On July 16, 1957, the first shovel of earth was thrown, marking the beginning of Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Meridian, which was commissioned July 14, 1961.
Captain W.F. Krantz received the golden key to the air station, and senior Mississippi U.S. Senator John C. Stennis was the guest speaker for the ceremony that opened the $60 million base. At that time the operations area was named McCain Field in honor of the late Admiral John S. McCain of Teoc, Mississippi
Training Squadron Seven (VT-7) arrived at NAAS Meridian July 12, 1961, then split on December 15 to form its sister squadron, Training Squadron Nine (VT-9).
NAAS Meridian continued to grow, and by July 1968, the station became a full naval air station. The years brought an increase in building development and family housing units. In 1968, and again in 1969, 300 aircraft from Pensacola arrived to escape the fury and destruction of Hurricane Gladys and Hurricane Camille, respectively.
In August 1971, Training Air Wing One (TW-1) was commissioned and Training Squadron Nineteen (VT-19) was established. The Wing motto became "Readiness for Victory at Sea through Training." That October saw the arrival of the TA-4J, the new advanced jet trainer based on the A-4 "Skyhawk." In April 1973, President Richard M. Nixon, accompanied by Senator John C. Stennis and many other high-ranking military and civilian officials, attended the dedication of the new Naval Technical Training Center (NTTC), known locally as the Stennis Center. It was officially commissioned April 17, 1974.
Naval Air Station (NAS) Meridian was selected and upgraded to a Major Shore Command on October 1, 1982. In March 1984, NAS Meridian was one of 15 installations chosen for the Department of Defense Model Installation Program.
In September 1985, the enlisted galley was dedicated to the memory of Marine Lance Corporal Roy M. Wheat, a Mississippi native and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in Vietnam.
In 1986, Navy Meridian officially adopted two Lauderdale County schools, Northeast Elementary and Northeast High School, as part of the civilian and DoD Adopt-a-School Program. In 1993, the new Northeast Middle School also was adopted.
In 1987, outlying field "Bravo" was renamed after Captain Joe W. Williams, Jr., NAS Meridian's second commanding officer and the recipient of the Navy Cross.
The Regional Counterdrug Training Academy (RCTA) was established in 1992. Operated by the Mississippi National Guard, it provides "street-level" counterdrug training to civilian law enforcement officers primarily from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
In July 1994, Training Squadron Twenty-Three (VT-23) moved from Kingsville, Texas, to NAS Meridian.
In October 1997, the newly renovated Combined Bachelor Quarters was dedicated and named in memory of Ensign Jesse L. Brown, a Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native, who was the first African American naval aviator and also the first African American naval officer to lose his life in combat.
1st Lt. Karen Fuller Tribbett received Wings of Gold on October 17, 1997, becoming the first female strike pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In October 1998, VT-19 was re-designated VT-9. The TA-4J "Skyhawk" was retired in 1999. In December of that year, VT-7 assumed the advanced training mission using the T-45C "Goshawk," the Navy's newest jet trainer. At that time, VT-23 was disestablished.
Following the closure of Naval Reserve Center Jackson, Naval Reserve Center Meridian opened July 15, 2000, and had its first drill weekend two weeks later, one month before its official dedication ceremony, August 26.
On August 18, 2000, Marine Aviation Training Support Group was re-designated Marine Aviation Training Support Squadron One.
In June 2003, the library was dedicated and named in memory of Lieutenant Junior Grade Andrew Triplett, a Shuqualak, Mississippi, native, who was killed during the terrorist attack on the USS Cole (DDG-67) in Aden, Yemen, on October 12, 2000.
In July 2004, the last T-2C “Buckeye” left NAS Meridian marking the end of Navy strike pilot training in that aircraft. Two months later the Search and Rescue mission was divested.
Over the years, NAS Meridian has become a refuge for both aircraft and people who have been evacuated from the coast because of hurricanes. As early as September 1965, hundreds of planes from Florida bases arrived to escape the wrath of Hurricane Betsy.
In the last decade, there have been several evacuations.
During the Gulf Coast evacuation for Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, NAS provided transient support for 53 TH-57 helicopters from NAS Whiting Field that were en-route to NAS Memphis; additionally, temporary housing for more than 1,000 evacuated military personnel and dependents was also provided.
More than 50 aircraft from NAS Whiting Field and NAS Pensacola were flown to Meridian in June of 1995, when Hurricane Allison threatened the Gulf Coast.
In 1995, the station also provided shelter for more than 1,000 personnel during Gulf Coast evacuations as a result of Hurricane Erin in August and Hurricane Opal in October. In September 1998, the station sheltered more than 1,000 personnel escaping the effects of Hurricane Georges on the Gulf Coast.
During Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, nearly 1,000 evacuees (and more than 200 pets) from the Gulf Coast found a safe haven at NAS. McCain Field also provided refueling services for 100 H-57’s from Whiting Field that were going to and from their evacuation site in Millington.
August 2005 brought Hurricane Katrina to the Gulf Coast. NAS Meridian provided safe haven for 1,000 military and family members who were evacuated from that region. The station also hosted FEMA, who set up their Mississippi Operational Area on board. FEMA received and dispatched 3,000 trucks loaded with supplies during their relief efforts. Also, the U.S. Public Health Service used half of Hangar One to establish a 500-bed Federal Emergency Contingency Unit. It was designed to provide non-acute care for patients transferred from hospitals to our south, where beds were needed for more critically ill patients.
In 2011, NAS Meridian celebrated its 50th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of Naval Aviation with its “Golden Wings Over Meridian” Air Show, March 26-27. The event was attended by more than 20,000 spectators and featured the Navy’s flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels. Secretary of the Navy and former Mississippi Governor, the Honorable Ray Mabus also attended the air show.
The main base of NAS Meridian occupies more than 8,000 acres of land, with an additional 4,000 acres at Joe Williams Field and the target facility SEARAY. The size of NAS Meridian may be compared to that of other major naval air stations such as NAS Pensacola, Fla., which has about 5,000 acres. NAS Meridian and its tenant commands participate regularly in community service. Organizations supported include Special Olympics, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Habitat for Humanity and various local schools, just to name a few. Additionally, several commands participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program.
The theme “Navy Meridian, Pride of the South” reflects the superb teamwork that exists between the base and the Meridian community.