to remove. Still, the wildlife is asserting itself. It seems that the ruins could be harboring non-native species of animals that are affecting those in danger of extinction. So, the wildlife refuge continues its efforts to remove everything they can.
Overall, the relics of the abandoned military base are essentially hurting the wildlife, but the history of the site and its war-ridden past will probably never fully go away.
Military Bases in Florida
So, now that we talked about a couple of the abandoned military bases in Florida and for what they’re used, let’s briefly get into the active military bases in Florida in terms of how they serve the Armed Forces.
As a peninsular state with water on three sides, Florida is a huge hub for military activity, especially within the Navy. Florida hosts 21 military bases with most of them located in the Jacksonville/Pensacola area.
Air Force Bases in Florida
Eglin Air Force Base is located in Valparaiso, FL and is home to several major U.S. Air Force units including the 7th Special Forces Group and the Air Armament Center (AAC).
Hurlburt Field Air Force Base is in Esther, FL and is also part of Eglin Air Force Base.
Patrick Air Force Base is located in Brevard, FL and plays a role in space launch operations support, eastern range operations, base and people support, institutionalizing START precepts, and expeditionary readiness.
Tyndall Air Force Base is found in Panama City, FL and is an Air Training Command installation remaining at the forefront of pilot training. It’s also home to the Air Force’s newest aircraft, the F-22 Raptor.
MacDill Air Force Base is located in Tampa, FL which is home to two major U.S. Air Force units: the 6th Air Mobility Wing and the 927th Air Refueling Wing. It also hosts the United States Central Command, the United States Special Operations Command, and the United States Marine Forces Command Central.
Homestead Air Reserve Base is in Miami, FL and hosts the Air Force Reserve Command’s 482nd Fighter Wing.
Army Bases in Florida
Camp Blanding Army Base is the only Army base in Florida and it’s located in the city of Starke. For most of its history, Camp Blanding has been a training center and became a class A military installation in 1981, growing steadily ever since.
Coast Guard Bases in Florida
Air Station Clearwater Coast Guard Base is in Clearwater, FL and plays a major role in support, anti-smuggling, and search and rescue missions across the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Seas.
District 7 Coast Guard Base in Miami, FL includes five group offices, four bases for training, four stations for air operations, and 20 stations for other various missions.
ISC Miami Coast Guard Base is located in Miami Beach, FL and supports active-duty troops by providing adequate housing as their number one priority.
Marine Bases in Florida
Blout Island Command Marine Corps is in Jacksonville, FL and is the only Marine based in the state. This base is responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of logistics procedures of the Maritime Pre-Positioning Force (MPF).
Navy Bases in Florida
Training Center Corry Navy Base is located in Pensacola, FL which supports the Department of Defense in hosting multiple schools and training centers.
NAS Jacksonville Navy Base is in Jacksonville, FL and currently hosts 16 aviation units and 17 shore commands including the Patrol Squadron 5, the Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 3, and the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 58.
NAS Key West Navy Base is located in Key West, FL and is a major center for Navy training, especially for antisubmarine air support. It supports anti-smuggling efforts, engineering research and development, surveillance radar, weather forecasting, and marine research.
NS Mayport Navy Base is in Duval, FL includes four aircraft squadrons – Vipers, Jaguars, Airwolves, and Grandmasters. There are also around 20 ships on the base including the USS Boone, USS Philippine Sea, USS The Sullivans, and the USS Samuel B. Roberts.
NAS Pensacola Navy Base, located in Pensacola, FL has origins from the 16th century and was turned into a Navy base by President John Quincy Adams in the 18th century. It’s now one of the most important bases in the world.
NAS Whiting Field Navy Base is located in Milton, FL and is primarily used as a training site.
Autec Complex Navy Base is in West Palm Beach, FL and hosts test and practices, housing one of the most sophisticated and advanced laboratories in the world.
Naval Air Warfare Center Navy Base is located in Orlando, FL and uses synthetic devices to increase readiness training. It’s probably the smallest Naval base out there and is found at the Central Florida Research Park on the University of Central Florida.
NAS Panama City Navy Base is in Panama City, FL and houses a few important units including the training center for Diving Salvage, the center for Surface Warfare, the unit for Experimental Diving, and the Coastal Operations Institute.
Clearly, Florida has a lot of military activity due to its advantageous location and comfortable climate. Many soldiers prefer to get stationed in Florida and it is one of the most popular and most requested areas in which to get stationed.
With changes in politics and military needs, some of these might end up being abandoned military bases like Naval Air Station Lee Field and the Nike Hercules Antiaircraft Missile Base. But for now, the military bases in Florida are thriving areas in supportive communities.