Originally created 03/28/04

Facility gets visit from Navy secretary



As the U.S. military considers how to cut nearly one-quarter of its bases, sailors and soldiers at the Navy Supply Corps School on Prince Avenue in Athens hope that a high-profile visit means the right people are watching out for the 50-year-old school.

U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon R. England made his first visit to the school last week, accompanied by U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who also planned to travel with the secretary to bases in Atlanta and Albany.

"I just want to thank you for your service - for your service to the country and the world," Mr. England told dozens of sailors and Marines who waited in front of Winnie Davis Hall while the secretary and the senator toured the 58-acre campus.

Mr. England called the school a "jewel" and offered students his thoughts about ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This is the third time in a century that American soldiers have been called on to fight an '-ism,' " the secretary said. He said that while history shows fascism and communism were enemies that had to be defeated, today's fight against terrorism will be just as historic.

"We live in a very complex world today, and you guys have a great opportunity," Mr. Chambliss said. "Not everybody who joins the military has a chance to change the world."

Mr. England wouldn't talk about the outcome of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round, in which a committee will consider Pentagon recommendations on which facilities to close in order to save the military about $8 billion a year. But, he said, the supply system is vital to the Navy.

The school - which teaches sailors and Marines who specialize in logistics, administration and media relations - is the only one of its kind, Mr. Chambliss said, and officials talk more about how the school will change, or even expand, in order to take on new responsibilities as other bases close.

The size of the school's campus and its ability to expand give the base some advantage, Mr. Chambliss said.

A little more than a year ago, the Navy opened the new Center for Service Support, making the facility the educational hub for 50,000 sailors across the country who specialize in logistics, administration and media support.

Despite its acreage and new investment - two assets that supporters hope will protect the school against closing - the Navy School is one of 13 military installations in Georgia that Mr. Chambliss and other leaders want to protect.

Officials sent Mr. England to his next stop with a coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Navy School and a ceremonial key to Athens-Clarke County.