The United States celebrated a birthday this week, and so did a naval base on the Georgia coast. Kings Bay is Georgia’s only naval base, and it has global and local importance.
The base was commissioned on July 1, 1978 to house nuclear-powered submarines with ballistic missiles. It’s a big deal for our nuclear defense strategy.
It’s home to the East Coast’s underwater nuclear defense system.
“What that means is that we put strategic weapons on board our submarines and they stand watch, they deploy out of Kings Bay,” said Scott Bassett, the base’s spokesman.
He said the port is always on “alert status.” At least one Kings Bay submarine with nuclear ballistic missiles is always out in the water ready for instructions.
Kings Bay is also a big deal for Camden County. It’s the coastal’s county’s largest employer at 9,000 workers and sprawls more than 17,000 acres.
Jim Gant is a retired Naval civil engineer who moved to the base in 1982. “It was strictly a mill town,” he recalled. “There wasn’t anything else here.”
He remembers the first time he brought his wife down to house hunt in St. Mary’s, the county’s largest city.
“And she was in tears by the time we got into St. Mary’s saying I’ll never live here. We’re going back home,” he said.
They ended up staying, and Gant is now a St. Mary’s City councilman. He said they watched the first traffic light go in, the population more than quadruple and the school system improve dramatically.
Kings Bay now brings $1 billion of economic impact to the county annually.
“Everybody on the council and St. Mary’s government does anything we can for the Navy,” Gant said.
The base has anniversary celebrations planned later this month.