Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Wood, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest
OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) – Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) celebrated its 75th anniversary on Thursday, September 21 with a commemorative ceremony recognizing and remembering the development and critical role the air station has played over its 75 years of operation.
NASWI’s history began on September 21, 1942 with Capt. Cyril Simard, the base’s first commanding officer, reading the orders and establishing the base as an official operating facility for the United States Navy.
Before the official ceremony began on Thursday, static displays were set up presenting information of NASWI’s various tenant commands as well as offering static historic aircraft displays of the numerous aircraft that have flown at NASWI during its years of operation.
Capt. Geoffrey Moore, commanding officer of NASWI, opened the ceremony, first recognizing all those integral to the ceremony’s realization and also to those who contributed to its history, enabling its 75 years of service.
“There really are so many stories that led up to today’s ceremony and the journey to today has been absolutely unbelievable.” Moore recalled.
Moore thanked those responsible for NASWI’s beginning and those who served in World War II of which the base’s first years were directly linked. Moore then bridged the years, explaining that the foundation laid by those pioneers continues to find expression today in the Sailors who currently serve on NASWI.
“The Sailors that walk our airfield today carry on the tradition of mission accomplishment, strength of purpose, accountability, integrity and initiative bequeathed to us by our predecessors,” said Moore.
Moore also gave a hint into NASWI’s success as an outstanding base.
“It’s not the missions we perform nor the specific aircraft that have flown here,” said Moore. “It is the people that have served here over multiple generations, that have pride in something greater than themselves.”
Following Moore’s introduction, the ceremony continued into a series of historical vignettes highlighting NASWI’s integral involvement in the wars and world events beginning from World War II and continuing through Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm and up to the Iraq War.
These vignettes were interspersed with short performances by the Navy band of memorable songs within each period the historical vignette presented.
As NASWI’s history came to the present, Moore stood up once again and introduced the ceremony’s honored guest speaker, Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
Adm. Moran began with congratulating Moore and NASWI, “for their recognition as Installation Command of the Year in 2016. We haven’t announced ’17 yet but I would be surprised if you’re not in the running.”
Moran went on to express his excitement at returning to the base.
“I’m just thrilled to be here as you can probably tell,” said Moran. “I could just stand up here all day long about how great it is to be on Whidbey again.”
Moran recalled NASWI’s critical contribution for the United States’ national defense and highlighted NASWI as the premier training base for electronic maneuver warfare.
Moran concluded his speech by giving NASWI some security to its future.
“I know there’s a lot of scar tissue in the community having to live through ‘Am I going to be shut down, is this base going to be shut down?’ Folks, we’ve got 75 more years to go out here. We’re not going anywhere.”
Senator Barbara Bailey stood up as the last speaker of the event, holding a proclamation from Governor Jay Inslee, which she then read.
“I, Jay Inslee, governor of the state of Washington, do hereby proclaim September the 21st, 2017 as Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Recognition Day in Washington and I encourage all people in our state to join me in this special observance.”
The audience applauded in response and Capt. Moore concluded the ceremony with a request to the Navy band for a very special happy birthday.
“There’s only one thing left to do, and that is to wish our installation a rousing happy birthday.”