New Naval Station Pascagoula Commander Looks To Improve Conditions

The new commander of Naval Station Pascagoula says an unprecedented number of sailors are re-enlisting for a second tour in the Navy.

Cmdr. Terry Rea says one of the reasons is the way the Navy is working to improve quality of life for sailors. Rea took command of the Homeport two weeks ago. On Tuesday, she sat down with Jackson County leaders to talk about the base's future.

"I'm going to focus on quality of life for our sailors because it improves the quality of mission that we can bring to the nation," Rea said.

To improve quality of life, the Navy is pumping about $26 million into renovating barracks and building new family housing, something the Homeport doesn't have right now. The base is hoping to receive an additional $13 million for a new barracks.

"The base here has been designated as a critical housing area and that's because it's difficult for our folks to find appropriate housing out in the community," Rea said. "What the Navy has done is put a lot of money towards building family housing out on Highway 57 to provide that housing for our folks."

Some Jackson County leaders say fixing the housing shortage will mean one less mark against the Homeport when the Base Realignment Commission begins its next round of hearings. That commission or BRAC will recommend which military bases around the country will close.

"We want to grow Naval Station Pascagoula and increase its strategic importance both through homeland defense and operational missions to the Department of the Navy, so when BRAC comes in 2005, they'll look down at Pascagoula, Miss., and they say it's too important to close," Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Director Terry Carter said

It's estimated the Homeport has a $100 million impact on the coast economy. There are 2,000 active duty sailors, and about 100 reservists stationed at Naval Station Pascagoula.

By Danielle Thomas