After 75 years, Navy base an integral part of Whidbey

Seventy-five years ago, in the midst of World War II, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island was commissioned on the steps of building 12. The following year, the Ault Field base was named in honor of war hero, Cmdr. William B. Ault.

Since that time, thousands of Navy personnel — including many more genuine heroes — have come and gone. The base has continued to grow to become the largest naval installment in the Pacific Northwest with more than 7,600 assigned military men and women.

The base, with its menagerie of aircraft over the years, remains an important asset for the Navy.

It’s also important to the community.

Whidbey Island would be a very different place without the base. It’s undeniably the economic engine for North Whidbey and injects millions of dollars into the economy annually.

A large portion of the Oak Harbor community has a connection to the Navy. Some work on base. Some stayed on Whidbey after leaving the Navy. Some left and returned to the island to retire. They all call it home.

The presence of the base makes for a more worldly outlook. The wars and military actions the nation has been involved in since WWII aren’t abstractions on Whidbey. Navy personnel face long deployments, sometimes to dangerous places.

The Navy provides invaluable service to the community. Volunteers help out in myriad ways. The Navy’s Search and Rescue team has saved lives all over the Pacific Northwest.

The Oak Harbor community took a hard look at NAS Whidbey during the base closure scare in the early 1990s and quickly concluded that it would be devastating to lose the base. Local officials successfully convinced decision makers in Washington D.C. that the base needed to stay.

It’s a lesson we should remember, and with that we wish NAS Whidbey a very happy birthday.