Naval Ocean Processing Facility Celebrates 25 Years
By Lt. Anna R. Sansiveri
Release Date: 7/20/2012
(WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash.) – Naval Ocean Processing Facility Whidbey Island (NOPF WI) command was honored to welcome back its plank owners during a 25th anniversary celebration, July 13, at NOPF's outdoor amphitheater.
Sailors currently serving stood side by side with the alumni of the original Naval Facility Whidbey Island (NAVFAC WI) members while Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Jason Vogt welcomed a range of guests including Rear Adm. James Caldwell, Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Capt. Scott Rauch, Commander Undersea Surveillance, the Consul General of Canada, Mr. Denis Stevens, Capt. Luc Cassivi, Commander, Canadian Submarine Forces, Cmdr. Andrew Muir of the Royal Canadian Navy and former commanding officers.
Caldwell expressed his appreciation for the Sailors who have, and continue to serve at NOPF "toiling away in relative obscurity due to the classification of the mission".
"What you do here is critically important to the United States and to Canada," stated Caldwell. "It is important to recognize and thank you and to educate and inform others of the importance of this command."
Rauch commemorated the silver anniversary by commenting on the dedication NOPF's Sailors have shown to their work through the years, and how the support of the community has enabled NOPF to grow from the original 78 to today's almost 400 U.S. and Canadian Sailors and civilians.
Watch standers displayed historic pieces of gear on loan from the Naval Undersea Museum while Sailors, old and new, swapped stories of their time at NOPF WI.
One current wardroom member had a particularly unique story to share. Chief Warrant Officer Shawn Philp first came to NOPF in 1987 as a young Seaman. He remembers his first years in the Navy and was surprised to find himself stationed on Whidbey Island again. He is currently a role model and mentor to young NOPF Sailors as well as the Quality Assurance Department Head.
"I remember arriving as the youngest sailor at NOPF in 1987," said Philp. "I never thought I might be returning as one of the oldest!"
While the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS), the heart of NOPF, was conceived in the 1950's during the Cold War, the technology wasn't proven for over a decade until the first correlation of SOSUS information with a visual sighting was made during the Cuban Missile Crisis. SOSUS processing stations were stood up around the world. Over the next 30 years these facilities expanded to include a small fleet of acoustic surveillance ships that together now makes up the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS). With constant technological advances, what was once more than 30 NAVFACs has been consolidated to two NOPFs located in Dam Neck, Va. and Whidbey Island, Wash. Today, IUSS supports operational commanders around the world.
The birth of NOPF WI came at the height of the Cold War. The Soviets were producing submarines at an incredible rate and patrolling the world's oceans with ballistic and nuclear weapons.
At the Commissioning in 1987 Rear Adm. Ed Sheafer declared to the NAVFAC WI crew, "You are part of freedom's vigilant eye-one that never closes-one that never blinks!"
It was echoed Friday by Caldwell who stated to the current NOPF WI crew, "What was true then is true today."
The ceremony ended with a few words from Retired Master Chief Dave Hinshaw, NOPFs first Command Master Chief. His sea stories of the founding years of the facility were a unique perspective for the guests.
"NOPF WI is successful because it has the right people, in the right place, doing the right thing, right now," said Hinshaw.
Hinshaw was presented a silver statue of Poseidon on behalf of all the sailors that have ever served at NOPF WI. The statue will be proudly displayed in the halls of NOPF, alongside pieces on loan from the Undersea Surveillance Museum, for future generations of sailors to enjoy.
After the conclusion of the ceremony, guests were given a tour of the current facilities, a rare event considering the command's classified mission.