Monday is the start of Navy Week in St. Louis. Like New York’s Fleet Week, that means there will be a surge of men and women walking the streets in their sailor uniforms.
But unlike Fleet Week, there won’t be rows of ships docked at port. Instead the Navy is showcasing its people in other ways.
“You’ll see a lot of people out in white uniforms. They are sailors. And contrary to what I’ve heard before, they’re not ice cream men,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tim Page with the U.S. Navy Office of Community Outreach. “Navy Weeks are similar to what we do for Fleet Weeks, just obviously on a much smaller scale. We can’t bring an aircraft carrier to St. Louis."
The purpose of Navy Week is to underscore the Navy’s importance and correct misperceptions, so the military branch is showcasing its less obvious skills, such as flight. Fleet Weeks are held in coastal cities, while Navy Weeks are held in cities without a significant naval presence.
“I’ve heard people in the past who were convinced that the aircraft carriers that the Navy had only carried the Air Force’s jets. Those aircraft aboard our carriers are Navy jets,” said Page.
The Navy’s Blue Angel flight squadron will be flying in the Spirit of St. Louis Air Show in Chesterfield on Saturday and Sunday, and sailors will also be at the air show’s science and technology expo.
The Navy’s Leap Frog parachute team, a diving unit and a bomb dispersal team will also be doing demonstrations at area schools. And the Great Lakes area Navy Band has several concerts planned.
St. Louis is one of 15 cities chosen for Navy Week this year. Page said the Navy decides what cities to visit based on Gallop polls that show how knowledgeable cities are about the Navy and based on how supportive cities are of the Navy visiting.
“We do look at the recruiting index from Recruiting Command, whether it’s a low area or a high area of recruiting. And also the awareness,” said Page. “If people have a lot of information then we try to go places where they may not have as much information.”
Page said the purpose of Navy Week is not recruitment, however.
“It’s strictly outreach,” said Page. “Now not to say if someone sees something that they like and they choose to join the Navy, that’s all the better. Kind of a two birds with one stone type thing. But it’s mainly just to let the people inside of Middle America and outside of fleet concentration areas know what we do and why we do it and why it’s important that we do it.”
In a nutshell, Page said a strong Navy is important because “70 percent of the world is covered with water. Eighty percent of people live by the coasts. And 90 percent of the world’s trade travels over the ocean.”
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.