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Naval Air Station Sigonella , the "The Hub of the Med", is a U.S. Navy installation at NATO Base Sigonella, an Italian Air Force base in Sicily, Italymarker. Although a tenant of the Italian Air Force, NAS Sigonella acts as landlord to more than 40 other U.S. commands and activities. It is located 15 km West and 11 km South of the city of Cataniamarker, and some 40 km South of Mount Etnamarker. Because of its location near the center of the Mediterranean Seamarker, NASSIG is well-placed to support operations by the U.S. 6th Fleet, other U.S. military units, and U.S. allies and coalition partners. The base comprises two sections: NAS I was the site of the original U.S. base but is now a support facility and NAS II which includes the runways, operations and most tenant commands. NAS I also contains the Navy Exchange and Commissary, the school, and some homes, mainly for the commodore of Task Force 67, the air station commanding officer, air station executive officer and commanding officers of tenant activities. NAS I also is host to other facilities, mainly for entertainment. NAS II is now only used as a service base. In addition, there are two base housing sites. The original housing development, Mineo is located approximately 30-35 minutes from NAS II and 40-45 minutes from NAS I. The newest housing area is named Marinai, located 2 minutes from NAS II and approximately 10-15 minutes from NAS I. Marinai flooded in December 2005 displacing many families temporarily.

From 1987 to 2002, there was a base housing development Villaggio Costanzo which was located in the village of Santa Maria La Stella, in the comune of Aci Sant'Antoniomarker, and approximately 60 minutes from NAS I.The closest community to the base is Motta Sant'Anastasiamarker, where many military personnel and their families live in rented accommodation on the economy. Relations between the Americans and the local Italian nationals are cordial, despite some anti-American demonstrations outside the base protesting the Iraq War. Many Italian nationals are employed as civilian workers at the base.

Among the aircraft that fly from this island base are U.S. Air Force C-130, C-17 and C-5 airlifters, KC-135 and KC-10 tanker and U.S. Navy P-3 Orions and C-2 Greyhounds. It is one of the most frequently used stops for U.S. airlifters bound from the continental United States to Southwest Asia and the Indian Oceanmarker.

NAS Sigonella has the best claim to be hub of U.S. naval air operations in the Mediterranean. The base command is landlord to more than 40 other U.S. units. Among the largest are a rotating P-3 patrol squadron; a Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station; and a U.S. Naval Hospital. The hospital was built in 1992. Previously, there was only a clinic. The closest Naval Hospital was at Naplesmarker. Sigonella is home to more than 4,000 troops, civilian personnel, and family members.

NAS Sigonella is the Navy's second largest security command, second only to that located at Naval Support Activity Bahrain. NAS Sigonella also has a large support of security personnel from NR NSF Sigonella, Out of NOSC Detroit, MI.

History

The United States Naval Air Facility (NAF), Sigonella, was established June 15, 1959; its first commanding officer was CAPT Walter J. Frazier. The facility was conceived in the early 1950s, when plans to base U.S. Navy P-2V Neptune at Hal Farmarker, Maltamarker began to outgrow the facility.

When there was no room for expansion at Malta, the U.S. Navy obtained NATOmarker backing to be hosted by Sicilians. Italy made land available under a temporary agreement signed June 25, 1957. Six days later, Landing Ship Tank (LST) began to deliver equipment from the Malta base.

Ground was broken in September, and construction on the administrative area at NAF I was started in 1958. It was built on top of an airfield where damaged German fighters and bombers had once landed during the Second World War. The first Americans arrived for work at Sigonella in March 1959 -- six months before any buildings were ready -- and so worked for six months in Cataniamarker at a large warehouse complex called Magazzino Generale (General Warehouse), which is opposite the cemetery on the right side of the street as one enters Catania from the base.

By the end of August 1959, the NAF II airfield was available for daylight flights under visual flight rules (VFR); 24 flights were logged by Aug. 31.

One of Sigonella's first buildings was what is now the American Forces Network (AFN) building. In 1958, that building was Sigonella's vector (pest) control center, where rat poison was stored. The Army Corps of Engineers next used the building for their offices, later sharing it with Special Services, or what is now called Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR). Around 1966, AFN came to Sigonella and joined Special Services, which soon moved out, leaving the building to the broadcasters.

Sigonella's first flood occurred mid-September 1959. The Dittaino Bridge between NAF I and NAF II was under six feet of water on September 20 and all traffic had to go through Catania. Power outages accompanied the floods.

In the 1980s, Naval Air Facility Sigonella was redesignated as a Naval Air Station.On the night of 10 October 1985, there were tense hours on NAS II when the Italian Carabinieri, Italian Air Force, and the American Navy SEALS came close to firing upon one another following the interception by Navy F-14 Tomcat fighters of an Egyptian Boeing 737 airliner carrying the hijackers of the Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, which had been commandeered by terrorists on 7 October. The hijackers had murdered an elderly, disabled, Jewish American citizen Leon Klinghoffer by shooting him, then tossing his body overboard. The F-14s instructed the Egyptian plane to land at Sigonella where the Americans had planned to take the hijackers into custody. The Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi instead claimed the hijackers were under Italian jurisdiction. The Italian authorities therefore refused to allow the SEALS to board the plane, threatening to open fire on the Americans had they made an attempt to do so. The ensuing stand-off lasted throughout the night, until President Ronald Reagan gave the orders for the Americans to stand down and allow the Italians to take custody of the hijackers.

On April 1, 2004, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) opened Defense Depot Sigonella Italy on NAS II to serve as a supply base for the Mediterranean. DLA also provides fuel and property disposal from NAS II.

Sigonella suffered its second major flood mid December 2005. Over 400 service members and family evacuated. In 2006, a newly installed protective berm prevented a nearly second consecutive year of flooding.

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