Someday, our ship will come in.
At least it ought to.
Since the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz left Naval Station Everett in January 2015 and crossed Port Gardner Bay, Everett’s waterfront has been without a carrier’s presence. And Everett and other cities in the county have done without the economic and civic boost that a carrier’s crew and their families provide.
The absence was initially intended to be brief, a year and a half for maintenance at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. But the Navy later elected to keep the Nimitz, which is now in the 43rd year of its scheduled 50-year service life, at Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton to minimize uprooting families from their communities.
The Nimitz, as well as the USS Abraham Lincoln, were quickly adopted into the community. The Lincoln, the first carrier to be based in Everett after the naval station opened in 1994, was homeported in Everett from 1997 to 2011, its number — 72 — enshrined in the community on the jersey of the Silvertips hockey club’s mascot, Lincoln.
That the Lincoln and the Nimitz are missed isn’t meant as a lack of respect for the presence of the crews for Naval Station Everett’s six destroyers — the Shoup, Momsen, Kidd, Gridley, Sampson and Ralph Johnson — or the Coast Guard cutters Henry Blake and Blue Shark. The naval station, its personnel and families remain an important part of the community.
“We value all the ships in Naval Station Everett, but there is something special about having a carrier here,” Bob Bolerjack, the city of Everett’s executive director for governmental affairs, told The Herald’s Stephanie Davey last week.
It’s why leaders in Everett and throughout the county are lobbying the Navy to again make Everett the homeport for a carrier strike group. And it’s why Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin was nominated by officials at the naval station to attend a week-long Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, where she met with Pentagon officials but also with recruits in each of the five branches of the military. Franklin also toured the carrier USS George H.W Bush, the last of the Nimitz-class carriers, at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia.
The orientation, she said, left her better informed of the needs of service members and the Navy in the community and allowed her to establish relationships with Nay and Defense officials.
The Navy has made no announcement as to if or when it will return a carrier to Everett. Still Everett officials expect an announcement later this year and the return of a carrier sometime in 2019.
Much of the decision will be based on how the Navy deploys its ships to create a sustainable naval force. Currently carriers, after six months of maintenance and eight months of training are deployed for seven months, followed by 15 months in its homeport for sustainment, according to U.S. Naval Institute News.
Among the Navy’s 10 Nimitz-class carriers, five are homeported at Norfolk, two in Bremerton, two in San Diego and one in Japan. The Navy’s newest carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, was commissioned last summer and is scheduled for its first deployment in 2020.
While officials and many in the community are eager to welcome a carrier, it means the addition of a 3,000-person crew, about equal to the number of personnel now at the station. It also would represent a significant number of family members moving to communities in Everett and elsewhere in the county.
Everett and other cities will have work ahead of them to meet the needs of new residents in terms of affordable housing, transportation, schools and more.
But Everett has proved itself twice as a good home for Navy carriers. And after nearly 25 years on Port Gardner Bay, the choice that military and federal officials made in locating a naval station here — a decision reaffirmed with some local coaxing during a round of base closures — should solidify the decision to return a carrier to Naval Station Everett.