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PMRF holds Change of Command Ceremony

BARKING SANDS — When U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Stevenson walked onto the stage at the Pacific Missile Range Facility aircraft hangar Thursday morning, he was in charge of a military school in Nevada.

When he left the stage, he was PMRF’s commanding officer.

“I can’t begin to properly express what an honor it is to lead this amazing, dedicated, tireless team of professionals,” said Stevenson in front of a crowd of several hundred sailors, visitors, family and friends at the Change of Command Ceremony.

“This moment isn’t about me. It’s about all of you, from the most junior sailor to our chief petty officers to our civilian workforce, to our tenant commands and stakeholders, this moment is about all of you and how we
partner together to accomplish our mission.”

Though not specifically prescribed by U.S. Navy regulations, the Change of Command Ceremony has become a facet of Naval tradition. The ceremony is intended to be formal and impressive in order to strengthen the respect for authority among the ranks.

It was a bittersweet ceremony, as Stevenson relieved Capt. Timothy Young, who became well-known in the community in his three-year stint as CO.

Though faced with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Young’s command was productive. Under his watch, they executed nearly 40,000 hours of range testing and training events, including providing support to RIMPAC 2020, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, which involved 10 nations, 22 ships, one submarine and about 5,300 personnel.

Young prioritized natural- and cultural-resource management resulting in PMRF, together with the federally recognized lineal descendants of Mana, sharing the prestigious Historic Hawai‘i Foundation 2020 Preservation Award for Achievement in New Construction for the Lua Kupapau O Nohili crypt. PMRF also placed third in the 2021 Commander, Naval Installation Command’s Installation Excellence Award.

“Captain Young’s steadfast leadership, when faced with unforeseen tragedy, was rock-solid,” said Rear Adm. Timothy Kott, Commander of Navy Region Hawai‘i and the Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, referring to a fatal helicopter crash on base involving civilian contractors. “His compassion, empathy and bedrock of professionalism, were hallmarks we desire in our leaders. He brings out the very best in all of us.”

Mayor Derek Kawakami thanked the outgoing officer, who he affectionately referred to as “Shorty.”

“The Navy must hand-pick the very best to come out and lead this base,” said Kawakami. “They have all been wonderful community partners, huge employers of not just West Kaua‘i residents but the whole island.”

His next assignment will be as the chief of staff, Carrier Strike Group Nine in San Diego.

Young presented the mayor with a paddle as a token of appreciation.

“I’m filled with gratitude and appreciation for all the support we had from the community and the team at PMRF,” said Young, who said he was leaving the post in good hands with Stevenson.

The ceremony was a mix of Native Hawaiian traditions and American military traditions, including a presentation of colors from the Waimea JROTC and a ceremonial warfare demonstration known as the mea kaua.

Five men from the group Ka Pa Imi He Lua — some of them holding shark-tooth weapons known as lei o mano — took part in a routine that included a ha‘a (warrior dance) and the passing of weapons to the military officers.

Stevenson’s previous assignments include leading the Airborne Electronic Attack Weapons School in the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center in Fallon, Nev., carrier deployments on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Abraham Lincoln, and flying missions in support of Operations Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

Stevenson, who grew up in the mountains of southern Oregon, enlisted in the Navy in 1990, and logged more than 4,450 flight hours over his 32-year career.

He hopes to prioritize community engagement in his time as commanding officer as restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic lift.

“As we move into a post-COVID regime,” Stevenson said, “one thing I definitely want to focus on is getting back to the community and connecting.”

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Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or gscrimgeour@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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