The recognition comes from Navy Installations Command, in charge of the service’s 72 bases in the United States and around the world.
The “Best in Navy” designation for large installations also recognizes the base’s ongoing efforts to communicate and cooperate with surrounding communities, the state and federal governments.
“This is huge, especially when you think about Jacksonville being such a Navy town,” said Bob Buehn, the city’s former military affairs director and a retired Navy captain once based at the air station.
The award has symbolic and practical consequences, said Capt. Jeffrey Maclay, the base’s commanding officer.
It affirms the base’s operations, security, environmental and fiscal policies, Macay said, and it provides a $255,000 prize that goes into the base discretionary fund.
A record-low number of mishaps, the use of electric-powered vehicles and solar energy, and innovative storm water and waste water treatment programs were among the categories graded.
“It shows you’re the best of the best across anything you want to measure a whole base on,” said retired Rear Adm. Kevin Delaney, who commanded the base the last time it won this award in 1991.
The monetary award is major because it can be used on quality-of-life projects that might go unfunded in difficult economic times, Delaney said. In 1991, he used the money to improve the fitness center and pool used by sailors.
“That’s kind of nice in a time of fiscal austerity,” Delaney said.
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown said the air station has modeled for local governments how to implement cost-saving measures while maintaining quality services.
The designation means the air station is automatically entered into the Department of Defense’s contest for bases across the military. Maclay said that might mean visits from military inspectors or simply having to provide more information to the Pentagon, which is fine by him.
“Everybody competes and everybody gets better,” Maclay said.