Category Archives: navy

IN PHOTOS: Nimitz departs Bremerton


The departure of the USS Nimitz Wednesday came as a bit of a surprise. While a friend told me that Bremerton’s second aircraft carrier was heading out, my garage door opener was still working fine.

Alas, when I checked in with Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton officials Wednesday morning, the massive ship was already moving out into Sinclair Inlet.


I pedaled down to Bachmann Park in Manette for a view of the 1,100 foot-long carrier, a major muscle in our country’s permanent military force, and its 3,000-strong crew. The ship is headed out for sea trials.

Later, I headed up to East 30th Street, as the Nimitz passed through Rich Passage and into the wider Puget Sound.

We’re getting used to seeing these beasts, as the USS John C. Stennis, Bremerton’s other home-ported carrier recently departed for training.


The Nimitz, which turns 42 this next May, is the fleet’s oldest carrier. It was homeported in Bremerton following its 16-month, $240 million overhaul, and will remain here until at least 2019.

Did you get photos? Send them to me at and I will upload them here.


Jessica Perkins got these two shots of the Nimitz as it departed Rich Passage.
Jessica Perkins got these shots of the Nimitz as it departed Rich Passage.
Photo by Jessica Perkins.
A couple of great shots by Matt King of the Nimitz with Seattle as the backdrop.
A couple of great shots by Matt King of the Nimitz with Seattle as the backdrop.
Photo by Matt King.
Photo by Matt King.
Passing by Bremerton. Photo by Leslie Peterson.
Passing by Bremerton. Photo by Leslie Peterson.
Photos from Manchester by Barbara DaZelle.
Photos from Manchester by Barbara DaZelle.
Photo by Barbara DaZelle.
Photo by Barbara DaZelle.

Navy says it won’t take Gregory Way


One of Bremerton’s most historic and picturesque streets won’t become Navy property anytime soon — though word was it could have. 

Rumors have been circulating on Gregory Way — which runs parallel to the edge of the Navy’s Bremerton base and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard — of a federal takeover.

Mary Whitney, whose family home has been on the street half a century, said she’d heard the Navy was interested in expanding its buffer with the city. I started looking into the claim myself, and while it is entirely possible the Navy discussed the option, the Navy officially went public with the rumor being a “myth.”

In a recently released joint-land use study, the Navy addressed the idea head on.


I also confirmed that with Navy Spokeswoman Silvia Klatman.

“The rumor that the Navy would like to purchase Gregory Way property as a buffer has been circulated for a few years and was addressed most recently in the Joint Land Use Study,” Klatman told me. “The Navy currently has no plans or funding requests to purchase property on Gregory Way.”

This home is currently for sale on the road for $225,000.

If you haven’t visited Gregory Way, you’re missing out on a beautiful trek through venerable architecture and formidable trees. Heidi Witherspoon, who wrote a story for the Sun about the street’s revival in 2001, described it this way: “Craftsman bungalows mingle with Mediterranean stucco villas and English-style brick cottages.” There are also towering conifers that date back to the city’s roots.

It’s also the same street upon which Frank Wetzel, author and editor of the “Victory Gardens & Barrage Balloons” that chronicled Bremerton’s war years, grew up.

It was once Second Street until the Navy changed it to honor a Navy captain named Luther Gregory.

INSIDE THE SEAWOLF: 9 reasons she’s the Navy’s ‘most capable’ submarine

USS bremerton
Larry Steagall photo.

The USS Seawolf is the fastest, quietest, deepest-diving and most capable submarine the U.S. Navy has ever built. And she happens to call Bremerton her home

On Monday, the Kitsap Sun got a rare treat, going aboard the Seawolf for a tour right before the boat headed for dry dock. So what makes the Seawolf so special? Here’s nine things that differentiate her from the pack.

The Seawolf on Monday. The algae around it is because the vessel has largely been unloaded and is floating higher. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

1. The Seawolf emerged at the tail end of the Cold War

There are only three vessels in the Seawolf class — The USS Jimmy Carter, USS Connecticut and the boat itself — because, frankly, they were too expensive with the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the final chapter of the Cold War, the three vessels were designed to outpace the Soviets, particularly in the “acoustics” realm, or how quiet they could be. 

Along with the Soviet Union’s collapse was the derailing of a U.S. plan to build 28 Seawolf-class boats. Today, the three “most capable” submarines are based in Puget Sound waters, with the Seawolf and Connecticut in Bremerton and the Jimmy Carter at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.  

The torpedo bay, emptied as it prepares for dry dock.
The torpedo bay, emptied as it prepares for dry dock.

