SF Fleet Week showcases more than just the ships and air shows

Friday night at Fleet Week showed a different side of the U.S. Navy, as the U.S. Navy's rock band performed at Pier 39 for one of the dozens of community concerts scheduled throughout the city for the event.

The air show with the Blue Angels will be held on Saturday and Sunday starting at 12:18 p.m. daily. 

The concerts, however, provide an opportunity to showcase the other ways military members serve.

"[The] typical hire we bring in has a master’s degree in music," said Lt. Matt Shea, the leader of the Navy Band Southwest. "We all come together to form a giant ceremonial band to support military events and then from that group, we break up into all these smaller groups. So we have a brass quintet, a woodwind quintet, we have the rock band. We became musicians, we want to perform, and it's such an honor to be able to do that and represent our country at the same time."

Also on Friday, members of the Navy's "Stewards of the Sea" environmental program brought their turtle mascot to explain how the Navy has an environmental team that works to reduce trash, keep marine mammals out of training areas, and try to protect the oceans and sea life.

"We're the ones out there making sure that wherever we're at, whether it's a range or whether it's out in the ocean doing maneuvers we're not hurting the environment," said Sergio Hernandez, the U.S. Navy public affairs officer for 'Stewards of the Sea,' program. "If there's going to be any damage to the environment, we're the ones who are going to go in there and say ‘Hey, look, this may not be the perfect place to go.’"

Since Fleet Week began in 1981, there have been critics who say the event is a waste of resources and a glorification of the military.

The City of San Francisco stated on its website that "SFFW also features a unique training and education program that brings together civilian and military forces to develop and share best practices in humanitarian assistance."

This year's event is dedicated to the late Senator Dianne Feinstein who helped launch the event when she was mayor of San Francisco.

Many local non-profits and businesses say the Fleet Week crowds brought a welcome boost of energy and attention.

"While we're offering some souvenirs to the people who are coming out to see the show, we're also spreading the word about our program and services," said Maria Smith, who was staffing a booth for the Positive Directions Equals Changes non-profit.

The large crowds and full hotels were welcome to many businesses that are trying to rebound from tough economic times.

"The lobby's packed. There's a ton of energy in the Wharf right now. It's an amazing time to be here," said Tony Roumph with the Argonaut Hotel.