With our close proximity to Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane residents are used to seeing airmen around town, but next week sailors will be showing up on our shores. Well, actually on our streets and in our schools and libraries.
Spokane has been selected as one of 15 cities to host Navy Week, one of the Navy’s signature outreach programs.
The city last hosted Navy Week in 2012, and Gary Ross, of the Navy Office of Community Outreach Event Planning Department, said a return is long overdue.
“Since 2005, we’ve had approximately 200 Navy Weeks in 75 cities across the country where there is virtually no Navy presence,” said Ross. “This is not a recruiting mission for us. We’re simply educating the people of Spokane about their Navy. It’s your tax dollars building this Navy.”
The timing is no coincidence. Events and appearances May 15-21 are timed in conjunction with the Lilac Festival and culminate with participation in the Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade. This year the Navy’s bomb-defusing robots will march, as well as active duty and reserve personnel.
But a host of activities around the area are planned before the parade.
Those bomb-defusing robots along with explosive ordnance technicians will appear at Spokane Community College on Tuesday, at West Valley High School on Thursday, and at Mobius Science Center, Friday.
A Navy Week tradition is to include the crews of ships or submarines that are named after a city or state.
“Sailors from the USS Washington, the Navy’s newest Virginia-class fast attack sub, will be in town to talk about submarine life,” said Ross.
In addition to sailors from the newest sub, sailors from the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the fleet, will be on hand decked out in their 1813 period uniforms to talk about naval history.
Fans of the Navy band won’t be disappointed. The woodwind and clarinet trio will make several appearances, as will the brass quintet.
Spokane’s local naval presence will also participate in events.
Lt. Cmdr. Jake Roberts, commanding officer of Navy Operations Support Center Spokane, said he’s looking forward to experiencing his first Navy Week.
“Our mission is to maintain mobilization readiness for all naval reserve personnel in the Greater Spokane area,” he said.
The center supports members of 12 reserve units who regularly travel from Montana, Idaho and Oregon to Spokane for training.
“We’ll have reservists at different events,” Roberts said. “I’m hoping to raise awareness for the reserve component. These citizen sailors do incredible things.”
He’s especially looking forward to Navy Night at the INB Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, which will feature a proclamation from Mayor David Condon to Rear Adm. Kevin Kovacich and a concert performed by Navy Band Northwest’s Ceremonial Band and Popular Music Group.
“They love the military in Spokane,” said Ross. “This is all about face-to-face contact with local citizens. When we leave, the city will have a better understanding of what their Navy does for them.”