Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cecil Center Digs Allow Guard Unit More Space; Jacksonville Members Move to Renovated Facilities at Former Naval Air Station

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cecil Center Digs Allow Guard Unit More Space; Jacksonville Members Move to Renovated Facilities at Former Naval Air Station

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Davis, Times-Union staff writer

The packing boxes spread about the freshly painted room camouflaged Mike Skaret as he lay stretched out in the corner, clamping computer cable wires to the underside of his desk.

The Army National Guard officer tripled his office space when the Jacksonville unit moved from Craig Municipal Airport to Cecil Commerce Center, and he took last week to organize the desk and adjust to his new digs.

Florida Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment -- a primarily AH-64 Apache helicopter unit -- began its move to larger, renovated facilities at Cecil Commerce Center last week and expects to be settled in around January.

"It's like a Volkswagen to a big sedan," Skaret said as he sat up to talk with fellow members of Company B Hoghunters.

Cecil Field, a former naval air station on Jacksonville's Westside, was ordered closed in 1993 by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Six years later, the last fighter squadron flew over, and the base became a prime operating area for defense contractors Boeing and Northrop Grumman and city agencies such as JEA.

In its heyday, the base was regularly home to the Navy's newest air technology, hosting the East Coast's first squadrons of such landmark planes as the A-7 Corsair II, S-3 Viking, ES-3 Shadow and FA-18 Hornet.

Because the base is closer than Craig field to the National Guard unit's training site at Camp Blanding in Clay County, flying time will be reduced by about 40 minutes round-trip.

The new facilities include 142,000 square feet of hangar and office space, making it four times the size of the unit's quarters at Craig field in Arlington and one of the largest Army Aviation Support Facilities in the nation for the Guard, according to Guard officials.

The building sat empty for about six years and has been gutted, refurbished and rewired over the past two years -- with a price tag of about $6.2 million.

Old S-3 simulator rooms now serve as the kitchen for the 130 full-time personnel and 220 traditional Guardsmen in the unit. …

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