By Staff

Naval Air Station Jacksonville began a new chapter in its 76-year history Aug. 18 with the appointment of Capt. Sean P. Haley as the installation's 47th commanding officer. 

Guest speaker Rear Adm. Mary Jackson, commander Navy Region Southeast, welcomed outgoing Commanding Officer Capt. Howard Wanamaker; Command Chaplain (Cmdr.) Dennis Andrews; and Command Master Chief CMDCM(AW/SW) Jeffery Waters, to round out the official party on the stage at NAS Jacksonville Hangar 117.

The change of command ceremony concluded an exceptionally accomplished tour for the departing Wanamaker, who also invited guests to be part of his retirement ceremony, following the change of command event. 

Jackson began her remarks by saying, "Command is the pinnacle achievement in a naval officer's career. It is the ultimate vote of confidence by one's superiors where only the best of the best are chosen. It is a job that brings immense personal satisfaction - and unrelenting pressure.

She added, "Today, we transfer command of NAS Jacksonville from one proven leader to another. Howard is a remarkable strategic thinker, and I have been repeatedly impressed by his expansive knowledge ('typical aviator' she said with a smile). During his command he exhibited the heart of a warrior and the compassion of a true leader."

"Howard also knows the value of collaboration - an absolute necessity at a naval base of this size. And, as the face of the Navy ashore, the relationship that he nurtured and forged with our Northeast Florida neighbors is one of our greatest treasures. We could not complete our mission if it were not for the support from our surrounding community.

"Fortunately, in the Navy, we are absolutely blessed - because as one outstanding commander moves on, another arrives to take his or her place. When you read Sean Haley's biography it is clear that he is more than ready to continue Jacksonville's record of excellence. Plus, I know he's really excited to get his name on that sign in front of the main gate. 

"Capt. Haley, I wish you and your family the very best for continued success. My commitment to you as the regional commander is to support your team, so you can support your mission. Call anytime. We exist for NAS Jacksonville. Congratulations."

Wanamaker weighed in with his remarks, "It is truly a great honor and privilege for me to welcome you this morning on behalf of the 20,000 men and women onboard the third-largest naval installation in the world. This is the ceremony in which we recognize past accomplishments, thank those who made it possible, and welcome new leadership to take the helm. Thank you all for taking time out of your day to join us here this morning." 

"About 18 months ago, I spoke about the book, "Outliers," by Malcolm Gladwell. Outside of Bangor, Pennsylvania lies a small town called Roseto, largely settled by Italian immigrants.

In 1961, a man by the name of Dr. Wolf wanted to find out why this close-knit community exhibited half the national average for death by heart disease - an outlier.

The statistics were at odds with a number of other factors observed within the community. The residents smoked unfiltered cigarettes, drank lots of wine, and ate fried meatballs and sausages. What Dr. Wolf slowly realized was that the secret of Roseto wasn't diet or exercise, or genes, or the region where they lived. The secret to their good health was the community itself. 

After much study, Wolf attributed the lower heart disease rate to lower stress. "The community," Wolf says, "was very cohesive."  

He began to study how the residents cared for one another and communicated. In order to really understand Roseto and their lack of heart disease, you have to look beyond the individual. You have to understand their culture and their friends and families. 

You must appreciate the idea that a community - the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with - has a profound effect on who we are. That's why my family and I are putting roots down in Jacksonville!

Haley began his remarks with advice from his sons, Ryan and Jake. "When I assumed command of HSM-74 a few years back, my boys gave me some sage advice, 'Dad, don't talk too long because the cake might spoil.'  Who can argue with that logic? For those of you concerned about the survival of the cake, I assure you my remarks will be brief.   

Today's ceremony is, in fact, a bittersweet event. 

In a few minutes we will say farewell to a shipmate and a friend - a man who has led this installation through an enormous period of transition. Howie, we didn't know each other when I arrived at NAS Jax 18 months ago, but I believe we forged a partnership, built a foundation of excellence, and had a helluva lot of fun along the way. Rest assured that your legacy here will exist for years to come.  I truly appreciate your guidance and mentorship and will always remember our late night 'strategy sessions' at Mulligans.

"Howie, it's been an absolute honor and privilege to work with you these past 18 months, but most importantly, Annamaria and I are better people for having gotten to know you and Teri.  The Navy is losing a tremendous officer, but I take some personal solace in the fact that you've elected to retire here in Jacksonville. Fair Winds and Following Seas, my friend."

Haley continued, "Winston Churchill said that we sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us."

He was referring to the outstanding men and women of NAS Jacksonville - true patriots, who stand ready to defend our freedoms, protect our nation's interests and preserve our way of life.  

Each of these talented men and women has sworn an oath not to a person or an ideology, but to a simple document - the United States Constitution.  In that oath, Officers and Sailors all affirm they will quite simply put them last and place the needs of their country, their ship, their squadron, their unit, and their shipmates ahead of their own personal needs and desires. Therein lies the magic of the United States Navy. It is not the latest technology nor most advanced weaponry that define our excellence.  

It is the men and women standing here in formation, along with their civilian partners, that pledge to never let their country and their shipmates down - that make our Navy and Marine Corps the envy of the world. 

Ladies and gentlemen of Team JAX, it is an absolute honor and privilege to stand before you today as your 47th Commanding Officer. We must continue to remain laser focused on our mission to Sustain the Fleet, Enable the Warfighter and Support the Family. 

To achieve that mission, my guiding principles are simple and straightforward:  

1. We must be Mission Ready at all times.  We must continue to train like we fight, striving for perfection by excelling at the basics.

2. We must treat each other, our tenants, and our customers with dignity and respect as we continue to provide the best service in the Fleet 

3. We must encourage innovation and improvement at every opportunity, while empowering those in our charge to lead. 

4.  Finally, we must continue to foster and build upon our outstanding relationship with the community.  We are so very fortunate to call this community our home and there is no finer military partner in this country than the great City of Jacksonville.

Admiral Jackson, Team JAX, stands Mission Ready for any and all assignments.

May God continue to bless this installation, our Navy and the United States of America.  

XO, all orders and directives remain in effect, take charge and carry out the plan of the day.