New Sailors Shun Legacy Of Rowdiness

EVERETT - Edward Stratton II has spent so much time at sea on the USS Ingraham, he openly admits he's sick of it.

So when he can get off the ship for three hours, Stratton, 24, goes straight to the Commons recreation center at the Everett home port to find a computer.

Asked why he joined the Navy four years ago, the Rhode Island native's answer was to the point: "I needed the money." Asked what his future plans are, Stratton says simply, "Harvard business school."

He, like many of his fellow sailors, has different goals than some of the older Navy men who choose to stay on the ship, relax or grab a beer.

He's part of the "new Navy," and this week, Everett got members in droves with the arrival yesterday of the 3,200-crew USS Abraham Lincoln.

"A lot of people still think of a Navy town as tattoos and taverns, but that's not true anymore," said Sandra Howes, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce in Bremerton, home to some 8,300 sailors. "The old stereotype of the drunken sailor is definitely not the case today."

Many of those joining the Navy now are career-conscious, technology-savvy professionals who may do volunteer work in the community.

Most are young men, and an increasing number are young women, who are right out of high school or college. In Everett, 10 percent of the new crew are women. Nearly half the crew is married.

Fifteen years ago, Bremerton Police had a problem keeping prostitutes away from the Puget Sound Naval Ship Yard, said Bremerton Police Department Capt. Craig Rogers.

These days, Bremerton police say crime attributed to sailors has been negligible.

They say their biggest problem with the sailors is traffic congestion.

Everett Police Chief Jim Scharf said he expects the Navy to have a "very minor impact on the city," when it comes to crime. He said he expects a few thefts, domestic disputes and some prostitution problems.

"It has to do with the kind of person joining the Navy now. They are more career-oriented," Scharf said. "It's totally different than 30 years ago."

Dick Bennett, president of the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce, said the modern sailor is a major asset to the community.

"You'll see sailors coaching soccer teams, tutoring kids in math, using their spare time to fix up churches, playgrounds or volunteering for blood drives," Bennett said.

Dave Harper, a 32-year-old sailor, walked into the Everett Police Department in November and asked if he could volunteer. He was the third sailor to ask. Since then, Harper has been at the police station twice, entering police data into a computer.

"Back in my day, you went to the beach and went surfing on your time off," said Everett Police spokesman Elliott Woodall, who served 26 years in the Navy. "You certainly didn't go and volunteer your time at the police department."

Navy officials say the new breed of men and women joining the Navy today are more strait-laced because of the Navy's selection process. "It's like a buyer's market for the recruiters," Woodall said.