The operational purpose of Navy Information Operations Command, Sugar Grove is to perform communications research and development for the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense and various elements of the U.S. government.
The Navy’s presence in Sugar Grove began in 1955 when the present site of the NIOC was selected for a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) project which was to lead to the construction of a large parabolic antenna for advanced communications research. The site was selected as the ideal location for this project because of the natural mountain shielding and the extremely low level of man-made noise.
In 1956, a 60-foot antenna was completed and became operational for feasibility studies for a 600-foot parabolic antenna. Originally, the site was developed as a radio telescope that would probe outer space, tuning in on radio signals 38 billion light-years away from Earth. The 600-foot dish would have been the heart of the operation. In 1958, ground was broken and construction began on base.
However, unforeseen advances in related fields of science and technology made the project obsolete before it was completed and it was subsequently halted in 1962. The Navy abandoned the original intent of the project, but the 60-foot dish is still operational today. It is referred to as the 1-10, as the dish was to be one- tenth the size of the planned but never completed 600-foot antenna.
In 1962, in response to a request from Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) to find other uses for the Sugar Grove facility, the Navy proposed the site to be used as a radio receiving station, due in part to its unique location within the National Radio Quiet Zone. The zone, an area 100 miles square relatively free from outside electromagnetic interference, was established in 1959 for the nearby Green Bank Radio Observatory. Byrd noted that the natural isolation provided by the George Washington National Forest and surrounding mountains made for near-perfect conditions for high-frequency capability. The proposal for the station was approved and in 1963, the Naval Radio Station (Receiver, NRS) was established.
The original cost of the station at this site was $11 million. According to the March 4, 1968 edition of the Congressional Record, its mission would be the main receiver site for worldwide Navy Radio communications coming into the Washington, D.C. area. Also in 1968, work was finished on the 150-foot parabolic antenna, which is today the largest dish at the operations site. Further, the Naval Security Group (NSG) established a detachment at the site in the same year.
NRS Sugar Grove was formally commissioned on May 10, 1969. LCDR F.M. Tettlebach was the first Officer-in- Charge of the new station. Navy personnel resided in Cheltenham, Maryland, until the support site was completed. The Naval Radio Station was called “The Navy’s Ear,” gathering communications from Navy planes, ships and stations from around the world. Two huge, circular antenna arrays, or Wullenwebers, each 1,000 feet in diameter, once served as the station’s main receiving antennas.
In 1973, operational an administrative control of NRS was transferred to Naval Communication Station, Norfolk. NRS became a component of Naval Communications Area Master Station Atlantic, Norfolk and the Officer-in-Charge billet was upgraded to Commanding Officer. The installation was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation in April 1974, for outstanding support of the national intelligence effort. Two years later, the 60-foot antenna operations were moved to a new Naval Security Group operations building. Facilities work to the previously unused lower level of the Underground Building (UGB) a year later offered space to house the Naval Security Group Detachment’s communications, administration, maintenance and logistics and operations groups.
The TIMBERLINE II project in 1984 provided additional opportunities to remote systems to the 30-year-old UGB and provided needed upgrades to emergency power and air-conditioning systems. The former NSG operations building, the Linn Operations Center (LOC), is now home to the Supply and Training offices. The building was dedicated to the memory of Chief Communications Technician Raymond E. Linn, who gave his life in defense of his country aboard the USS LIBERTY (AGTR 5) in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel June 8, 1967.
Due to increased automation in Naval communications, in 1992 the mission of NRS was merged with another location. On October 1, 1992, the Naval Radio Station was officially closed and the Naval Security Group Activity was established. On December 29, 2005, Navy Security Group Activity Command was also disestablished for the same reason. Navy Information Operations Command, Sugar Grove was established as part of the integration of NAVSECGRU functions into Naval Network Warfare Command. The SECGRU Service Cryptologic element responsibilities have been performed by the Information Operations Directorate of NETWARCOM ever since.
Content Steward: IT3 (IDW) Jacob M. Clark, tel. 304-249-6566
Page Publisher: IT3 (IDW) Jacob M. Clark, tel. 304-249-6566
Last Modified: 01 APR 2013
Last Reviewed: 01 APR 2013