The Naval Station at Pascagoula, Mississippi only existed for fourteen years. However, its impact on America as a base for the U.S. Navy was impressive. The site, on the 437 mile (man-made) Singing River Island in the Mississippi Sound, was situated conveniently close to Ingalls Shipbuilding. Pascagoula Naval Station (NAVSTA) was an environmentally friendly, modern structure.
The Pascagoula Naval Station became home port to 2,000 military personnel when the USS Gallery arrived on site in 1992. A contingent staff of 200 civilians worked on the Naval Station during its time of operation. When the Naval Station was decommissioned in 2005, it supported 4,500 workers including both naval and civilian personnel. The base’s economic impact on the local area was estimated at $100 million annually. Its closure had a wide economic impact.
The design of the Pascagoula Naval Station included two berths quayside with “cold iron” supports and a 680 foot double decked pier. It provided wonderful docking, support and repair facilities for both naval and visiting ships. These structures were designed asbestos free since that substance had become known as a carcinogen. Concern was still felt for workers who repaired ships that may have used asbestos in their construction, as asbestos may easily become an airborne contaminant. Prior to its cancer causing effects becoming known, asbestos had been used in a wide range of industrial (including shipbuilding) products. When the connection was made between airborne asbestos and mesothelioma–a rare cancer form causing malignant cell growth in the mesothelium (the protective sac encasing most of the body’s organs)–asbestos was removed from all such products. Fortunately no cases of asbestos exposure or resulting mesothelioma have occurred among workers at the Pascagoula Naval Station.
Mississippi’s Senator Trent Lott battled to keep the NAVSTA working. In 2005, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld placed it on a consolidation list anyway, along with other bases. A formal disestablishment ceremony was held on September 29, 2006 honoring Pascagoula Naval Station’s exemplary 14 year record. More than 200 locals made their way to the island to say a final goodbye to the familiar facility. Over the years, the NAVSTA had been home to thousands of military personnel and some outstanding naval vessels from around the world. The Navy band from came from New Orleans to play and the PCU Kidd Color Guard lowered the flag at the NAVSTA for the last time.