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Our view: Navy Week flying high across Duluth

With three days of activities still to go — including divers at Great Lakes Aquarium today, the dedication of an anchor from the decommissioned USS Duluth on the Lakewalk this afternoon, a Movies in the Park screening of “Top Gun” this evening and the Blue Angels soaring overheard at the Duluth Airshow all weekend long — Rear Admiral David Duryea wasn’t ready Thursday to declare Navy Week in Duluth an unqualified, unparalleled success.

“But it has been a success in that every time I’ve talked with someone (in Duluth) I’ve gotten positive feedback and positive vibes,” the week’s admiral, or senior-most Naval official here for the event, said in an interview with members of the News Tribune editorial board. “My impression here is the people of Minnesota are incredibly patriotic. … What has impressed me most is the friendliness of the people.”

The point of a Navy Week is for that branch of our military to connect with a community that supports it but maybe doesn’t know a whole lot about it. The week is all about face-to-face and one-on-one time and sharing information. The Navy does that through acrobatic flying, diving demonstrations, musical performances and more.

Navy Weeks were launched in 2005 and have taken place 175 times, according to a News Tribune report earlier this week. Like Duluth’s Navy Week, they often are linked to a Blue Angels appearance. Last year, because of federal spending cuts under budget sequestration, no Navy Weeks were held. Duluth’s is one of only six this year, a number that will double in 2015.

While the Coast Guard is far more visible in the Twin Ports, residents here can think of the Navy each time an ocean-going freighter arrives or departs our port, Duryea and other naval officials said.

“We’re out there on the seas protecting the sea lanes of commerce,” he said. “About 90 percent of the world’s goods travel on the oceans these days. Our quality of life depends on it. … And the Navy’s out there to protect that and to make sure that the unimpeded flow of commerce continues so that we can enjoy the life that we do in our world today.”

The Navy also protects undersea cables.

“You know 95 percent of the international electronic communications and all communications happens on undersea cables, so you have to make sure those cables are secure and that traffic continues to flow, the emails, the websites, (and) all the financial transactions that happen between the banks in Europe and the Far East and us. Those communications lines need to remain consistent and continue to work.”

Naval officials said they’ve been received well and treated well in Duluth and Minnesota this week.

“It’s been fantastic,” Duryea said. “We want to get out to parts of the country that maybe don’t see a big Navy footprint and maybe don’t fully understand what we do so we can educate. Because it’s your tax dollars that pay for the Navy, so we want to make sure you see you’re getting your money’s worth — and we’re always looking for a few good men and woman. So it’s an opportunity, too, to interact with some of the parents and young folks who are deciding what they want to do. We are hiring.”

And the Navy is in Duluth en masse for another three days.