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Smokey Bear Celebrates 75th Birthday aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
Story by PO2 stacy atkinsricks on 07/31/2019
The Virginia Department of Forestry collaborated with U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command and Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic to help Smokey Bear celebrate his 75th birthday aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), July 30.
Sailors gathered aboard Eisenhower, known affectionately to the crew as the “Mighty Ike,” to wish Smokey Bear, the national symbol of United States Forest Service’s Wildfire Prevention Campaign, a happy 75th birthday while tendering essential knowledge on fire safety and prevention.
“The Navy and the forest are inextricable linked; they have always been part of the same the Navy was originally built from wood,” said Scott Bachman, senior area forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry. “So it’s just great for the Sailors to know that forestry cares about the Navy and we are happy to know that the Navy cares about the forest, and the history that goes between the two.”
Smokey Bear, along with the U.S. Navy’s environmental mascot, Stewie, sparked the interest of nearly every Sailor as they transited the ship from the flight deck to the bridge posing for photos and engaging with the crew. The giant black bear and sea turtle duo also stopped by repair lockers, which serve as firefighting stations aboard the ship, to learn firsthand how Sailors keep the ship safe from fires.
“If a fire breaks out onboard the ship it’s serious business. We need to make sure we are doing everything that we can to keep each other safe,” explained Damage Controlman 3rd Class Marcus Shannon. “There aren’t any firetrucks on the open ocean, so we have to be ready to fight a fire no matter the size at all times. Having Smokey here is just a small reminder that only you can prevent shipboard fires.”
While hosting a 6-foot tall black bear aboard a U.S. Navy vessel may seem odd to some, the setting for Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday celebration was more than fitting given Dwight D. Eisenhower, the ship’s namesake, served as president of the Unites States 75 years ago.
President Eisenhower was also responsible for signing the Smokey Bear Act that allowed for lawful use of Smokey Bear’s image. Additionally, President Eisenhower presented the first Golden Smokey Bear award in 1958 to recognize the fire prevention accomplishments of various organizations from the previous year.
Kindling feelings of pride, Ike’s Sailors were swift to highlight the historic tie between Smokey Bear’s 75th celebration and the work of their ship’s honoree. Sailors guided their guest to the shipboard museum to check out President Eisenhower memorabilia and pose for photos.
“The Eisenhower connection to Smokey Bear was the legislation signed in 1952. And Ike was a lot of firsts with the nuclear Navy, national resources, and national parks especially with the big boom of rebuilding after the Second World War,” said Capt. Jonathan J. Bradford, the ship’s executive officer. “So, it’s cool to be able to make that connection and have the opportunity to see the ship named for the president.”
Not only did the visit serve as a celebration for Smokey Bear, it intended to re-ignite a conversation about fire prevention and safety amongst the unique population that comprises the naval service.
“We are all fire fighters on the ship. Seeing Smokey was fun but it also puts a light on our work and responsibility,” said Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Judyann Parker. “It’s not an easy job but it’s so important. It’s cool to see how much Smokey taught us as children can still apply to our lives today.”
Before departing the ship, Smokey Bear left some fiery advice for Sailors and their loved ones.
“Go out and enjoy the forest. Smokey stands for wildfire prevention, so always be careful with fire. Trees are replaceable, but our people are not.”
Smokey Bear also visited the Cape Henry Lighthouse onboard Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and the historic Willoughby Live Oak, a 48-foot-tall tree resting on Naval Station Norfolk. The majestic oak is one of the centerpieces of local Navy conservation efforts, and one of the largest recorded trees in the state and estimated to be between 400-600 years old.
Smokey Bear’s official birthday celebration will be held on August 5, at the Virginia Department of Forestry’s headquarters building in Charlottesville, Virginia.
For more information about USFFC, visit https://www.public.navy.mil/usff
For more information about The Virginia Department of Forestry, visit http://www.dof.virginia.gov/