NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – It’s been just over eight months since I assumed command of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. It has been a time marked by generosity, expressions of good will, many inquiries about the base and expressions of enormous support for the Navy’s mission and presence here.
The community has always opened its arms to Navy families and shown its support for the Navy and Naval Aviation, and for that I am both humbled and grateful. It’s remarkable how the local community, Oak Harbor, Coupeville, and Anacortes in particular, has such an intuitive understanding of the Navy’s requirement to maintain, train and equip combat-ready naval forces, and what it takes to hone first-rate skills in a global environment marked by increased complexity, uncertainty, and conflict.
Recent developments on the base underscore the importance of this installation to our nation’s national defense. Today’s global community is increasingly complex and uncertain marked by a rapidly changing security environment. It is essential that the U.S. maintain a broad portfolio of capabilities with maximum versatility across the widest possible spectrum of threats to the American people. NAS Whidbey Island is a key component in our national security infrastructure.
The recent relocation of the Hawaii-based Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance squadrons here from Hawaii and the beginning of the transition to the P-8 Poseidon is an important example of the base’s increased importance to our country’s national defense. As we replace the venerable P-3C after over four decades of service, the P-8A Poseidon is poised to dramatically improve the military’s ability to efficiently conduct anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions with its next-generation sensors.
Another example, one that has a great deal of current interest with local communities, is the desire by national leadership to enhance our nation’s electronic attack (EA) capability by increasing the total number of EA-18G Growler aircraft in our Department of Defense inventory. NAS Whidbey Island has been the home for the Navy’s EA mission for more than four decades and is now the nation’s center of excellence for this crucial capability. The importance of the Growler to our nation’s military forces is essential in operating and adapting to the challenges inherent in today’s complex security environment. NASWI Growlers’ deploy globally to protect U.S. and allied military forces throughout the world and perform a key role in the effectiveness of our military forces.
The Navy proposes to augment the existing Growler community at NAS Whidbey Island with up to 36 additional Growler aircraft for significant efficiencies in tactical training, maintenance, and the supply chain. The Navy has been conducting an Environmental Impact Study for EA-18G Growler airfield operations since 2013, and will be requesting the public’s input on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. We will release the draft on 10 November, and will have a public comment period through 25 January. A copy will be available for download at the following web site: http://www.whidbeyeis.com I encourage the public to attend one of the five public meetings the Navy will hold in the region December 5 through the 9 to gain of understanding of how the study was conducted and provide thoughtful feedback; the first one will be in Port Townsend, the second in Oak Harbor, the third on Lopez Island, the fourth in Anacortes and the last one in Coupeville. The exact locations and times will be announced this week in a press release. There are a myriad of reasons people may be interested in the changes the Navy wants to pursue, so it’s important to come to these meetings to talk with subject matters experts about the Navy’s proposal. These meetings will also provide an opportunity to learn more about the National Historic Preservation Act section 106 process and historic property concerns associated with this proposal.
The Navy is also hosting public meetings in Oak Harbor and Coupeville this month to discuss the Navy’s plan to test drinking well water for potential contamination of certain perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that were used in an earlier formulation of aqueous film forming foam used in firefighting. The Navy has proactively undertaken this effort to ensure protection of drinking well water quality on and around its bases following the announcement of a lifetime health advisory by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year. The EPA initiated the advisory for two PFAS chemicals, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). They fall into a category called emerging contaminants that the EPA currently considers unregulated.
These chemical compounds have been widely used commercially since the 1950s and are present throughout the environment. These compounds have been used for many years to make products that reduce friction, resist heat, protect against stains, and remove grease. While there is no current indication that use of these compounds have migrated away from areas where they were used in firefighting or firefighting training, we are working closely with local communities, water authorities, regional and local health agencies, Federal and State Environmental Protection Agencies, and Congressional and State officials to ensure the public is not exposed to levels of PFOA/PFOS in their drinking water above the EPA’s health advisories.
This week we will send out letters to residents that fall within designated areas near both Ault Field and the OLF in Coupeville asking for your permission to test your wells for these compounds. The Navy will pay for these tests. Additionally, if your drinking water exceeds the health advisory level the Navy will also provide you with drinking water until a permanent solution can be implemented.
Finally, I’d like to thank our veterans for their service to our country and defending our way of life. The example you set, and your continued support and guidance for all of us currently in uniform is exemplary, and sets the standard we strive to live up to every day. As we prepare to celebrate Veterans’ Day, the 75th anniversary of many key World War II battles that defined this country, and the 75th anniversary of NAS Whidbey Island, it is important to recognize our profound debt of gratitude, and that we take the time to pay tribute to those who have served with honor to protect our freedoms.
Capt. Geoff Moore,
NAS Whidbey Island