On edge: Navy SEALs to stop using cold water training area after residents complain

by WorldTribune Staff, January 28, 2022

Navy SEALs have postponed a 30-year tradition of using parks in Washington state for cold water training after residents complained of being freaked out by “stealthy men in camo” toting “toy guns.”

Navy SEALs have paused training exercises at Washington state parks amid ongoing legal challenges. / U.S. Navy

Navy officials say the parks offer the perfect environment to simulate what the elite forces may encounter on difficult operations overseas.

“This area provides a unique environment of cold water, extreme tidal changes, multi-variant currents, low visibility, complex underwater terrain, climate and rigorous land terrain, which provides an advanced training environment,” Navy spokesman Joe Overton told Coffee or Die Magazine.

Residents said the commando training was disturbing their ability to relax at the parks.

“I do not care to catch a glimpse of apparently armed men skulking around and I definitely do not want to risk having my young grandchildren see such a sight,” a resident wrote to state regulators during a public comment period while the state was attempting to renew its agreement with the Navy.

“In these days of great division in our civil society, we don’t need stealthy men in camo uniforms toting toy guns around our State and County Parks,” another commenter said. “People frequent parks to escape tension, not to encounter more. Keep the Navy commando training out of our parks!”

Lawyers for the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, which filed a lawsuit against the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission to stop the training, said: “It is difficult to find peace in the woods when armed frogmen might be lurking behind every tree,”

The lawsuit contends that the training may dissuade residents from using the parks over fears of “encountering the proposed war games or being spied upon by Navy personnel.”

The Navy said the SEAL training in the parks has not interfered with visitors, noting that there is no use of live-fire ammunition or explosive devices.

Residents said the Navy should use the 46 miles of Washington shoreline already under its jurisdiction, an area the Navy said does not offer as much realism to SEALs.

“Although there are several Navy properties in the area, they do not provide the full range of environments needed for this training to be as realistic as possible,” Overton said.

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