Officers and staff come together to commemorate 75 years of service - News 11's Wiley Jawhary reports
EL CENTRO, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro celebrated a big birthday Friday. Officers and staff gathered to commemorate this base's 75th anniversary, its history, and their memories.
The base was born from necessity. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy needed five new aviation facilities for its fighters jets. In 1942, the Defense Department acquired the former Imperial County Airport for use as a Marine Corps Air Station. On May 1, 1946 the Navy took control of that station, and it went on to become the "Pearl of the Desert" as it's known today.
NAF El Centro's primary mission is combat training and readiness. It welcomes fleet and training squadrons from all across the country, as well as those from around the world.
Commanding Officer Captain William Perkins says the weather's one of the best parts of being stationed in El Centro.
"In all seriousness, it's truly the weather that makes this base special. For more than 350 days a year, there is absolutely perfect flying weather and has resulted in a desirable training location for more than a decade," Capt. Perkins told News 11's Wiley Jawhary.
However, Perkins says the community is even better than the climate.
"I have been amazed by the community bond. Even through the COVID pandemic, the Imperial Valley, the local community and the air base had to work together through that to protect the people," Perkins said.
Russ Thompson is a former Commanding Officer for NAF El Centro. He talks about his favorite memory being the arrival of the Blue Angels.
"The windows look out onto the airfield, so two or three times a day I got to watch the Blue Angels do an airshow," he said.
Thompsons career lasted twenty six years, he says in his years of service, NAF El Centro was his favorite.
“The people in Imperial County and the city of El Centro were just so welcoming, it was such a pleasure to work with them and come up with things good for the base and local community,” he said.