The U.S. Naval Security Group Detachment, Alice Spring was established in October, 1998. On September 30, 2005, NSG Det Alice Springs was administratively closed and was re-established on October 1, 2005 as the Navy Information Operations Detachment (NIOD) Alice Springs, Australia. An Echelon IV command, NIOD Alice Springs is subordinate to Cryptologic Warfare Group SIX, formally known as NIOC Maryland (CTF 1060).
Prior to the turn of the century, the Northern Territory was governed by South Australia. In 1870, Charles Todd, the Superintendent of Telegraph for South Australia, contracted a telegraph line to stretch from Port Augusta (North of Adelaide) to Darwin.
This line would link the major cities of Australia with Europe via a newly installed Indian Ocean / Asian cable. Following the path of the explorer John McDougall Stuart, surveyor W.W. Mills decided on March 11, 1871, to locate one of the telegraph relay stations at the site of a spring on the river he named “the Todd”. This spring was actually a water hole in the riverbed, and was named Alice Springs after the wife of Charles Todd.
By 1888, miners and travelers to the nearby gold fields of Winnecke and Arltunga were draining the resources of the small station. As a result, the settlement of Stuart was founded about two miles downstream of the station. The first public building was the Stuart Arms Hotel in 1889, and by 1901 the town had nine buildings (three of them breweries). All supplies arrived via Oodnadatta, the railhead located 370 miles to the south. Afghans using camels transported many of the supplies over that barren stretch of land.
Territory Government passed from South Australia to the Federal Commonwealth in 1911, and a pledge was made to continue the railway north. The decision for the line was finally made in 1925, and the line arrived in Stuart in 1929 to the delight of all 50 residents. Three years later, the Telegraph and Post Office were transferred from the Old Telegraph Station (now preserved as a landmark) to Stuart, which was re-named Alice Springs. The town’s population has increased five-fold by this time, and has been growing ever since.
In the 1960’s, the U.S. Government entered into talks with the Australian Government to construct a Satellite Relay Station in Australia’s inland. In 1964-65, central Australia was selected as the region to construct the facility. The Australian Government proposed a 25 acre piece of land. The site, owned by the Australian Air Force, was located 19 kilometers from the town center of Alice Springs. On December 16, 1966, an announcement was made that a Joint Australian-American facility would be constructed near Alice Springs. The Pine Gap facility became operational in 1970, and consisted of a U.S.-Australian NAVDET Combined Support Group. The facility initially employed 25 Americans and about 60 Australians. In 1989, the NAVDET Combined Support Group at Pine Gap was renamed the Joint Defense Space Research Facility, Pine Gap.
American influence in Alice Springs comes primarily from the proximity to Pine Gap, a U.S. satellite tracking station, located 19 kilometers southwest of Alice Springs. While Pine Gap employs 700 American and Australians, there are currently 2,000 people in the Alice Springs district who carry U.S. citizenship. There is also a large influence of American culture in sport, including baseball, basketball, and American football competitions, alongside more Australian sports of cricket, Australian rules football and rugby.
Alice Springs lies almost in the geographical center of the immense Australian landmass, some 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) from the nearest major city. It has a population of approximately 27,000 people, 2,000 being aboriginal. It is located in the Northern Territory, most of which consists of a semi-arid environment.
As you’d expect from a desert, Alice Springs is predominantly dry with brilliant blue skies, especially from April to September. Between the summer months of December to March, it can get very hot. (35°C-45°C or 95°F-113°F).
During the winter months of June to September, the day temperatures will be mostly pleasant, but at night it can drop below freezing. Rainfall usually occurs in the hottest months from October to March, bringing welcome relief to the landscape and its people. But with a yearly average of only 275ml (9.3 fluid ounces), clear skies are generally a pretty safe bet. Extreme conditions do occur however, and precautions must be taken to prevent fatigue.