Captain Steve Banta shared a slide presentation of 75th Anniversary Celebration of NAS CC with those in attendance at the March FBBA meeting. He first recognized Lt. Scott Beck, the coordinator for the event, and Fifi Kieschnick, NAS CC Public Affairs Officer, for doing hours of research through the CC Public Libraries, the Navy archives, the Caller-Times archives, and any other place they could locate material to create the slide show. Captain Banta, who went through flight school at NAS CC in 1994, returned as the commanding officer June 26, 2014.
“The theme of the event is the successful cooperation between the military and the community,” said Captain Banta. “Although we really enjoy how Texas and South Texas love the military, Corpus Christi is unique and better in that area. Flour Bluff is the area of Corpus Christi that directly supports the base. There will always be a strong bond here, and it’s something I really appreciate.”
Directing his comments to Cdr. Armando Solis, FB NJROTC instructor, Banta said, “The school is amazing. As far as you folks are concerned, Armando, there is no doubt about that, as is evidenced through the history of your success with those kids. The only way anybody else has gotten close to you or even gotten a little better than you is because they copied what you did. There’s no doubt about it. They’re amazing! We’re really lucky because they’re going to perform for us at the 75th.”
Captain Banta described the area of Flour Bluff prior to the base being built. “Flour Bluff in 1939 had kids going to school on horseback and people playing in the sand dunes. These sand dunes are where the base is now. They were 40-foot sand dunes. This area was a place where people would vacation or take their families for the day to go to the beach. The didn’t have to go all the way to the island. This was an area that was ripe for development. In 1940, Congress passed an appropriations bill to fund twelve military installations around the country, the largest of which would be built right here in Corpus Christi. It ended up being – at the time – the largest aviation training complex in the world. That was 1940. The funds were made available in the summer of 1940, and by March of the next year, the base was 70% complete. In just nine months, the base was dedicated. Some of the buildings are still standing. It was incredible.”
Captain Banta continued, “On the 12th of March in 1941, at 11:00 a.m. on the steps of Building 1, where the admiral and the CO had their offices, the dedication took place. Representative Lyndon B. Johnson was present. The CO at the time, Captain Alva Bernhard, dubbed this base the ‘University of the Air.’ He wanted to make sure everyone knew that premier aviation training was going to happen at this base. The theme of Secretary Knox‘s speech was ‘Cooperation with the Local Community’.”
“20,000 civilians were on board doing construction on the base making sure we could get mission capable. Today, when everybody’s on board – military, civilian, family, contractors – we might get up to 12,000 total,” said Banta. He shared pictures of the various types of aircraft use at NAS CC in the last 75 years. “The purpose of this base – Naval Air Station Corpus Christi – is as a Navy aviation training base. It is the reason the base was built. In 1940, there was a lot of tension going on in the world. We were not yet at war. We needed to make sure we were prepared for any eventuality. Pensacola could not handle all the aviation training that was needed, so this base was built. Kingsville, Cabaniss, Waldron Field, Rodd Field, Cuddihy Field, and Chase Field were all outlying fields for this base.”
Captain Banta said, “During WWII, over 35,000 aviators graduated from this base. Shortly after the base was dedicated, flight school and ground school started. Pearl Harbor was bombed in December of 1941. The first group of aviators graduated in November 1941. After that, there were two graduations every week with up to 90 students in each class. In 1943, one of the classes had over 100 students. Today, we have winging ceremonies twice each month, and there are probably 16-18 aviators graduating with multi-engine training. There is absolutely no doubt that the support of this community letting this base function helped win the war. And there’s no doubt that all the aviators turned out by this base in its 75-year history are making a difference in the world, executing the mission for national security of this country.”
The captain spoke of how Rear Admiral Dell Bull is a huge supporter of this community. He said, “The admiral tells a story about how a few years back, Isis targeted Baghdad, and we answered the call for assistance. Over half of the first group of aviators who were part of that assistance were trained right here in Corpus Christi. What you do here supporting the military makes a difference, and I want to personally thank you for that.”
Captain Banta let everyone know about the NAS CC 75th Anniversary celebration that has several events leading up to a culminating event on March 12, which will include an official ceremony, flyover, static displays, tours, a concert, and fireworks. A golf tournament is scheduled for Friday morning, March 11. Also, the South Texas Navy Historical Committee is planning a 1940s-themed gala Friday event at the American Bank Center (Contact Fifi Kieschnick at email@example.com to RSVP for this event). The official ceremony will be held Saturday morning, March 12, beginning at 11 a.m. — 75 years to the minute that the commissioning ceremony was held. Sunday morning, March 13, a non-denominational church service will be held at the Protestant Chapel, followed by breakfast at the Catalina Club. All events are free to the public.
- Saturday, March 12, the Main (South) Gate to NAS Corpus Christi will open at 10 a.m. to the general public.
- Driving on the installation, visitors must have a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
- Visitors will be directed to parking adjacent to the ceremony site.
- All are reminded that they may not bring: coolers; backpacks, large bags, tents and large umbrellas; animals, unless they are service animals; weapons of any kind; alcoholic beverages; cooking equipment; skateboards, bikes, and roller blades; illegal drugs or paraphernalia; fireworks; and kites, balloons and radio-controlled devices.
Recognitions and Other FBBA Announcements:
FBBA President Melanie Hambrick recognized Mark Thomas, owner of Jack and Jill of Many Trades, as winner of the Spotlight Award for the month of March. Thomas thanked the association and talked a little about his business that specializes in lawn service, tree service and tractor mowing. “We do commercial, industrial and residential. Our service area is the Corpus Christi Coastal Bend, especially Flour Bluff, Padre Island and Port Aransas, but we are available for Aransas Pass, Portland, Ingleside, etc.” Thomas has been in business in Flour Bluff since 1986. He also lends a helping hand to Bill Barton, who is working to get Parker Pool open by Memorial Day weekend.
FBISD Superintendent Joe Kelley recognized Cdr. Armando Solis for leading the FB NJROTC to a second-place win at the state competition. “Commander has led us to 22 first-place wins at the the state competition. We just got back from the 23rd contest where we lost by just 33 points. We are sure proud of his work and the work of the kids.”
Hannah Chipman from Brent Chesney’s office announced the first annual Sand Castle Run/Walk on the beach and encouraged everyone to join in on the fun May 7, 2016, at 8:00 a.m. at Bob Hall Pier on Padre Island. All proceeds will go to Camp Sandcastle America, a program of the American Diabetes Association established over 20 years ago to broaden the opportunity of Coastal Bend children with diabetes to experience summer camp. See more at: http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/diabetes-camp/camps/sandcastle.html#sthash.pWUvDRZZ.dpuf
Packet pickup is on May 5, 2016, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Mikel Mays on Bob Hall Pier. Then, everyone is encouraged to stick around for the Cinco de Mayo party. Packets may also be picked up the morning of the run starting at 7:00 a.m. For more information, Chipman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 361-888-0268.
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer a glimpse into the past and present of the little community of Flour Bluff. She wrote for The Flour Bluff Messenger, wrote and edited for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper that existed from December 2017 to April 2020, served as copy editor on three books, and continues to tutor students of all ages in the lively art of writing.