Historical vignettes are presented at the celebration of NAS Whidbey Island’s 75th anniversary Thursday. Presenters discussed the role of the base during different eras of history, starting in 1942. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

NAS Whidbey celebrates 75th anniversary

On the date of its commissioning 75 years ago, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island paid tribute to its past, present and future Thursday.

The ceremony, held in a washrack on base, took guests on a journey through historic vignettes presented that defined the base’s history.

The Navy band set the mood by playing music that defined the time periods discussed, starting with big band music from the 1940s to “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” a recent hit by Justin Timberlake.

Capt. Geoffrey Moore, commanding officer for NAS Whidbey, kicked off the event by declaring, “Happy Birthday, Team Whidbey.”

Moore credited the base’s long-term success to the strong support from the community throughout the years. He talked about the excitement surrounding the anniversary event itself.

Local organizations were happy to come and set up historic displays with information about previous aircraft, squadrons and more, said Moore.

Some of that excitement led to a brief return of the EA-6B Prowler, the venerable electronic warfare aircraft based at NAS Whidbey for many years, retired by the Navy in 2015.

Veterans of deployments spanning the decades were recognized during Thursday’s ceremony.

World War II vet Bud Zylstra, who helped build the housing development when the base was first commissioned and was a special guest at the ceremony.

Zylstra, now 94 and still living in Oak Harbor, said he has seen the growth of the area, starting from the era of farmers unloading their goods at the dock from their horse-drawn carriages, to present day.

Adm. Bill Moran, who delivered the closing remarks, recognized the veterans who were in attendance for their service, and also encouraged those in attendance to recognize all of those who currently serve.

“It’s nice to be recognized for what you did,” said Moran. “But that’s just what you were called to do. The real impact is the legacy you leave.”

Moran said current Navy members are the legacy, and the veterans are the reason we still have the Navy.

Moran is a former squadron leader at NAS Whidbey and currently the Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

“I could stand up here all day and talk about how happy I am to be back on Whidbey,” Moran told attendees.

He lauded the area as the best place to fly and the training at the base as “unlike anywhere else.”

As for the future of NAS Whidbey, Moore said growth in personnel numbers at the base has stabilized with the arrival of patrol squadron VP-9 from Hawaii. The squadron started arriving Wednesday.

Moore said now the focus will be on the transition to using the P-8A Poseidon, the Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. He said the transition to the Poseidon should be complete by 2020.

In three or four years, a new ground control station for the Poseidon’s operations should also be completed.

With current training success and new capabilities in the works, Moran expressed no concerns about the future of NAS Whidbey.

“We’ve got 75 more years to go … We’re not going anywhere.”

 

From the left, Capt. Geoffrey Moore, Dave Williams, Seaman Matthew Schaeffer, Adm. Bill Moran. The oldest and youngest people serving on the base shake hands after the cutting of the cake made for NAS Whidbey Island’s 75th anniversary Thursday. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Bud Zylstra, of Oak Harbor, helped build the housing when NAS Whidbey Island was first commissioned. He attended the base’s 75th anniversary celebration Thursday.

Oak Harbor Mayor Robert Severns speaks at the 75th anniversary celebration of NAS Whidbey Island Thursday. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times