Base plans public open house

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island will be open to the public on Sept. 17 for a base open house.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island will be open to the public for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic on Sept. 17 for a base open house.

The event will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors may enter through the Charles Porter Ave. Gate, where they will be directed to parking. The last in-person open house took place in 2019, and the base held a virtual event in 2020.

Activities will commence with a 5K race at 8 a.m. The gates will open at 7 a.m. for race registration. Beginning at 9 a.m., flightline static displays including a Growler and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon will be available for viewing.

The open house will also feature a Navy Band performance and Search and Rescue and K-9 working dogs demonstrations.

NAS Whidbey employs 9,000 military personnel and 2,000 civilians, according to Captain Eric Hanks, who delivered a presentation on the base at a recent Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Over the last 15 years, the base has put around $450 million into major military construction, with another $475 million worth of projects slated for the coming years, Hanks said. Upcoming projects include renovations to barracks and other military housing, as well as hangars, he said.

Relationships with community partners such as island fire and police departments, local school districts, Native American tribes and the National Forest Service make it possible for the base to fulfill its mission, Hanks said. Support from the general community also plays a quintessential role.

“Those family members of sailors that provide support, and then those sailors that deploy from here every day, is the foundation of what Whidbey Island’s all about,” he said. “It’s been such an important part of this community since 1941.”