By BOB SEVERNS
Recently, I have seen articles from special interest groups trying to encourage the community to think negatively about Naval Air Station Whidbey Island because of jet noise. On the contrary, I feel NASWI and its personnel deserve more credit and appreciation from our community. I’ll never forget how appreciative I was of our military readiness and strength when our country was attacked, on our soil, on Sept. 11, 2001. May we never forget that day and its impact on all of us.
For a long time after the attack on our country, the local negative comments about jet noise from NASWI or requests to move the base were silent because the community was aware of the security living on an island with a Naval base provided. Most of us remember that day and will recall being curious about whether or not our military was ready to defend our country.
Well, they were, and they did! Almost 21 years later, NASWI remains strong and continues to practice flying aircraft in preparation to safeguard our freedom. But the heroes at NASWI in Oak Harbor provide much more than just defending us and our freedom.
I recently visited the Air Traffic Control Center at Ault Field on NASWI. I was intrigued to learn that they have responsibility for over 50 airfields in our Pacific Northwest region. So many people were watching our skies that day. They provide 24-hour coverage every day!
Additionally, our region is blessed to have NASWI’s Search and Rescue unit. NASWI SAR is available to help or lead a non-military search or rescue effort when circumstances require their special training and ability to find and rescue where others cannot. We see the impact of their work in stories shared by our regional news outlets regularly. I am proud when NASWI SAR is mentioned because I know those individuals come from our community.
For a long time, the City of Oak Harbor and NASWI have shared a great partnership. It is more than a partnership as we live and join together in neighborhoods, schools, churches and just about every other type of organization serving our community. To use a line from Steve Bristow, “Navy personnel and families are among our most committed and vibrant community members.” When we last asked for some or a few volunteers from NASWI, over 20 people came to help on a project.
I don’t suggest that community members spend much time listening to small interest groups trying to convince you that NASWI is responsible for a large amount of noise pollution in our area. The reality is that they only fly a few hours during the average week. If these groups care about noise pollution, they should focus on issues with a more significant impact on our environment. For example, they could focus more on the noise from the Seattle Tacoma International Airport or Everett Paine Field Airport. Or certain streets, highways and freeways where noise pollution continuously impacts neighboring communities and produces debris and chemical materials that affect our local waterways.
NASWI’s positive contributions to our city, county, state and country far outweigh any negatives. Therefore, I support our NASWI for all of the above reasons and, as the signs say around the city, the jets equal jobs.
Bob Severns is mayor of the city of Oak Harbor.