BRUNSWICK — More than 400 people said goodbye Thursday to the last remaining squadron at Brunswick Naval Air Station as the base enters the final stages of its shutdown.
A farewell ceremony in Hangar Six featured six admirals and former commodores who oversaw operations of the base’s patrol and reconnaissance planes over the years.
Only three P-3 Orions and 655 personnel are left on the base, down from six active and reserve squadrons and more than 4,000 employees in 2005, base officials said. The planes are scheduled to leave the first week of December. Their new home will be at Florida’s Jacksonville Naval Air Station.
The farewell ceremony featured hundreds of sailors in white uniforms, a 19-piece Navy band and a commemorative cake. Democratic U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree of Maine addressed the crowd.
The base’s patrol planes were used for submarine hunting and sea lane surveillance in the North Atlantic, surveillance over the Middle East and maritime patrols off South America and Africa, said Rear Adm. Kenneth Deutsch, the ceremony’s keynote speaker. Deutsch was a commodore at the Brunswick air base in 1999 and 2000.
The base closing will bring back memories for tens of thousands of sailors who served there, he said.
“We will remember the good times. We will remember the tough times,” Deutsch said. “We will remember our neighbors and our extended family. And we will remember our shipmates.”
Brunswick Naval Air Station was commissioned as a naval air facility in 1951. It was slated for closure in 2005 when the Base Realignment and Closure Committee voted to move its aircraft operations to Jacksonville.
The airfield is scheduled to close in January, and the base will be shut down for good by May 2011.
Although the squadron operates in the air, Capt. James Hoke, the current commander of the base’s patrol operations, used a familiar nautical phrase in bidding farewell to the sailors.
“Fair winds and following seas to each and every one of you,” he said.