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Veterans urge Navy to stop jet training over Olympic National Park

One of the Growlers in the Electronic Attack Squadron 134 based on Whidbey Island.
One of the Growlers in the Electronic Attack Squadron 134 based on Whidbey Island.

Army veteran Chuck Nelson served in the military for 12 years, fighting in the first Gulf War and later in Somalia.

Today he lives right on the eastern border of Olympic National Park. He moved there for the solitude.

“The peace and quiet is a big form of therapy for me. I live in a cabin in the woods with my two dogs,” Nelson said.

But that peace and quiet, he said, are getting harder to find. That’s because of what he hears on his daily walks: the scream of Boeing EA 18G Growlers.

They're Navy fighter jets similar to the F/A-18 Hornets flown by the Blue Angels during Seafair.

For the past many years the Navy has used Olympic National Park to train with their Growlers. Now a group of veterans like Nelson are joining environmentalists to ask the Navy to stop flying there.

John Mosher, the Northwest environmental program manager for the Navy’s U.S. Pacific Fleet, said they practice above the park because it's so close to the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island.

“It allows us to not have to conduct additional training at other locations around the country. So the cost savings to the Navy was estimated to be about $5 million to not have to train those particular activities somewhere else,” Mosher said.

He also said the Navy has considered alternative airspace in Oregon and Yakima, but has no plans to relocate.

Veteran Nelson hopes if they can't move entirely, maybe they could reduce the number of flights.

Right now the Navy says there are 10 to 15 flights per day.

“I hear people talk about the ‘sound of freedom’ and I can agree with that. But I’m still not convinced that this training has to happen over one of the quietest places on the planet, certainly in the U.S.,” Nelson said.

The veterans  have joined the National Parks Conservation Association's campaign "Hear Our Olympics."

The group would like to have more dialogue with the Navy on this issue. No meetings are currently planned.

Year started with KUOW: 2015