The Navy Makes Noise: A Decades Old Whidbey Melodrama


In the 1980s, Whidbey Islanders for a Sound Environment (WISE) was the original name of the group of the melodramatic local leftists who generally opposed the Navy’s presence on Whidbey Island and who specifically objected to the Navy using its Outlying Field (OLF) near the town of Coupeville, WA.

In those days, the Navy had not yet felt the need to place concrete barriers around the OLF’s perimeter. This allowed WISE activists to park vehicles adjacent to the end of the runways where touch-and-go’s occurred. They directed bright spotlights into the eyes of aircrew attempting to land. A radio call back to the base could request the Island County Sheriff’s Office to dispatch a deputy to the scene. One homeowner in Admiral’s Cove actually had a large fixed spotlight on his property for such purposes. He was eventually also visited by the authorities.

Even earlier, in the 1970s, one local was arrested for actually discharging a firearm at aircraft in the OLF landing pattern. A-6 Intruder aircrew were known to wear battle armor in the OLF pattern in case they were fired upon. The aircraft itself lacked such armor.

Grumman KA-6D Intruder of VA-34 in flight, in 1988.jpg
Grumman A-6 Intruder.

A 1991 Seattle Times article described WISE and their political activity:

“…a group of about 600 islanders, living mainly around Coupeville, who objected to use of the Coupeville area as a training field for the pilots. The WISE people wrote hundreds of letters to politicians and Pentagon muckety-mucks protesting the noise and danger associated with use of the Coupeville air strip for touch-and-go training runs.”

WISE was attempting to influence a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission to close NAS Whidbey Island. Their efforts failed. The 1993 BRAC Commission Report to the President ensured NAS Whidbey Island would continue on well into the future. The Navy eventually replaced the A-6 Intruder with F/A-18 Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets but located them elsewhere at NAS Lemoore. They also moved EP-3 and P-3 squadrons to NAS Whidbey Island from bases being close or realigned. Neither the EP-3 nor the P-3 perform touch-and-go’s at OLF Coupeville.

Besides the A-6, in the 1980s the Navy’s other Whidbey Island-based carrier-capable aircraft was the EA-6B Prowler. The Prowler served with the Navy at NAS Whidbey Island from 1971 until 2015.

Prowler Final Flight division flight (cropped).jpg
Grumman EA-6B Prowler

Starting in late 2009 the Navy began replacing the EA-6B airframe with another derivation of the F/A-18, the EA-18G Growler.

U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler breaks away from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 (altered).jpg
Boeing EA-18G Growler

The Navy’s transition from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-18G Growler paralleled a change in the names of the anti-Navy noise-melodramatic entities. WISE has gone the way of both he A-6E Intruder and the EA-6B Prowlers and is replaced locally primarily by two entities.

Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve openly acknowledges WISE as being their progenitor.

“In the late 1980’s, WISE…worked out an informal agreement with the Navy that the training flights would go no later than 10:30 p.m., would not last more than two days in a row, and that the jets would not fly on weekends.”

This informal agreement, of which apparently nobody has a paper trail, is cited even today by COER supporters as allegedly indisputable proof that the Navy lies, cannot be trusted, and breaks their promises.

The Sound Defense Alliance functions as a sort of umbrella organization for COER and other equally melodramatic anti-Navy factions in the Puget Sound Area. Some of their leadership is comprised of people who were involved with the original WISE group.

A few of their supporters have created spinoff websites. Perhaps the most melodramatic of these is Citizens Harmed by Disclosure Deception. Their basic premise is that anyone and everyone living near the OLF was lied to by one entity or another before moving there.

They also do their best to give people ideas about how to write convincing letters to the Government, to get them to close the OLF and move the airplanes elsewhere.

Some excerpts of those include:

“…these jets are killing us.” “…blasted by the military with illegal activity that ruins their freedom and health…Lord of the Flies…” “…this is torture.” “…impacting Whidbey Island resident’s health in significant ways.” “Growler jets scream over our house at 350 feet altitude, at a distance less than a mile from the runway. We had no way of knowing that when we purchased our home….!” “…people who are going crazy and getting sick from noise that is illegal anywhere else because it makes people crazy and sick.” “We are getting attacked right now as I write…” “Growlers…sold to other countries? You’ve got to be kidding me.” “We had no idea they trained there…It has been 10 years now…We can’t move.” “Animals, both wild and domestic, are suffering from hearing loss…” “…move the OLF…another outlying field will be required at some point, anyway.” “…we are horrified by what we know is coming in 2017. It will be a national disaster…..”

35+ years after the inception of WISE, the NASWI is still here, and so are the leftist anti-Navy melodrama folks. There are still likely about 600 of them, living mainly around Coupeville.


  1. My house is directly in training flight paths for the Navy here in Virginia. I think it is awesome to see our Nation’s finest honing their skills. The less than one percent that raises their right hand to risk their life for our freedoms are making too much noise? The market is great…. sell and move! I would live there and be inspired! Just like here in Virginia. Shame on them.


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