By Barnett Wright
America’s Navy has arrived in Birmingham with the Magic City’s mayor taking a huge leap to mark the occasion.
Mayor Randall Woodfin helped kick off Birmingham Navy Week by doing a tandem parachute jump with U.S. Navy Parachute Team “The Leap Frogs” into Railroad Park on Monday. Navy Week in Birmingham April 9-15 provides an opportunity for citizens to learn about the armed service, its people and its importance to national security and prosperity.
Birmingham is one of only 14 cities selected to host a Navy Week this year.
“Our sailors are extremely excited to visit Birmingham and showcase just a small portion of our Navy’s capabilities to the American public,” said Lt. David Carter, lead planner for the Navy Week. “The pride and professionalism they’ll display is just a snapshot of the larger U.S. Navy force that stands ready daily to carry out our nation’s work across the globe.”
Rear Adm. Mark J. Fung, deputy chief of civil engineers, and deputy commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, will be the senior Navy representative presiding over Navy Week.
“I am excited to share the Navy’s story with Birmingham,” Fung said. “I look forward to discussing the reshaping of the Navy into ‘the Navy the nation needs’ and how it is relevant to the people of Alabama.”
Some of the weeks’ highlights include Navy Night at Regions Field during the Birmingham Barons’ home opener Wednesday night and Navy Day at the McWane Science Center all day Thursday. The week leads into the Tuscaloosa Regional Airshow, featuring the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, on April 14-15.
Local native Command Master Chief Keith Wilkerson Jr., the senior enlisted sailor for Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Island Knights (HSC-25) in Guam, will also be in attendance throughout the week.
“Being born in Birmingham and spending my childhood running through the woods of Bessemer, I like to think of this place as being where the seed was planted for my service,” Wilkerson said. “I grew up around a lot of stories about the Navy and military and now after 19 years of service, I have one of my own to share. I’ve had the privilege to serve around the world, and currently in Guam, I get to see first-hand how America’s sons and daughters from places like Birmingham impact the world in a positive way and protect our way of life as Americans. Best of all, every day I have the awesome responsibility of putting on my Navy uniform and representing the great state of Alabama.”
Navy Weeks bring a variety of events, equipment and personnel to a single city for a week-long series of engagements with the public, key influencers and organizations representing all sectors of the community.
Since 2005, the Navy Week program has served as the Navy’s flagship outreach effort in areas of the country without a significant Navy presence, with 210 Navy Weeks held in 74 different U.S. markets.
“Navy Weeks allow us to showcase the sons and daughters of America who serve in today’s Navy. We focus on sharing in communities across the U.S. who often have little to no contact with sailors,” said Cmdr. Linda Rojas, Navy Office of Community Outreach (NAVCO) director. “We’ve found that these exchanges have gone a long way for raising awareness of the Navy and establishing and maintaining relationships with the people we serve.”
During a Navy Week, 75 to 100 outreach events are coordinated with corporate, civic, government, education, media, veterans, community service and diversity organizations in the city, said Lt. Cmdr. Brett Dawson, NAVCO’s event planning department head. “We bring in as much of the Navy as we can to raise awareness of the Navy, its mission and its importance to the public,” he said.
Navy Week cities are chosen based on a variety of factors, including Gallup data on Navy knowledge and awareness, Navy recruiting data, demographic information, namesake ties of ships and submarines, past outreach history in the market and geography, to ensure events are dispersed across the country.
Last year’s Navy Week program, through the execution of more than 1,000 individual outreach events, showcased the Navy, its mission and its people to a combined audience of about 150 million Americans.
The Navy plans to include the following elements in the week-long celebration:
- Sailors assigned to the state’s namesake ship, USS Alabama
- Navy divers and Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams
- Navy Parachute Team “The Leap Frogs”
- Navy Band performances
- Sailors from USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat
- Navy Medicine personnel
- The Navy’s new virtual reality simulator.
Navy Week will include multiple events designed to give locals an inside look into the Navy, its people, and its role in relation to national security and prosperity.
The following events will be a part of this week-long celebration:
April 10th, 10-11 a.m.: Navy Band Concert at Pell City Veterans Home in Pell City
The Navy Band Southeast’s Brass Quintet will perform a concert at the Colonel Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home.
April 11th, 6-9 p.m.: Navy Night at the Birmingham Barons Game
The Birmingham Barons will host the United States Navy for a Navy Night as part of Birmingham Navy Week. Events will include a performance by the Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, Sailors from USS Alabama, USS Constitution, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, Navy Operational Support Center Bessemer, Navy Recruiting District Atlanta and entertainment by Navy Band Southeast.
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.: Navy Day at the McWane Science Center
McWane Science Center will host the United States Navy for a Navy Day and STEM event as part of Birmingham Navy Week. Participants include the Navy Oceanography and Meteorology Command, USS Alabama, USS Constitution, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams, Navy Band Southeast and the United States Naval Academy.
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.: Navy Band Concert at the Birmingham Barons Game
Navy Band Southeast’s Rock Ensemble will perform a free concert as part of “Thirsty Thursdays” at the Birmingham Barons game.
April 14th – 15th, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Blue Angels air show at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport. Click HERE for info.