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The Evergreen Fleet Cruise sets course

Bringing military leaders and civilians together

The Blackjack, captained by Phil Fields, cruises out of Gig Harbor as part of the Evergreen Fleet Cruise. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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For decades, the Evergreen Fleet Cruise has been an annual tradition hosted by the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce and the Tacoma Yacht Club. With a goal of fostering networking and community links between civilian and military leaders, more than 200 attendees and 18 yachts participated in this year's event, which was held June 21.

Military personnel from local installations and commands and leaders from local businesses and government are invited by the chamber to attend the event.

"The Tacoma Yacht Club skippers, many who have military service themselves, generously invest their time and resources by hosting military guests and chamber attendees on their most remarkable vessel," said Jennifer Chernut, Member Programs coordinator, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.

Phil Fields, captain of The Blackjack and a member of the Tacoma Yacht Club Board of Trustees, has been attending the event for a few years.

"It is a lot of fun," he said. "Last year, we had soldiers that had only been back from Afghanistan for three weeks, and it was a nice break for them. One soldier from the Midwest had never been on the water before."

This year's event began with breakfast at the Tacoma Yacht Club.  Each attendee was assigned to a boat and captain, and there was a good mix of civilians and military on each boat. At departure time, the yachts slipped by the ferry at Point Defiance and motored over to Gig Harbor for a view of the town from the water. The cruise continued through the narrows and under the Narrows Bridge to the Tacoma Yacht Club's Wollochet Bay Outstation. Guests enjoyed a flag ceremony followed by a picnic lunch with the opportunity to mingle and network. After lunch, the boats returned to Point Defiance and the Tacoma Yacht Club to end the day.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is the only military installation in the country where the local community initially purchased and donated land for the base. This has fostered a great military and civilian partnership over the years, and the local community is very supportive of the military.

"JBLM has grown to be one of the largest employers in the state, and the economic relationship the community has with the base is incredible, but there are so many reasons to be truly supportive of the installation," Chamber Veteran and Business Coordinator Rachel Turner-Bensen said. "This event allows the business community to convey the message of utmost and sincere appreciation for the service and sacrifices made by our military as they have chosen to serve our country."

The chamber had many sponsors that helped make the event a success. America's Credit Union and Harborstone Credit Union served as presenting sponsors. Waste Connections sponsored breakfast. Veteran Made Apparel sponsored lunch. Other sponsors included the Association of the United States Army - Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter; the Air Force Association - McChord Field Chapter; GTM Transformations, LLC; the Better Business Bureau; and the National Guard Association of Washington.

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