Commentary: ‘Sound of War’ about to drown out Whidbey’s peace

The Navy’s plans to significantly increase the number and flights of its Growler jets on the island.

By Patrick Hurley

For The Herald

Let’s be honest. “The Sound of Freedom” is a Madison Avenue military phrase for The Sound of War.

The Growlers arrival at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island has led to a change of mission from defense to warfare training. If you care about war and peace, you must now care that the Navy is poised to increase the sounds of war here. In Coupeville, the sounds of war will increase four-fold. Plus, all of the Navy’s electronic warfare Growlers will be sited here. First it was 52 jets, then it was 82, now it’s 118. We know from reading the federal budget that 160 Growlers are headed to Whidbey Island.

There will be no escape from the sounds of war. It will impact your daily life whether you are watering your garden or out for a walk. You will hear an unabated relentless sound or war. It will keep visitors away and impact our businesses. It will impact our politics, our friendships, our spirit, our peace, and our health. It will end the good neighbor policy the Navy used to have toward this community.

It’s up to each of us who live on Whidbey Island to take action to save it. We do not want our Island to become the Navy’s west coast Oceana. Central Whidbey can’t survive a four-fold increase of jet operations. Our county’s economic sustainability will be diminished if accident potential zones are placed on millions of dollars of property.

The story of Oceana is frighteningly familiar … a remote Auxiliary Air Station near Oceana, Virginian is now the Navy’s East Coast master jet base — one of the largest and most advanced air stations in the world. This was not without cost or over the objections of that community. Over 3,400 property owners filed a class-action lawsuit that stemmed from the relocation of 156 Navy F/A-18 C/D Hornet fighter jets from Cecil Field, Florida, to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach. The suit alleged that this relocation of jets was the federal government’s taking of property without just compensation — a violation of the Fifth Amendment. Under the settlement, the government paid the plaintiffs an amount not to exceed $34.4 million. Accident potential zones were put in place, restricting the use of private property. Folks like you and me received compensation (only about $10,000), and lost their homes and community.

The Navy is serious about expanding here, and has just announced that the new commander at the Whidbey station is from NAS Oceana, as is the new commander at the Readiness Center Northwest. The Navy’s recently released preferred alternative is to put 23,700 low-level jet operations in Coupeville (80 percent), and selecting these new officers from Oceana shows us the menacing shape of the Navy’s blue steamroller headed our way.

If you have money or influence, it’s time to use it.

Call Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen. Ask them to take leadership and help alter the Navy’s Growler plans for expansion. Closing your windows won’t keep out the their sounds of war that will shatter our peaceful soundscape — perhaps forever.

Patrick Hurley lives in Coupeville.

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