June 28, 2015 – The Meridian Star, By Jeff Byrd
Thursday’s change of command ceremony for the Training Air Wing One at Naval Air Station Meridian offered commanders a chance to credit Meridian as a welcoming partner while the base continues its mission for the United States military.
Capt. Brian Goszkwowicz said his two years as Training Air Wing One commodore was made a better experience because of the support shown by the greater Meridian and Lauderdale County communities.
“The support we get from the community itself is just phenomenal,” Goszkwowicz said. “It’s phenomenal support and the Mississippi Council of the Navy League is the backbone of the support. They do a phenomenal job of helping us. If we had any issues we could contact these folks and they would lead the charge to help us.”
Goszkwowicz was relieved of his two-year command at the training wing by a former pilot trainee of the Meridian Station, Capt. Paul Carelli. Goszkwowicz has been assigned to become the Professor of Naval Science and Commanding Officer, Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, for the University of Mississippi and the University of Memphis.
Carelli talked glowingly of his previous time at NAS Meridian 20 years ago, and his excitement to take over as the new commodore of the training wing.
“I’ve never seen a relationship stronger for any base than what I’ve seen here in Meridian,” Carelli said. “You go downtown to Weidmann’s and see the Navy League, the Rotary Club, it’s amazing the support. Or, if you go to see the air show at Key Field, they are so welcoming. This community has shown it lives for this Navy base.”
Like many other air bases in the United States, one of the long-term issues NAS Meridian faces is trying to balance the base’s mission on pilot training, along with its surrounding host area’s economic and residential growth. The Navy refers to this as encroachment. There is, however, a two-county body called the Joint Land Use Study Policy Committee (JLUS), that helps the Navy and the community work together.
“The Joint Land Use Study Policy Committee (JLUS) consists of representative officials from the city of Meridian, Marion, Lauderdale and Kemper counties, and they recently recommended a consulting study focusing on alleviating encroachment at Naval Air Station Meridian,” said NAS Meridian’s Community Planning and Liaison Officer Jim Copeland. “Lauderdale County is sponsoring and contracting the JLUS in behalf of all the jurisdictions. Meridian, Marion, Lauderdale County and Kemper County have all voted to support such a study.”
Copeland said both counties have passed resolutions to support the study, the first coming on June 4, 2012, and then again on Sept. 2, 2014. Meridian passed a resolution on Aug. 5, 2014, and Marion on Oct. 14, 2014. He said the JLUS Policy Committee consists of Lauderdale County supervisors Hank Florey and Wayman Newell, Meridian Chief Administrative Officer Mike McGrevey, Meridian City Councilman Dr. George Thomas and Lamar McDonald, chairman of the Meridian Military Team, Kemper County supervisors John Paul Darnell and Pat Granger, and town of Marion aldermen Barbara Anthony and Bernice Martin.
Last month, the JLUS Policy Committee recommended a study plan be conducted by Matrix Design Group out of Grofton, Md. It was later approved by the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors in its June meeting for $189,102. The cost of the study will be fully covered by a federal grant.
This action was greeted positively by NAS Meridian’s Commanding Officer Capt. Scott Bunnay.
“It’s about compatible growth and compatible development,” Bunnay said. “These are things the installation is interested in preserving in order to maintain our mission. At the same time, we recognize the community that surrounds us is a partner that is interested in growing their community. The more we communicate in an advance, the more both of these goals can be achieved, our ability to continue our mission and the community’s ability to have economic growth.”
Goszkwowicz said he expects a positive outcome for both parties.
“We are trying to be a good neighbor,” Goszkwowciz said. “It’s the military’s position to be open and transparent about what the plans are.”
The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.