San Diego – Pacific Hometown of the Naval Services
San Diego–America’s finest city is first and foremost a Navy town, and proud of it. Not only is San Diego the principal homeport of the U.S. Navy’s massive Pacific Fleet, but it’s also home to a surprising number of other bases and military installations. So here is an overview of the San Diego Military Bases and helpful tips before you even get here.
As a naval officer, I always knew San Diego had a huge military presence. But fate and circumstance kept me away until late in my career when I was stationed back East and came here for a meeting. I love the beauty and ambiance of the region and the way the locals welcomed and embraced their military.
I set my sights on making San Diego my next navy home and managed to land back-to-back tours here. Although my career eventually took us elsewhere, I promised my better-half we’d return once retired, and in late 2008 we came back to stay.
Yes, San Diego is a big Navy town with a great military heritage with many military museums, memorials, and monuments like the USS Midway. A little-known fact however is that thanks to the major local presence of our other naval service, the U.S. Marine Corps, San Diego County has the highest population of military personnel of any county in the U.S.
Major San Diego Military Bases
San Diego Navy Base
Often referred to as the 32nd Street Naval Station, this massive San Diego Navy Base complex is the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s main homeport. Currently, this San Diego Military Base has over 50 vessels of all sizes among the 213 individual commands that call Naval Base San Diego home.
The base consists of several sections–a “wet-side” large waterfront naval station and a “dry-side” across Harbor Avenue straddling 32nd Street. The operational “wet-side” includes piers lined with frigates, destroyers, littoral combat ships, big deck amphibious ships that carry Marines, and more. It’s a testimony and tribute to the immense power of the U.S. Navy and its mission of “freedom of the seas.”
The base’s “dry-side” provides housing and administrative support for the thousands of young sailors stationed here. There is also an expansive Commissary and Navy Exchange shopping complex with shops, eateries, gas station, Navy Lodge, and more, providing a range of services to military personnel and their families.
Coronado Naval Base – Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI)
Now under one joint command with the Amphibious Base Coronado and six other area facilities, North Island is part of the Navy’s largest aerospace-industrial complex, Coronado Naval Base.
NASNI is homeport to two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, 23 aviation squadrons, and 80 tenant commands and activities. Its Fleet Readiness Center Southwest is the largest aerospace employer in San Diego.
North Island is headquarters for four major military Flag staffs: Commander, Naval Air Forces and Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. North Island employs nearly 35,000 active-duty military, reserves, and civilian personnel.
NASNI has a fascinating storied history and is considered the birthplace of naval aviation. Most of the military aircraft seen over San Diego skies come from this iconic Naval Air Station.
Naval Amphibious Base (NAB)
This compact base has been operating since 1943. Today its long stretches of beaches, coastal topography, and facilities support training for amphibious, littoral, unconventional, and special warfare operations. NAB is home to the prestigious Navy’s Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) Team and the Navy’s famed Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs.
The amphibious base also houses the Pacific Fleet’s Commander Naval Surface Force and Commander Naval Special Warfare Command along with most of the Navy’s Expeditionary and Special Warfare Pacific Fleet units.
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar)
MCAS Miramar is the home of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. This is the aviation element of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force located in nearby Camp Pendleton.
This former Naval air station, located 14 miles north of downtown once hosted many Pacific Fleet air units. Miramar’s most iconic claim to fame is that it was once home base to the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School. Its TOPGUN training was showcased in the famous movie. During its heyday, the station was widely renowned as “Fightertown USA.”
With military base realignments in the 1990s, the Navy departed and turned Miramar over to the USMC as Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
Today, MCAS Miramar supports 15 fixed-wing, helicopter, tilt-rotor aircraft squadrons, and numerous other command and logistics support elements. Miramar is also home to the Miramar National Cemetery. Annually, MCAS Miramar hosts the impressive Miramar Airshow each October.
Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base
As the major West Coast base of the USMC, Camp Pendleton is one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the nation. Located in the northeast portion of our county near Oceanside, this immense military installation encompasses over 125,000 acres bordering the California coast. Established during World War II, it became the permanent Marine Base for the 1st Marine Division.
Today Camp Pendleton is the West Coast’s premier Fleet Marine Force Training Base. This base provides training, logistical support, and housing for Fleet Marine Force elements and other assigned units. Major commands include 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Logistics Group, and portions of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Among its key tenant units are the Marine Corps Air Station and Naval Hospital Pendleton.
In all, over 42,000 active-duty personnel live here along with another 38,000 military family members in base housing complexes. Despite the massive Marine footprint, only 20% of Camp Pendleton’s land is developed, providing vast areas for Marines to practice their comprehensive air, sea, and ground assault training.
Naval Base Point Loma
This consolidation of several Navy facilities is centered around San Diego’s historic and picturesque Point Loma area. Its major installations include the Point Loma Submarine Base, Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command, Fleet Combat Training Center Pacific, Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, and the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific.
The bayside elements of Naval Base Point Loma are adjacent to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Submarine operations line the southern edge of the Point Loma peninsula where you can admire views of the subs, a drydock vessel, and docks hosting local sea lions. Its combined facilities host approximately 22,000 Navy and civilian personnel. You can also find the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary on Point Loma.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD)
MCRD is nestled adjacent to San Diego International Airport and Liberty Station (once the former Naval Training Center San Diego). MCRD San Diego’s main mission is the grueling boot camp training of enlisted Marine recruits for the western U.S. Over 21,000 recruits train here annually.
The entire San Diego Military base with its Spanish-Colonial designed facilities built in the 1920s is on the National Register of Historic Places in San Diego County. The Depot also is the home to the Marine Corps Recruiter School, a Drill Instructors School, and the MCRD San Diego Command Museum.
U.S. Coast Guard Station San Diego (CGS San Diego)
The compact CGS San Diego sits directly across the street from the San Diego International Airport. From this strategic point, the U.S. Coast Guard conducts federal maritime law enforcement from the U.S.-Mexico border north to San Mateo Point.
Operations are conducted using three MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters and an array of small boats, a Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement vessel along with two 87-foot USCG Coastal Patrol Boats and a cutter located on the Navy Base.
True to Coast Guard tradition, the Station stands by 24/7 for Search and Rescue missions and cruise ship medevacs. Homeland Security duties include escorting cruise ships and some Navy vessels in and out of the San Diego Bay.
Lincoln Military Housing arranges military housing for military personnel looking to PCS (Permanent Change of Station) to the San Diego area. This link provides information on availability in 36 housing areas both on and off-base, including information on paygrades, pets, and distance from the Naval Base.
Michael Kompanik wrote San Diego Military Bases for San Diego Explorer.
San Diego Miliary Bases – Pin for later:
Last Updated on August 19, 2021 by Maria Haase