New plane secures base

Tuesday’s gala welcoming of the the first EA-18G Growler to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station was the official beginning of a bright future for Oak Harbor.

Things have changed incredibly since the early ’90s when the city was fighting Pentagon plans to close the base. The coming of the Growler washes away all those old fears, and assures islanders that the backbone of our economy will be around for decades to come.

The advent of the Growler does not signify a massive enlargement of the base or a growth in its personnel, which is no doubt welcomed by those who like the island just the way it is. In fact, the Growler could lead to a slightly smaller base over the years. Eventually, 57 of the new airplanes will be based at Whidbey, replacing the 72 Prowlers that presently call Whidbey Island home. Overall, there will be less noise and less air pollution.

Fewer airplanes mean fewer people to fly them and care for them, so it is estimated there will be a decrease of 1,106 personnel over time. That translates into a 3 percent cut in the Navy payroll, and no doubt fewer children in our schools.

But these decreases are minor in the big scheme of things. That fact is that the Growler is here to stay, guaranteeing the Navy will be contributing to our economy for years to come, and that Navy personnel will continue with their outstanding contributions to the community.

Preparing Whidbey Island Naval Air Station for the coming of the Growler was no small task, requiring extensive upgrades to the facilities and intensive training of personnel. But as of Tuesday all was ready as Capt. Bradley S. Russell, Commander Electronic Attack Wing, welcomed the new airplane, along with Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and Congressman Rick Larsen, along with Navy, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, Northrop-Grumman Corporation, General Electric and Raytheon Company representatives.

Not everyone was invited to the ceremony, but we can safely speak for all Oak Harbor area residents when we say, “Welcome, Growler, it’s great to have you here.”

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