2. The boat’s armed to the teeth 

Stocked with twice as many torpedo tubes as the preceding Los Angeles-class submarines, the Seawolf can carry around 50 torpedoes, fired from eight different tubes. 

“It was built to hunt Russian submarines, and destroy Russian submarines,” Seawolf Sonar Technician Jacob Stilling told us. 


3. The Seawolf is speedy — but just how fast is classified 

Officially, the leaders of the Seawolf can say the boat can reach a speed greater than 20 knots. How fast the vessel is actually capable of going remains classified. 

150730-N-ZZ999-003 ARCTIC OCEAN (July 30, 2015) The fast attack submarine USS Seawolf (SSN 21) surfaces through Arctic ice at the North Pole. Seawolf conducted routine Arctic operations. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
U.S. Navy photo

4. The Seawolf has a hardened sail 

You might think that the submarine’s sail — that protruding stack toward its bow — would only be used for communications and reconnaissance. But the Seawolf, like some other submarines, can use it for something else: penetrating the ice in the coldest places on Earth. 

During the most recent deployment, the vessel sailed its way through the Bering Straight and underneath the ice-covered environs at the top of the Earth. While there, its sensors found a section of ice just five feet deep in a land where its breadth can reach 100 feet. 

The sail pierced through the ice and most of the crew even got a chance to go “ashore,” taking photos and filling condiment bottles with North Pole ice water. 

“It wasn’t that cold,” said boat commander Jeff Bierly. “It was like a cold day in Connecticut.” 

While the Seawolf isn’t the first to do this — the Nautilus did it way back in 1958 — it’s still an important skill set in an area of the world where the powers-that-be are becoming increasingly territorial.


5. Her backup’s called Beth

Plus, if the vessel’s nuclear reactor ever goes out under that ice, the Seawolf must find a way to surface so it can power on its backup diesel generator — something that the Navy’s fleet of submarines still carry in case of emergency. The one aboard the Seawolf is called “Beth.” 

It can not only dive the deepest, but it can last down there a long time

While not unique to the Seawolf, the boat’s personnel take seriously its life system that keep it inhabitable for its 154-compliment crew. The carbon dioxide we all breath out is “scrubbed” and expelled from the boat. New oxygen is made by taking water (H2O) and separating chemically its two hydrogen molecules from the oxygen — and viola. The crew must also ensure carbon monoxide (CO) does not build up on board, and does so by chemically adding an additional oxygen molecule to it (CO2) which turns it into carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide is then scrubbed off the ship with the rest.

USS Seawolf culinary specialist Marcus McConnell makes meat loaf for dinner. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
USS Seawolf culinary specialist Marcus McConnell makes meat loaf for dinner. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

6. The vessel can last only as long as its stock of food

The submarine’s most precious commodity? Its nuclear reactor can run for eons and we’ve already learned how they keep breathing down there. The thing that runs out first is the boat’s supply of food.

At the start of deployment, areas of the ship are stacked deep with canned goods, making it possible to go up to 120 days.  

When you consider that the crew — most of which is aged between 18 and 25 — eats around 850 pounds of food every day, that amount adds up fast on board a 350-foot-long sub. 

This past deployment’s favorite meal was probably Asian food, namely sweet and sour chicken, according to Kip Farrell, the boat’s leading culinary specialist. (Farrell, I might note, is from Silverdale.) 

USS Seawolf sailor Garrett Guglielmetti at the bottom of a narrow passage with steep stars on the boat. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
USS Seawolf sailor Garrett Guglielmetti at the bottom of a narrow passage with steep stars on the boat. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

7. All that equipment and food makes for tight quarters

Submarines aren’t known for being roomy to begin with, but that’s especially true for the Seawolf. Crew members routinely “hot bunk” to save space, meaning one submariner will take a bunk when he comes off shift for someone who just finished sleeping in it. It works out to about three people sleeping in a space of two bunks as shifts are divided. 

“Space is a high commodity onboard a submarine,” said Chief of the Boat Nicholas Wallace. “It’s like a giant Tetris puzzle in here.” 

They make it work. At times, submariners bunk with the torpedoes. The vessel’s wardroom, where officers dine and meet, doubles as a medical facility when a submariner needs treatment of some kind.

The boat's sanitation systems.
The boat’s sanitation systems.

8. Yes, sometimes it smells

With all that equipment, food and people, the Seawolf has never been able to install a sanitary pump aboard like some other subs have. That means that even when “blackwater” — the effluence on board — is expelled via pressure, some lingering smell can waft through the submarine. 

