Naval Station Everett fetes ‘Freedom Fest’ | SLIDESHOW

EVERETT — While the weather on Saturday, June 30, made much of Naval Station Everett’s annual “Freedom Festival” a soggy affair, the day’s ship tours still filled up their allotments of 40 visitors for each of the larger ships every half hour, and 30 visitors for each of the smaller ships every half hour, drawing more than 1,500 visitors to the decks of the four ships in port, in spite of the rain and the absence of the USS Nimitz depressing those attendance numbers relative to the event’s sunnier years, when its carrier has been in port.

Families from the local area and throughout the region made the USS Shoup the most popular destination of the four ships offering tours that day, as crew members explained aspects of day-to-day operations on board ship with which many civilians were unfamiliar. Petty Officer 3rd Class Lavahita King explained the importance of not wearing rings, wristwatches or other jewelry while raising and lowering the ready boats that are used to recover torpedoes and men overboard.

“If those items get caught in the line, they’ll rip your skin off,” King said. “That’d be a bad day for everyone.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Clark explained the inner workings of the computer-guided 5-inch 62-caliber gun near the forecastle of the ship, which fires 20 rounds a minute at a distance of 13 miles.

“The computer accounts for the pitch and roll of the ship, the wind and even the temperature of the powder in adjusting its aim,” Clark said. “It’s smarter than we are.”

While the Shoup’s “big gun” is capable of shooting down air targets, it’s mostly designed for surface-to-surface warfare. Clark acknowledged that “you can feel it” when it fires, and laughed when asked whether the Shoup would be firing its guns for the Fourth of July.

“I wish,” Clark shook his head.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Evens Previle warned civilians who moved up to the forecastle not to step over the anchor chains for safety reasons, as he noted that the anchor itself weighs roughly 9,000 pounds and the anchor chain runs about 1,100 feet.

“We measure it in 12 shots, running 96 feet each,” Previle said. “We can release eight shots in 10 seconds.  The last two shots are yellow and red. If you see yellow, you start to run, because if you see red, you’re dead.”

Children and adults alike appreciated the view from the bridge, with youngsters such as 11-year-old Isaac Shust and 10-year-old Jesse Donk of Marysville taking turns posing for pictures in the captain’s chair, but no photos were allowed in the combat information center, due to its classified data systems.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason DeGraaf explained that each member of the ship’s crew is assigned to a repair locker that has its own assigned tasks to protect and defend the ship, which led into Fireman Dawnell Franklin and Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Clark covering the firefighting gear and procedures that each repair locker member takes on for such emergencies.

“Your self-contained breathing apparatus contains 15-20 minutes of air,” Franklin said, even as Clark pointed out that shipboard firefighters can only fight fires for about five minutes each due to wearing as much as 50 pounds of gear and being hit with steam when they attempt to extinguish fires with their hoses, since the steam is even hotter than the fire itself.

Jesse’s dad, Larry Donk, not only took his wife and two boys to Naval Station Everett on June 30, but also has a son in the Marines on the other side of the country.

“Right now, he’s giving this same spiel to folks over on the USS Wasp in Boston,” Larry Donk said of son Ryan, a 2011 graduate of Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

Ryan Donk recently gave Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick a tour of the light armored vehicle on which Ryan himself is a gunner, which led Larry Donk to reflect on the importance of the service in general, especially with Independence Day approaching.

“We take it for granted that these young men and women sacrifice their time and even their lives for the rest of us,” Larry Donk said. “I want to thank them for that, and to thank Naval Station Everett for giving us a closer look at how they operate.”


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