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Navy Base Chief Rises to His New Challenge

April 24, 1998|JOHN CANALIS

As Capt. Andrew T. Hammond strode to the podium Thursday for a change-of-command ceremony at the Navy's Weapons Support Facility, he showed the audience the footstool he planned to mount for his farewell speech.

"I wanted to do that for years," the suddenly taller Hammond said from behind the podium. "Finally, I have the guts."

Hammond, 47, was able to stand tall after completing a difficult 33-month assignment where he oversaw a restructuring program that reduced base staffing by about 80 positions to the current 626, a spokesman said. Most jobs were cut through reassignment and early retirement packages. He also oversaw restructuring at other West Coast installments.

"Through that interesting time, Andrew Hamilton handled himself well, in a way befitting of a naval captain," said Rear Adm. William W. Cobb Jr., who attended the ceremony.

The Weapons Support Facility-Seal Beach, formerly the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, oversees bases from Seattle to San Diego. Hammond lauded his staff for supporting him through the changes and retaining commitment to their highly specialized jobs.

"It is these men and women at each of our sites that make a daily difference," he said. "They do the right thing for our Navy and Marine Corps, day in and day out."

Hammond is leaving the base for a diplomatic assignment in Malaysia.

At the ceremony, the new base commander, Capt. Thomas R. Bernitt, followed custom and read his new orders aloud. Bernitt, also 47, served as an officer in Operation Desert Storm and said Persian Gulf units relied heavily on weapons from Seal Beach.

"Because of the professionalism here, we conducted a war that was both short and extremely successful," he said. "I am grateful to be here in a great community with an extremely important mission."

Bernitt previously was stationed in San Diego. He will oversee Seal Beach for two years.

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