It’s really not that big of a deal, the crew said.

“You just get used to it,” Bierly said.  

BREMERTON, Wash. (Aug. 21, 2015) Sailors assigned to the fast-attack submarine USS Seawolf (SSN 21) return home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, following a six-month deployment. Seawolf is the first of the Navy’s three Seawolf-class submarines, designed to be faster and quieter than its Los Angeles-class counterpart. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda R. Gray/Released)
The fast-attack submarine USS Seawolf returns home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton Aug. 21, following a six-month deployment. U.S. Navy photo

9. Time for an upgrade 

The Seawolf on Tuesday headed for dry dock, the start of a two-year overhaul. New sonar and combat control systems will be added, Bierly said, making the vessel all the more advanced when she goes back to sea in 2018.

“We’re gonna get the latest and greatest,” Bierly said. “And we’re pretty excited about that.” 

USS Seawolf Commander Jeff Bierley in the chief petty officer's quarters on the Seawolf. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
USS Seawolf Commander Jeff Bierley in the chief petty officer’s quarters on the Seawolf. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

10 Stories from my 10 Years at the Kitsap Sun

This job is never boring, let me tell you. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
This job is never boring, let me tell you. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

Today marks my 10 year anniversary at the Kitsap Sun. It’s a milestone that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve witnessed a dramatic transformation in journalism this past decade. Not all has been positive: the newsroom staff is half the size it was when I got here, reflecting an era of massive media consolidation. (That’s the nice way to put it). But I am also part of a new era, where the most creative and industrious minds will prevail in an age where anyone can publish a story.

I wanted to take you back through this decade, for a trip through the stories that fascinated me most. Many of these, you will notice, are from my first seven years on the job, when I was the Sun’s crime and justice reporter. But Bremerton, as home to the Sun and those I’ve covered, has always played an integral role.



1. After 62 years, death comes six hours apart

Amazing stories that are told on the obituary page nearly everyday. So I was especially curious when my editor, Kim Rubenstein, came to me with a rather unique one: A couple whose obituary ran together, in the same article.

I phoned the family, wondering if they would be interested in telling their parents’ story. It’s a phone call that never gets easier, having to call someone coming to terms with death, but it’s a call I feel is a newspaper’s obligation. In doing so, I’ve always tried to explain I’d like to give the community a chance to know the person they were in life, and if not, they were free to hang up on me. Everyone grieves differently but some people view the opportunity as cathartic.

In this case, the family was thrilled and invited me to their home in Kingston.

I learned of a very special love story — a couple through 62 years of marriage did everything together. Everything. Even getting the mail.

When they were buried, they were placed side by side, in the same casket.

It’s a story that not only touched me emotionally, but apparently others as well. Few stories I’ve ever done attracted broader attention. I got calls, emails and letters from all over the country, and was even interviewed by the Seattle P-I about doing it.


2. The CIA is doing what in Washington state?

Undercover police officers have their identities concealed for a reason: they are often conducting sensitive, and sometimes high risk, investigations that warrant it.

But what about when police chiefs, who use their government issued vehicles mainly for the purpose of driving to and from work, start using those undercover license plates?

That line that line of inquiry got me started down a path that revealed that in Kitsap County, and indeed all of Washington, there are a lot of confidential license plates driving around.

But nothing could prepare me, months after the initial story, for a call from Austin Jenkins, NPR reporter in Olympia, who’d been hearing testimony in the State Legislature about these license plates and changes to the program.

The story had revealed not only the confidential license plate program, but that the state’s Department of Licensing was also issuing confidential driver’s licenses.

I teamed up with Jenkins and we went to Olympia to interview the DOL. Amazingly, Gov. Jay Inslee and Gov. Chris Gregoire before him, didn’t even know about the program.

The biggest shocker of all came when a spokesman revealed that many of those confidential driver’s licenses were going to the CIA.

“Yes, that CIA, “the spokesman told us.

Later, the DOL would backpedal and say that they had no authority to release information about those “federal agencies” that have the licenses. But it was a fascinating discovery, an amazing story to work on and I am glad we were able to help bring the program to transparency.

Wikipedia photo.

3. The Pentagon’s calling, and they’re not happy

Ever wonder what it’s like to have The Pentagon angry with a story you did? Well, let me tell you.

You may recall the story of Naval Base Kitsap’s highest enlisted man being convicted in a sting not dissimilar from To Catch a Predator. He served his time, but I had wondered what kind of discipline he faced from the Navy, and that became the subject of a story months later.

