The South Peninsula Athletic and Recreation Center, known as the SPARC building, held an open house in its new facility beside the Homer Middle School on Saturday, giving many locals their first peak at the 11,925-square-foot all-weather play space. The event helped raise money for finishing work, including the installation of bathrooms and an office space. - Photo provided

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Navy destroyer arriving in Homer next week

April 20th | Carey Restino Print this article   Email this article  

A Navy destroyer with 450-plus people on board is expected to arrive in Homer next week and stay for several days prior to heading to the Gulf of Alaska to participate in the Exercise Northern Edge 2017 training exercises.

The 505-foot Arleigh Burke-class guided-missle destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) is expected to arrive April 28 and stay through April 30, though those plans may change slightly said Tommy Baker with the Alaskan Command Office of Public Affairs.

Baker said while many of the sailors will have time to come ashore, they won't all disembark at once. At least a third of the sailors will stay on board the ship, he said.

The sailors are planning to complete a community involvement project while in town, he said, though the details haven't yet been solidified.

The sailors will have free time to dine around town, recreate and explore, he said.

Hopper is a multi-mission surface combatant, capable of anti-air, anti-submarine, and anti-surface warfare missions. It operates independently or in support of carrier and expeditionary strike groups and is home-ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a release from Alaskan Command said.

Baker said the U.S. Navy is aware of the fact that not everyone in Homer supports the Northern Edge training exercises, which have drawn criticism because of their time and location in areas some say are important spawning grounds as well as home to many species of whales. (See related story, this page.)

Northern Edge is a biennial training exercise conducted in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which includes the area within the Gulf of Alaska, as well as land and airspace within the state.

Northern Edge includes participation from several commands, including Alaskan Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, U.S. Army Pacific, and others. The exercise is planned to involve approximately 200 aircraft at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base, along with Hopper.

The Homer City Council passed a resolution last August requesting that the U.S. Navy change the timing and location of its military activities out of concern for fish and other marine life in the area, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski spoke about her effort to encourage the Navy to be more responsive to the concerns of coastal Alaska communities during a recent visit to Homer.

Others have noted, however, recent activity by nations near Alaska, such as two Russian bombers reportedly detected flying 100 miles southwest of Kodiak that were intercepted by F-22 Raptor jets from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Monday night. Concerns about activity in North Korea also provides justification for such training exercises, Navy officials say.

While the vessel has many capacities, it will not be using its guided missile capacity during Northern Edge 2017, Baker said.

Also porting in Alaska during its time in state waters will be the USS O'Kane, which will dock in Juneau after the exercises. The fleet replenishment oiler USNA Guadalupe will be coming to Alaska as well.

USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named for the pioneering computer scientist Rear Admiral "Amazing" Grace Hopper and is only the second U.S. Navy warship to be named for a woman from the Navy's own ranks.

 

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