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Naval Air Facility El Centro Guide

Naval Air Facility El Centro, California

Naval Air Facility El Centro is in the center of Southern California’s Imperial Valley and is known for its pleasant weather and relaxed atmosphere. The base is within a short drive from Los Angeles, San Diego, and Yuma, Arizona.

The mission of Naval Air Facility El Centro is to maintain and support Naval Aviation Squadrons through innovative training and facilities.

Multiple squadrons arrive every few weeks to train parachutists, aviators from all over the world, and even specialty units like the Army Green Berets and the U.S. Navy Seals. Learn more about NAF El Centro history, the surrounding area, local schools, child care options, and more.

NAF El Centro Base History

Now known as Naval Air Facility El Centro, this site has been known through its history by many other monikers, including Naval Air Station, National Parachute Test Range, Naval Auxiliary Landing Field and the standard Naval Air Facility since 1946 when it first opened.

Throughout its history, NAF El Centro has been a testing site for successful innovations. The pilot ejection seat in 1959, the Mercury Space Program parachute in 1951, the aeronautical escape system in 1947, and many other new designs were developed and piloted at this location.

Not long after these developments, the U.S. Naval Aerospace Recovery Facility merged with El Centro as the National Parachute Test Range in the early 1970’s, leading it to become a Naval Air Facility. Even now, this site is renowned for the training and support it provides visiting squadrons and forces to push the limits of air combat.

NAF El Centro Surrounding Area

Nestled in the Imperial Valley, El Centro has relatively easy access to San Diego, Palm Springs and even Yuma, Arizona, encompassing a gallery of recreational choices for those living in the area.

Golfers will enjoy the Lakeview and Desert Trails golf courses in El Centro. Other outdoor activities include visiting Borrego Springs for OHV adventures, hiking through North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area, or taking a dip at 5 Palms Hot Springs after a walk at Bucklin Park.

For indoor recreation, visit the Imperial Valley Desert Museum in Ocotillo, the Pioneers Museum in Imperial, or enjoy a movie at the NAF El Centro Movie Theater.

In-Processing and Check-In at Naval Air Facility El Centro

The first stop for new arrivals should be to officially check in. The Personnel Support Activity Detachment in Building 214 at security. Call the Duty Office at (760) 339-2222 if arriving after hours. Make sure to bring all official documentation with you in person.

NAF El Centro Child Care

Beginning at six weeks of age, the Child Development Center can support families with full and part-time day care options for children until they are five years old. Specially trained staff will work with children to develop physical and emotional health and foster creativity.

Night and weekend care options are available for older children up to 12 years old through camps and after school care. The programs are kept affordable for service members with an income-based fee system.

A benefit for parents at NAF El Centro seen at few other facilities is the GPAB, or Give Parents A Break Program. When the unexpected happens or parents just need the chance to breathe for a bit, they can call on this program to cover for them during extra work hours, when on tour and unexpected deployments. For information or to register, call (760) 339-2560.

NAF El Centro Housing

The Housing Program at Naval Air Facility El Centro features affordable housing options for families and families with children as well as options for single service members. Family housing is offered in duplexes or single-family houses, sometimes off-base.

Bachelor housing comes with amenities for social activities and covered parking. The facilities have nearly 200 housing units designed to meet the varied needs of individuals and families. Contact the Housing Referral Options to find the most appropriate housing at (760) 339-2923.

Related: Basic Allowance for Housing Calculator

NAF El Centro Commissary

The commissary at NAF El Centro is well-stocked with essential items for service members. THe produce department is full and offers weekly specials. Fresh meat is delivered three times a week, including beef and pork. The store has a grab-n-go set up for easy and healthy options. Check the store ahead of time for holiday closures and operating hours.

2nd Street NAF
Bldg 210 2nd ST Naval Air Facility
El Centro,CA 92243

(760) 339-2558
DSN 658-2558

PCS and TDY Lodging at NAF El Centro

Temporary lodging for new arrivals and visitors can be found at Navy Gateway Inn & Suites. Multiple room options are available. Visit Building 401 for more information, or call (760) 339-2269 for reservations and to learn more details.

The other lodging option is Navy Lodge El Centro. Family units with private baths are plentiful at this location. To reserve or learn more about this facility, call (760) 339-2342. All rooms at both locations come with standard amenities.


Most service members and visitors to the area come in from either Los Angeles, San Diego, or Yuma, Arizona. If driving from L.A., the most direct route is I-10 heading east, following signs to NAF El Centro’s main entrance.

From San Diego, head east on I-8, on Drew Road, following signs to the main gate. I-8 heading west is the best way from Yuma, which also leads to the main entryway of El Centro.

Those choosing to fly in should arrive at the Imperial County Airport, connecting from Los Angeles. Bus transportation is also available. Your sponsor can share other options if needed.

Vehicle Registration And Driver’s License

To bring a vehicle into Naval Air Facility El Centro, bring a current driver’s license, sufficient driver’s insurance, vehicle title and inspection to the main gate. The main gate is open 24/7 for in-processing and check-in.

Motorcycle drivers will need a motorcycle license, current insurance, and other relevant certifications for safety, as well as personal safety equipment, including an approved helmet and boots.

NAF El Centro Schools

Families of servicemembers at NAF El Centro can send their children to schools based on where they live that including schools in the Seeley Union School District, the closest in distance to NAF, and Central Union High School District.

The Seeley Union School District gives instruction for kids starting in early childhood up to eighth grade. This district does have available transportation options.

Afterward, they must enroll in the Central Union High School District at one of the area’s three upper schools. Most children of military service members will attend Southwest High School.

This district also features one adult school and a virtual campus. Parents of students with special needs or who need an intra-district transfer should first consult their School Liaison Officer.

To register a student, provide the following documentation:

  • Immunization record (must be current as of 30 days of moving to California)
  • Birth Certificate
  • School Records
  • Proof of Residency

If moving from another state, schools will require a health checkup within a few months of arrival that includes a dental examination as required by the state. Refer to the school district or School Liaison Officer for details and specific requirements at (619) 556-9499.

NAF El Centro Colleges and Universities

NAF El Centro is a National Test Center served by Vincennes University, with programs for degrees in a variety of fields.

VU accepts active duty and veteran students and enrollees in the family. In-person programs, virtual programs, and hybrid programs are available at this campus. Contact the university for details and requirements for enrollment.

Vincennes University
Glenn Karmann
West Coast Regional Director
Phone: (360) 362-6480

Related: Ultimate GI Bill Guide

NAF El Centro Contacts

  • Child Development Center  (760) 339-2560
  • Civilian Personnel Office (760) 339-2473
  • ID/CAC Card Processing  (760) 339-2473
  • Installation (760) 339-2519
  • Barracks/Single Service Member Housing (760) 339-2920
  • School Liaison (619) 556-9499
  • Temporary Lodging/Billeting (760) 592-0360
  • Travel Office (760) 339-2473
  • Youth Programs/Centers (760) 339-2644

Related: Ultimate Military Benefits Guide

About the author

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Kena Sosa is an award-winning author, filmmaker and percussionist. She
earned her BA from OLLU and her MBEGT from SMU. She published two
award-winning children’s books. Kena has written for CBS/DFW Local and
Multicultural Review Magazine. She was the Guest Editor for the Fall/Winter
2023 ChildArt Magazine issue. Kena has written for Recon Media since 2023.