OAK HARBOR, Wash. –
It rains, it pours, and sunlight is sparse between seasons in Washington state. Regardless of any condition, it does not stop Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island from training and preparing to carry out the mission.
NAS Whidbey Island engages in several training exercises which ensure that Sailors are ready to conduct their mission at sea and on shore. Evolutions include Citadel Shield-Solid Curtain (CSSC), Final Evaluation Problem Assessment (FEP), and Fleet Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP).
CSSC is an anti-terrorism and force-protection exercise that tests the responses to changing and dynamic threats that occur on shore. It is an exercise where the skills tested prepare NAS Whidbey Island for FEP. FEP is an assessment of a Navy installations' security, training and emergency management proficiency by Fleet Forces Command and Commander Navy Installations Command that is conducted every three years.
CSSC and FEP require coordination and involvement of military personnel and the civilian services of NAS Whidbey Island. Participants in the drills include the Island County Police and Navy Region Northwest Fire & Emergency Services (NRNW FES) Battalion Three.
During the day. several scenarios that threaten base security are set in motion ranging from protests, suspicious packages, and gate breaches. After each scenario, NAS Whidbey Island is graded on the response effort.
“We scored really well and above the average of other bases for FEP,” said Lt. Caitlynn Pollini, incident management team (IMT) lead of NAS Whidbey Island. The other training exercise, FCLP, is a required flight training exercise performed routinely to simulate conditions encountered during carrier landing operations while on deployment.
“In Coupeville, Wash., we conduct several squadron's FCLPs using an outlying landing field,” said Clint Church, operations duty officer of NAS Whidbey Island.
Church also said that the main goal of NAS Whidbey Island is to get the fleet trained, airborne, and flying so when they get out to sea they are ready to conduct their mission.
While the squadrons practice on the outlying landing field in Coupeville, it allows more use of Ault Field for other aircraft on NAS Whidbey Island. Pilots practice FCLPs during morning and night with varying weather conditions.
“On a good day, when a pilot can see everything, it can still be hard to land on a carrier,” said Pollini. “Landing is the dangerous part of flying. Putting them in the same spot in the middle of the night, no moon, low on fuel, and the deck is pitching and rolling? That is scary. This why they train so much and why it is important to practice."
Whether it is training to take care of the people on shore or the people at sea, NAS Whidbey Island continues to train hard and maintain focus on the mission.
"These aviation skills, especially flying the Growlers, are perishable skills,” said Pollini. “If you go a week or even a few days without practicing, you are a little slower the next time. This is the reason we are always training and always out there. It is because we have to be ready at a moments notice.”