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Navy Ceremony Marks Changes at Seabee Base

July 02, 1998|NICK GREEN

In a dual-purpose ceremony redolent of pomp and circumstance, Port Hueneme's Seabee base not only changed commanders, but also management of the installation Wednesday.

And in doing so, it might save U.S. taxpayers a buck or two.

Dozens of dignitaries and more than 400 Seabees in crisp dress whites gathered to witness what Navy officials called a historic event on a parade ground bordered by a collection of imposing green trucks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment--the tools of the trade of the Naval Construction Battalion Center.

Two swift exchanges of the base's blue flag summed up the two events.

In the first, Rear Adm. David J. Nash--commander of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, which is relinquishing command of the base for the first time in its 56-year history--passed the flag to Rear Adm. Veronica Z. Froman, representing the incoming command, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

In the second, the base commander, Capt. