Letter from Rear Admiral Gary Mayes, Commander, Navy Region Northwest
July 3, 2017
The Puget Sound region looks far different now than when Navy sailing ships first arrived in the 1840s, well before Washington became a state. More than 170 years later, our world continues to evolve rapidly. One glance at the headlines shows the myriad of international and irregular threats to our nation and our way of life. In support of our national defense against those threats, the Navy maintains, trains and equips combat-ready forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans.
The nearly 200,000 Sailors, Marines, and government civilians are integral to the community throughout the Northwest Region. As part of the greater community, we are wholly invested in preserving the unique character and beauty of our natural environment. We continually commit resources to initiatives that have long term, positive impacts for the sustainability for the sustainability of the natural environment.
In the past year, from Norway to the Baltic, from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, from the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Gulf, from the west coast of Africa to the straits of Malacca, from the Philippine Sea to the Sea of Japan, to the coasts of the Americas, and on the ground in 37 countries around the world, on any given day greater than 100,000 Sailors and Marines are continually deployed. Our presence in regions of interest around the world demonstrates U.S. commitment to these regions, strengthens our alliances and partnerships, and ensures our readiness to respond in defense of our country.
Our pilots risk their lives every day. Critical to their safety is our ability to train the way we fight. Realistic training ensures we are ready to meet any threat, and most importantly, and protects our most precious resource, our sons and daughters who selflessly volunteer to protect our nation and our way of life. Navy Region Northwest installations and training ranges play a significant role in ensuring our men and women in uniform are the most capable and best prepared military force in the world. It is our solemn responsibility as Americans to ensure them the greatest opportunity for success every time we send them into harm’s way.
The Navy is fortunate to live and work in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State’s second largest employment sector is defense, with $12.7 billion in spending each year. The immediate and surrounding communities in which we live and work benefit with more than $7.6 billion pumped into the economy each year, along with life-saving Navy mutual aid response and search and rescue capabilities. Our Sailors, Marines, civil servants, family members and retirees are actively engaged as integrated members of the local community.
We are committed to balancing the mission with our stewardship responsibilities and will continue to provide early-and-often public communication efforts regarding current and future Navy plans in the area. We appreciate the interest of individuals and stakeholder organizations who are concerned about the effects of Navy activities, whether those activities are on our facilities, at our piers, at sea or in the air. With a core staff of more than 100 environmental experts in the Northwest alone, we have been recognized for the ways in which we actively analyze the environmental and community effects of our actions. Every action that we take is done carefully and deliberately, fully mindful of potential consequences and legal requirements. We collaborate extensively with the community and First Nations of the Puget Sound to seek mutually beneficial approaches to compatibility, and we share many success stories that will preserve the Puget Sound for future generations.
Some of the challenges we are working collaboratively to address include:
- When the EPA listed Perflourinated Compounds (PFCs) as constituents of concern in early 2016, the Navy moved quickly to test its ground water at locations around the U.S., evaluate the findings, and take action at locations where firefighting foam that contained PFCs may have been used. Early Navy testing of water sources on Whidbey Island found pockets of concern. The Navy immediately provided bottled water to impacted residents and held public meetings for the surrounding community. Our efforts continue as we explore and develop long term solutions. Ensuring safe drinking water for members of the communities near our Navy installations remains a top priority.
- The EA-18G “Growler” aircraft contributes to the effective fight against enemies such as ISIS and other potential adversaries. The Growler saves U.S. and Allied lives every day, provides our military a decisive advantage against the enemy, and is engaged in combat against the ISIS threat on a daily basis. Growler crews live, work and train in the Northwest. As we continue to work through the Environmental Impact Statement process, public involvement and input is essential to the development of a plan that adequately prepares our men and women in uniform for the rigors of combat while balancing public concerns and the welfare of neighbors.
- Navy Special Warfare training continues in the Puget Sound, as it has for decades without community disruption. Navy seals are risking their lives every day in operations against terrorists in places like Afghanistan, Syria, and the Horn of Africa. SEALs training in the region is closely coordinated with all state and local authorities and fully respects the private property of our neighbors. Through several public meetings, we have received valuable feedback that is helping us shape plans for future training.
- In partnership with the First Nations of the Puget Sound area – and in respect to their sovereign-nation treaty rights – the Navy takes the government-to-government consultation process very seriously and we are dedicated to working collaboratively to improve the process. I also host periodic meetings with tribal leaders and make myself readily available when needed. We work hard to strike a fair balance between operational requirements and Tribal Rights. We also collaborate with tribes and have helped to preserve cultural resources and support community events.
Our operations in the Northwest prepare our nation’s bravest men and women to defend our great nation and our way of life. As we meet our mission, we are committed to being the best possible neighbors in our shared community.
As we celebrate our independence, and on behalf of the 192,000 Sailors, Marines, civil servants, family members and retirees who live and work alongside you appreciatively in the Pacific Northwest, I want to thank you for your continued support.