On December 1, 1968, Naval Security Group Detachment Sugar Grove was established. It became a Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA) when the Naval Radio Station was closed in November, 1995.
The communications facility located at Sugar Grove included two variants of the FRD-10, without goniometers, built side-by-side for general service ship-shore communications. They were completed on November 6, 1968, and became operational on November 8, 1969. These two Circularly Disposed Antenna Array’s (CDAA’s) provided increased capacity for simultaneous reception of ship-shore and overseas circuits. These two CDAA’s were not operated by the Naval Security Group at Sugar Grove. The more northern one was dismantled in 1997 and the second one was dismantled in 2005.
Due to increased automation in naval communications, Navy Radio Station (NRS) Sugar Grove’s mission was merged at another station’s location. On October 1, 1992, the NRS closed and Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA), Sugar Grove was commissioned.
On September 30, 2005, NSGA Sugar Grove was administratively closed and was re-established on October 1, 2005 as the Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Sugar Grove, WV. NIOC Sugar Grove was decommissioned on September 30, 2015.
NSGA Sugar Grove is located in the Potomac Highlands of Pendelton County in eastern West Virginia. It is surrounded by two very large National Forests, George Washington, and Monogahela. Sugar Grove lies in mountainous terrain with elevations ranging from 1,250 to 4,000 feet above mean sea level. Sugar Grove is made up of two facilities, the Main Base and the Operations Site. The Main Base encompasses 117 acres, 94 improved and
23 unimproved. It lies in South Fork Valley between Hoover Mountain and the western foothills of Shenandoah Mountain, and is bordered by the headwaters of the South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River. The Operations Site consists of 477 acres, 20 improved, 36 semi-improved, and 421 unimproved. It lies six miles to the south of the Main Base, is located on several foothill ridge tops of Shenandoah Mountain. It is drained by three watersheds: Lick Run on the west, and Wolf Run and the Little Fork River on the east. Overall, Sugar Grove is bordered by four and one-half miles of in-stream, wetland and riparian habitat and contains 454 acres of managed forest.
A pair of bald eagles nest just outside the Sugar Grove boundary line and have fledged eaglets every year since 1997. The eagles forage regularly at the beaver pond in the Operations Site and on the South Branch of the Potomac River adjacent to the Main Base western boundary. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also determined that Sugar Grove has foraging and nesting habitat for the federally listed Indiana and Virginia Big-eared bats. During the summer of 2005, Sugar Grove conducted a combination auditory and capture survey on both the Main Base and Operations Area, however, neither bat species was caught or recorded. The diverse ecosystem at Sugar Grove is home to 40 tree species and over 2000 species of shrubs and herbaceous plants. The landscape includes beaver pond wetlands, grassy meadows, dense riparian forest areas, and cascading streams – including the headwaters of the Potomac River – a portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. All this provides excellent habitat for over 107 bird species from the bald eagle to the ruby-throated hummingbird. The oak-hickory forest of the Operations Area is also home to deer, bear, fox, turkey, opossum, raccoon and squirrel.
Communications research installation:
Sugar Grove is a communications research installation in Pendleton County, West Virginia and the largest active duty Department of Defense activity in West Virginia. The unique mountainous topography of western Virginia and eastern West Virginia directly affects radio signals by inhibiting their transmission. This topographic ability to screen out most incoming radio signals resulted in the Naval Research Laboratory’s request to conduct advanced electronic communications research in that area. In 1955, the Navy, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), acquired the Sugar Grove lands for this purpose. Following the Navy’s lead, in 1958 the Federal Communications Commission set aside approximately 13,000 square miles of surrounding West Virginia and Virginia lands to become the United States National Radio Quiet Zone that protects Sugar Grove and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia from radio encroachment. The “Mountaineer Navy” consists of approximately 220 military and 90 civilian workers with 204 dependents living on Sugar Grove.
Naval Radio Station:
On May 10, 1969 Naval Radio Station (R) Sugar Grove was activated. The facility was originally developed in the early 1960s for a radio telescope that would probe outer space. This project was halted in 1962, because advances and refinements in related fields of science and technology made it outdated before it was even completed. In March, 1965 work was begun to convert the site to a radio receiving station. The station is located in an officially designated National Radio Quiet Zone, an area of 13,000 square miles, which is relatively free from outside electromagnetic interference. Two domed antennas, with diameters of 40 feet and 60 feet, were also built on the station. A two-story 60,000 square foot operations building, completely underground, was fitted with some 70 radio receivers and numerous other communications devices. One hundred enlisted men and 30 officers were assigned to the new station. On December 30, 1969, NAVCOMMSTA Cheltenham, Maryland began taking the Rio Trunk, via Sugar Grove keying lines, making the first operational use of NAVRADSTA (R) Sugar Grove.
NAVRADSTA (R) Sugar Grove became the primary east coast HF receiving site for ship-shore and overseas traffic, when it replaced the old receiver site at Cheltenham, Maryland. Cheltenham had closed in the 1990s, when the Navy no longer used HF radio as the primary method of delivering traffic.
It is interesting to note that less than 60 miles from Sugar Grove COMSAT operates a station at Etam, West Virginia where more than half of the commercial international satellite communications entering and leaving the U.S. pass through each day. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory operates the Robert C. Byrd Telescope at Green Bank, West Virginia, the world’s largest fully steerable single aperture antenna. It is approximately 30 miles west-southwest of Sugar Grove.
Edited by Mario Vulcano