The Orlando Naval Training Center was a springboard for the careers of U.S. Navy personnel for more than 30 years. Most people know Orlando as a family vacation destination, thanks to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld Orlando and the countless attractions that welcome 50 million-plus tourists each year. But for the men and women who served their country in the greatest naval force in history, the United States Navy, Orlando is more than a city with theme parks and attractions, it is where their naval careers were developed into distinguished careers in the U.S. Navy.
Originally built on the grounds of an Army Air Corps base from WWII, Orlando’s Naval Training Center (NTC) was commissioned in 1968 to provide training and education to naval recruits. Over a period of 30 years, officers, non-commissioned officers, and civilian personnel worked, trained and lived in and around Orlando’s Naval Training Center, bringing revenue and the naval culture to landlocked Orange County.
Unfortunately, after the 1993 decision by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission to reduce the number of military facilities in the United States, the NTC was ordered to close and had its last graduating class in 1998, thus ending the U.S. Navy’s contribution to Orlando and the rest of the Central Florida community.
Today, the location where the Naval Training Center once stood, and where more than 650,000 sailors trained and shaped their naval careers, has been repurposed and rebuilt as the Baldwin Park residential development.
Today on the location where Orlando NTC once stood, there now stands a Lone Sailor Navy Memorial bronze statue, soon to be joined by the woman Sailor bronze, affectionately known as Project Sparky. The dedication by many has ensured that Orlando’s Naval Training Center will continue to be a great memory in the minds of those who gave so much for their country and the Central Florida community.
Central Florida’s naval heritage was cast in bronze on April 2, 2016, when the Lone Sailor was dedicated at Blue Jacket Park in the old “grinder” area of the former Orlando Navy Recruit Training Center.
Like all previously built Lone Sailor sculptures, the Central Florida’s Navy Memorial is the creation of Stanley Bleifeld, the prestigious U.S. Navy Memorial’s official sculptor. The Lone Sailor statue contains two pieces: the Sailor, who stands seven feet tall and weighs approximately 1,000 lbs., and his sea bag and cleat weighing 700 lbs.
As part of the casting process, the bronze for the Lone Sailor is mixed with artifacts from eight U.S. Navy ships provided by the curator for the Navy in the Naval Historical Center of the Washington Navy Yard.
The ships span the Navy’s history, yielding small pieces of copper sheeting, spikes, hammock hooks and other fragments from the post-revolutionary frigates the Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and the Constellation, the steamer Hartford, flagship of Admiral David G. Farragut in the Civil War era; the battleship USS Maine; the iron-hulled steamer/sailing ship USS Ranger; the World War II-era cruiser USS Biloxi and the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, and the nuclear-powered submarine USS Seawolf.
One last addition will come from today’s Navy, a personal decoration given to sailors in war and peace, the National Defense Service Medal. These bits of metal will be part of the Orlando Lone Sailor sculpture.
The Central Florida Memorial is located in the City of Orlando at Blue Jacket Park in the old “grinder” area of the former Orlando Navy Recruit Training Center, and is available for use by all services, veterans’ organizations, and civic groups for appropriate special events, ceremonies and, of course, patriotic service, through coordination with the city.