Navy families stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) participated in Oak Harbor’s National Night Out (NNO) at Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor, Aug. 7.

According to the NNO website, it is a nationwide program designed to get neighbors to know one another in order to reduce crime in their neighborhood.

More than 35 vendors, local clubs, organizations, and businesses were in participation. There were many free family activities, demonstrations, and hands-on activities for all ages.

Police Sgt. Cedric Niiro, event chairman, said the program is an opportunity to meet the public and answer questions.

“It is a great opportunity for the community to meet the men and women of law enforcement,” Niiro said. “The public gets to see and ask questions directly of its first responders: fire, [emergency medical services], military, and federal law enforcement in an informal setting.”

Niiro said having military present at the event was a big boost for the community.

“I feel very fortunate to have the military participate in National Night Out,” Niiro said. “They are a large part of our community and provide a lot of support to the city.”

Throughout the event Oak Harbor residents had the opportunity to meet and greet the Sailors stationed on NASWI and the other first-responders within their community.

“It is a fantastic event which provides an opportunity for first responders and the community to actually interact and make a unified stand against drugs and criminal activities,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class James E. Courson, NNO representative for NASWI Security Department.

Courson said the event did more than just introduce the community with their first responders, it offered them a different setting than the one that normally brings them together.

“Most often we encounter police officers, firemen, emergency medical services, or other first responders during an event which can be quite tragic or emotionally involved,” said Courson. “This event provides an opportunity for the citizens and first responders to interact in a fun setting, make a unified stand against criminal activity, and share information.”

Courson added that NASWI’s involvement is not only aimed at making it a fun event for everyone in attendance, it’s to ensure a safe community for the Sailors as well.

“In locations like Oak Harbor, or where other military bases are, the military is a large part of the community,” said Courson. “We as citizens have an obligation to be involved in events, which benefit our community and make it a safer place for all to live.”

Arik Dahlen, local vendor and managing owner of Thrive Community Fitness, said the NNO event was a big success and that it could not have happened without the Navy’s support.

“Oak harbor has a pretty big military influence and they are definitely out here in force,” said Dahlen. “It’s important for every citizen to know their community and get to know the different departments that serve them, theĀ more people the merrier.”

Naval Today Staff, August 9, 2012