USS John C. Stennis returns to its Bremerton home port. Photo: U.S. Navy

USS John C. Stennis returns to its Bremerton home port. Photo: U.S. Navy

Early morning Navy drills rile some, reassure others

By BOB SMITH

Kitsap News Group

BREMERTON — The U.S. Navy drills that occasionally take place at Naval Base Kitsap and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is old-hat for South Kitsap residents of long-standing status.

Still, depending on the nature of the drills — some involve noise that can be heard across Sinclair Inlet in Port Orchard and elsewhere — the reaction from residents can be mixed, needless to say.

For some, the noise generated by the Navy drills are the sounds of freedom. They are just part of living near a Naval installation. Others begrudgingly accept their necessity but grumble on social media about the early morning noise from loudspeakers and large-equipment noise.

And then there are some who are adamant the drills are a nuisance, pure and simple.

USS John C. Stennis public affairs officials released a statement on Monday, July 31, advising the South Kitsap region of planned early morning drills aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Aug. 1-2 and Aug. 21-25 at the shipyard and the naval base:

“Increased activity and lighting may be observed from locations with a view of the ship. Flight deck alarms and announcements related to the drill may also be audible.

“The drills will begin at approximately 3:30 a.m. and finish mid-day.

“These drills are essential in preparing sailors for day-and-night flight deck operations in preparations to return to sea following the maintenance at PSNS &IMF.”

Lt. Cmdr. Frederick Martin, USS Stennis public affairs officer, said his office works to pass along information to the community in advance of a drill on Facebook and through Naval Base Kitsap’s information distribution.

“We try to push that information out so that everyone in our community understands what’s going on and why we’re doing it,” Martin said.

USS Stennis has been in the shipyard for the past six months getting system upgrades, he said.

“In that time, we obviously haven’t been flying or doing flight deck operations, so we’re getting towards the end of that (maintenance) period. We’re starting to practice how we do things on the flight deck, everything from routine operations to emergency procedures.”

On Facebook, most South Kitsap residents seem to take the drills in stride.

“Any sound that is loud enough to be heard effectively aboard a ship on the Bremerton waterfront will be carried very efficiently across the water to Port Orchard. It comes with the territory, and the thousands of jobs at the shipyard.”

The announcements beginning at around 3:30 a.m. was loud, indeed, and could be heard downtown and up the hill along Tremont Street.

They were loud enough to awaken some South Kitsap residents, most likely more than usual number since the warm weather has prompted folks to sleep with bedroom windows opened.

Fred Chang, who is a Port Orchard member of the City Council, wrote on Facebook that the announcements “actually woke me up around 3:45. I wondered who was talking outside. Ironically, it was very quiet at 5:30 when I needed to get up.”

One Facebook writer, however, was livid: “I’m grumpy as hell having to wake up at 3:30 due to their drill. (Three) hours of sleep to operate on today due to this … totally unnecessary. They have the entire ocean to run drills on when out to sea. Ridiculous.

“Major inconvenience for many in a community that supports their military in so many ways. I’ll be writing the Navy. And yes, I definitely woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.”

Another poster asked others to view the drills with a sense of perspective: “I think the stress of the community will be alright for a few days. Just think of how stressed a family member or comrade might be if these drills didn’t take place and they lost a sailor or loved one … These drills are for the safety and well-being for them.”

The Navy public affairs officer confirmed the need to drill aboard the aircraft carrier during the nighttime hours.

“We start (the drills) during the day, but because we fly during the day and night, we practice those things at night before we get underway. So when we’re flying, all of our flight deck crews and our personnel are ready to do this operation both during the day and night.”

The Navy routinely keeps its ship departure schedules from Bremerton under wraps until just days before leaving port, but Martin said USS Stennis is nearing the end of its time here.

He said it will be “in and out of Bremerton” several times as the ship’s crew trains and gets certified to do field operations.

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