Naval Station Everett shares its story

EVERETT — Naval Station Everett opened the gates to the public Saturday and gave people their first opportunity to tour the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz since it was stationed in Everett in 2012.

Navy Community Day, as the event was called, was primarily an opportunity for the public to view the ships up close and talk to the sailors who work on them.

In addition to the Nimitz, the public was given the opportunity to tour the guided missile destroyer USS Shoup and the frigate USS Rodney M. Davis.

On the base, Navy Band Northwest performed and kids played in bouncy houses and other inflatables, but the longest line was to tour the Nimitz.

“We look forward to the opportunity to share our Navy stories with the community,” said Rear Admiral Dee Mewbourne, who commands Carrier Strike Group 11, of which the Nimitz is the flagship.

Mewbourne spent the afternoon on the flight deck of the Nimitz in the bright sun welcoming and chatting with visitors and posing for photos with children and adults alike.

Among the guests Saturday was Bob Vigil, of Strasburg, Colorado, who was visiting his son, Trini Vigil, and his family in Lynnwood.

“I specifically came in from Colorado to see the Nimitz,” said Vigil, who served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and who said he’d never been on an active-duty aircraft carrier before.

“I don’t pass up a chance to come and see this,” Vigil said. “It’s just amazing to see the size of the ship.”

Nearby, the shell of an F-18 Hornet, used for practice exercises, was attached to a “tilly,” an aircraft carrier crash crane capable of lifting and carrying a fully fueled and armed fighter jet across the deck.

The flight-deck crew, in bright “rainbow” colored jerseys denoting whether they served as catapult operators or firefighters or in another role, answered questions about their jobs and the equipment.

On the hangar deck below, more sailors sold souvenirs, and demonstrated firefighting equipment, bombs and a missile (all disarmed). Also on display were various firearms, photos of the Nimitz’s recent Pacific deployment and a biography of the ship’s namesake, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who commanded the U.S. Pacific Fleet in World War II.

Andy Apsitis, of Everett, backed up to get one last picture of the Nimitz from the pier before leaving. He said the Nimitz was very impressive, and he recalled his years working at Western Gear Corp. in Everett.

“We built a lot of equipment for the Navy,” Apsitis said.

Apsitis was visiting the base with his grandson, Skyler Clinton, 11, and Skyler’s cousin, Danielle McCollum, 12, the latter of whom said she’d toured an aircraft carrier before in California but couldn’t remember which one.

The Nimitz, she said, “was interesting, even though I’ve been on other boats.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com.

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