It's official. There's now a new commander at the helm of the Navy's largest jet squadron, the VT-7 located at Naval Air Station Meridian.
Although local support is good, outgoing commander, Capt. Mark Kinnane, said perhaps many people don't realize exactly what an important role NAS Meridian plays when it comes to national defense.
"We train over half of the U.S. Navy here at this base. That's why the mission of this base is so vital," said Capt. Kinnane.
"We just could not do it without this base. The amount of flight operations we do here. It's critical," said ncoming commander, Capt. John Fristachi.
"And that's our song that we sing. The Navy cannot get along without that base," said Lamar McDonald.
McDonald is president of the Navy Meridian Team, a group affiliated with the local Navy League, which was established in 1991 as part of an effort to save the base from possible closure.
Although the base has survived three previous closure attempts, supporters say with more talks of base closures set for 2005, continued community support is needed.
"Community support is third on the list in the upcoming BRAC, in the considerations they have for keeping a base," says local Navy League president Bill Johnson.
The other two determining factors include: the base's value to the military and if it provokes any environmental or encroachment concerns.
Anyone interested in supporting the effort to keep the base open is encouraged to become a member of the Navy League. For more information call 693-1306.