Navy Prepares To Leave Singing River Island - - The News for South Mississippi

Navy Prepares To Leave Singing River Island

"In just a very short time, this space has had a very strong impact on our Navy, our nation, and the lives of the men and women who live and work in this community," US Navy Chief of Staff Capt. Matthew Schellhorn said.

It was a going-away party of sorts on Friday for Naval Station Pascagoula, and the men and women who have served here over the past 14 years.

"Our job now is to make lemonade out of lemons. We wish they were staying. They're not. So the local community is working very hard with the state and the Navy to figure out what we're going to do," Secretary of State Eric Clark said.  

While Naval Station Pascagoula reaches the end of its era, the land won't go unused. Beginning November 16th, the state of Mississippi will become landlord of the 300 acre Singing River Island  - 100 acres, of which, are undeveloped.

"We stand at a point now of opportunity, possibility, and transition. Our intention is and our conviction is, with a transition to the island with a company such as Northop Grumman Ship Systems, we can not only replace the investment of the jobs that we benefited from the Navy, but we can increase those jobs and increase the economic impact of the island to the community and the region," George Freeland said.

Additional jobs would be a boost to Jackson County, and one that Development Director George Freeland says the area certainly deserves.

"The economic impact of the island has been on the decline for some time now. So now we have an opportunity to transition new manufacturing jobs and investment on the island, and position the island such that it is a great contributor to the economy of Jackson County and South Mississippi," Freeland said.

And as the sailors lower the flag for the very last time, those who've served here for many years will never forget what Pascagoula's Port meant to them.

"It's been a success because we've been able to have ships homeported here. We've had a maintenance facility, and the ships serve the country. So anytime we can support the fleet, I think that's what success is," Pascagoula Navy Station Cmdr. Robert Benjamin, Jr said.  

Freeland expects to reveal official plans for the island's future within the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, sailors from the naval station will begin to be deployed to locations across the globe like California, Washington D.C., Guam and Afghanistan.

by Keli Rabon

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