Through a public records request, I got hold of a Navy document that reported he’d received an honorable discharge from the Navy — something a former Navy JAG told me was unheard of following a sex crime conviction. We ran the story.

The following Monday, The Pentagon called.

“Your story is wrong,” I was told repeatedly. “Are you going to correct it?”

“How is it wrong?” I asked.

I couldn’t get an answer because those records were private, I was told.

“So how can I correct it?” I wondered.

Round and round we went, for what felt like an eternity. Newsroom meetings were held. I freely admit it does not feel good when the Pentagon is not happy with you.

Eventually, others at The Pentagon and the local base released information that showed the man had received an “other than honorable” discharge. To this day, I am uncertain why I saw reports that contradicted each other.

Photo by Meegan M. Reid.
Photo by Meegan M. Reid.

4. Burglary victim becomes the suspect

Imagine coming home from a trip to find your home has been burglarized, and yet you’re the one getting hauled off to jail. That was the situation Luke Groves faced in 2009. A felon, he’d broken into a school in Shelton at 18, and now, at 37, police found his wife’s guns in their Hewitt Avenue home.

Prosecutors, who charged him with felon in possession of a firearm, had offered him no jail time in exchange for his guilty plea. But Groves took the case to trial, was convicted, and could’ve faced years in prison over it.

The case was one that former Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge and I had butted heads about. He felt we’d cast the prosecutor’s office as the bad guy in a case which they could not just “look the other way” on a weapons charge.

I followed the trial from start to finish, including Hauge himself handling the sentencing — something I can’t recall on an other occasion in my seven years covering the court system here. Hauge told the judge that Groves should ultimately get credit for time served for the crime, and Groves was released.


5. Squatter’s ‘meticulous’ highway home

I never met Chris Christensen. But I feel like in many ways I knew him following his 2008 death in the woods off Highway 3 in Poulsbo.

The story started with a scanner call for a DOA (dead on arrival) near the road in Olhava. I inquired with the police sergeant, who told me that the death was actually a pretty interesting story — certainly not something I expected to hear. I headed north, parked, and followed a little trail into the woods where I found “The Shiloh,” Christensen’s home among Western Red Cedars.

It was a “meticulously organized world,” I wrote. “A campsite with finely raked dirt, a sturdy green shed and a tent filled with bins of scrupulously folded clean laundry and cases of Steel Reserve beer.”

In the subsequent days, I learned all about his quiet life and penned this story. Most satisfying to me was that Christensen’s family had lost touch with him. Without the story, which thanks to the Internet made its way across the country, his family would’ve never found him. He got the dignified burial he deserved.

Nametags of those who went through Kitsap Recovery Center who later died or went to prison.
Nametags of those who went through Kitsap Recovery Center who later died or went to prison.

6. Heroin’s ugly grip on Kitsap, the nation

I’ve probably put more energy into covering the opiate epidemic than any other single topic in my decade at the Sun.

Heroin, in particular, was virtually nonexistent when I got here. But following the explosion of opiate medicines for pain, drug cartels seized their chance to feed a spreading addiction more cheaply.

The story has taken me all over Puget Sound. I interviewed a man at McNeil Island prison who had an 8-pill a day OxyContin habit and was bringing sheets full of “Oxy” from California to Kitsap; I visited a woman who was literally injecting opiates near the knuckles on her fingers in Suquamish. I’ve hugged mothers whose children were lost forever when they could not kick the habit.

It is a problem that remains unsolved.


7. Bad math on jail’s good time

I’ve received a lot of “jail mail” over the years, and while there’s usually an interesting story, it is, shall we say, not always one I would pursue in print.

When the letters started coming from Robert “Doug” Pierce in 2010, I was skeptical. He was convinced that Kitsap County had miscalculated his “good time” or time off for good behavior, and that he was serving too long a sentence from his current cell, at Coyote Ridge in Connell.

He was right.

Now I will tell you I am a journalist and not a mathematician. But the basic gist was that jail officials here were calculating his good time by simply dividing his time served by three, rather than tacking on an additional to his overall sentence. The result was he would serve 35 extra days.

Small potatoes? When you consider that at the the time it cost about $100 a day to house a prison inmate and that there were 548 inmates from Kitsap in prison, it’s actually quite an expense. After our story ran, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office corrected his sentence, along with everyone else’s, and fixed the policy.


8. ‘Where can we live?’

A criminal past can often haunts someone for the rest of his or her life. That was certainly true for Ed Gonda, a man who moved his family to Bainbridge Island and had heard it was a “laid back, forgiving kind of place.”

