In a packed auditorium Tuesday, more than 700 sailors turned out to hear Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer talk about recent troubles the Navy has experienced and how to handle them.
"You own the issues that you face, and you are the best solutions for the issues that you face," he told the crowd.
Spencer's visit comes in the wake of two collisions with commercial ships this summer that killed 17 sailors. Investigations uncovered "dismal" training records for the two ships and a culture that pushes Navy personnel beyond their capabilities.
Spencer told the Whidbey crew he is working to change the culture, but they need to speak up.
"We have to be watching out for each other. If we are wearing the carpet thin, we have to replace the carpet and we need to have a meaningful, candid dialog about this," Spencer said.
Also on the minds of many was North Korea and the increasing tensions with the United States. U.S. ships are building up a presence around the Korean peninsula and taking part in training missions. The Navy successfully tested its capability to shoot down a North Korean missile Sunday.
Meantime, NAS Whidbey and the city of Seattle sit in a potential target zone for a nuclear air strike by North Korea.
"Secretary (Rex) Tillerson is doing the best he can," said Spencer. "We want to have conversations way before we have to be speaking to (Defense) Secretary (James) Mattis. We will exhaust any way we can to deal with it. We have to."