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Navy recruiters improve visibility

By KATHRYN REYES

News-Times intern

For many Oak Harbor residents, the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is a vital part of their community.

Now, with the Feb. 28 opening of the Armed Forces Career Center at the new Harbor Station development on Highway 20, the Navy hopes to become even closer to the people.

“We have always been in town,” recruiter-in-charge Shelby Pearson, Navy Recruiting Station Oak Harbor, said. “But, we weren’t in a very great location and so that may have hampered people from coming in.”

Rear Adm. Robin Braun, deputy commander Navy Recruiting Command, said that the new office is recruiting station number 1,502 in the U.S. Navy. As they are expecting to recruit 52,000 people this year throughout the country, Braun said that the station in Oak Harbor is going to be very helpful in achieving that goal.

The new office, Pearson said, is bigger now with a total area of 700 square feet compared to their old space of 144 square feet on Midway Boulevard. Aside from better visibility, their new location also offers improved accessibility and parking space convenience. “I hope being in this newer facility would promote the feeling that we are taking care of our people and that we are not neglecting our future sailors,” Pearson said.

Braun, who flew to Whidbey Island last Thursday for the office’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, used to live in Oak Harbor herself. She said she went to elementary school in the city when her father, who was also in the Navy, was stationed at NAS Whidbey. “This is where I had my first memories of the Navy,” said Braun, who eventually became a naval aviator when the military started taking women as Navy pilots.

Being one of the highest-ranking officials in the U.S. Navy Recruiting Command in the world, Braun hopes that her story, which she proudly admits began in her younger years in Oak Harbor, will inspire many other young people in the community to take advantage of the same opportunities she grabbed years ago when she signed up.

This community and the people here realize the dedication required to be in the Navy, Braun said. “They know the sacrifices that people make with their families moving around on deployment. But it is important that they also know the opportunities that come with it,” she said.

“Opportunities — I love that word,” Pearson, explained that she uses the word a lot when talking to potential recruits who can enjoy the privileges of education, medical benefits and financial stability. “When I sit down to talk to people, I generally ask what they are trying to achieve in their life. Then I talk to them about how the Navy can help achieve those goals,” she said.

Pearson said that they are always looking to surpass their number of recruits every year and this time they are hopeful that with a newer and bigger office, they will be able to welcome more people into their ranks.

The Armed Forces Career Center is located at the Harbor Station Complex, 32650 State Route 20.

For those averse to rolling waves, there are many other service career opportunities at the site. The recruitment offices of the Air Force, Army and the Marines are also in the same building. They are open from Mondays to Fridays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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