It turned out to be anything but for his family.

His crime was a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. He admitted to it, did time for it, paid more than $10,000 in treatment for it — and had lived a clean life for 15 years, to include starting his own family.

But under Washington state law, he had to register as a sex offender, though he was not a pedophile. And somehow, after making friends at a local church and at his daughter’s school, word got out.

“The news traveled fast, and people who they thought they knew well acted swiftly,” I wrote. “His daughter could no longer play with friends down the street, he said. The church pews around them were vacant on Sundays. They more or less stopped going out anywhere on the island.”

“We’re treated like we’re diseased,” his wife told me.

It was the start of a three part series I knew would be controversial, but I felt was important. We want to protect all people in society, especially children. But is there ever a point when we’ve gone too far and it has infringed on the rights of those who have already done their time?

As part of my series on the 20th anniversary of the Community Protection Act, I also ventured to McNeil Island with Photographer Larry Steagall to see the state’s civil commitment center for sexual predators. Such a beautiful and pastoral setting for such a hideous complex. I am fairly certain Larry will never forgive me.

Yes, I have ridden in the back of a cop car. MEEGAN REID / KITSAP SUN
Yes, I have ridden in the back of a cop car. MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN

9. Bremerton’s plunging violent crime rate

Let’s face it: Bremerton has a gotten a bad rap over the years, following the demise in the 1980s of its retail downtown core. An increasing violent crime rate followed, and in many ways the reputation was earned.

When I was hired in 2005, the city had the highest per capita violent crime rate. During my interview, which was just weeks after two murders blocks from the Kitsap Sun’s office, I was asked how I would take on the story. Aggressively, I said.

I spent a lot of time in a patrol car — every shift including graveyard — and was introduced to Bremerton’s seedy underbelly before meeting any other part. It was a scary place: I saw lots of people high on meth, fights between police and drunkards, violent domestic abusers whose victims would try to shield their attackers from the cops. And I wrote extensively about it.

But in the years since, that violent crime rate plummeted, for reasons I documented in a story last November. The tide, in my eyes, is turning: the city is making a turn for the better.

If you live in Bremerton, you know that each time we do have a tragic, violent episode — even if far outside city limits — it reinforces the stereotype.

But followers of this blog know better. There are many positive signs of a community improving: Increasing ferry traffic. Volunteers embracing parks. Home improvements being made. Developments downtown.

We’ll see how long it takes for the rest of the world to notice.


10. Walking the story in Bremerton

Any reporter will tell you that we spend a lot more time with the story than what ends up in the paper. But what about those people who want to know more, who are curious for every last detail?


This January, I found myself thinking about those two big Sequoia trees on Veneta Avenue. In writing about longterm plans to save them but close the road their roots are destroying, I came to the realization that nothing — not a story in print, online or even a video — would compare to the experience of going there, and seeing the story for yourself. I invited experts who I’d interviewed for the story to come along.

And thus was born the thing I’m most proud of since taking over the Bremerton Beat: my monthly Story Walk. It’s been such a satisfying journey taking the story to the community, rather than the other way around. We’ve walked all over town and I have gotten to know so many great people in the city in doing so.

There’s momentum for many more to come, too.

Here’s to 10 years at the Sun, and a hope that the next 10 will be just as exhilarating.

Farewell, USS Bremerton


The USS Bremerton submarine headed out of Naval Base Kitsap this morning following a weeklong visit. The crew of almost 150 made the most of the visit to the city she’s named for, performing a park renovation, visiting Mayor Patty Lent’s office and even inviting some guests aboard for tours.

I was fortunate to have been one of those guests. They gave us an incredible tour of the vessel that will stand out as a highlight of my reporting career.

Loved the cribbage board, too.

Here’s some more photos of our visit. The Bremerton will return to Bremerton a few years from now to be decommissioned.


Lt. Joe Huck shows us a torpedo bay.
Lt. Joe Huck shows us a torpedo bay.
The Bremerton.
The Bremerton.
Tight confines.
Tight confines.
My partner Ed Friedrich doing an interview on the conning tower.
My partner Ed Friedrich doing an interview on the conning tower.
A timeless diesel engine, part of what makes her a "classic."
A timeless diesel engine, part of what makes her a “classic.”
Coffee mugs, and on top of them, Richard O'Kane's famous cribbage board.
Coffee mugs, and on top of them, Richard O’Kane’s famous cribbage board.
That famous cribbage board. Still played to this day.
That famous cribbage board. Still played to this day.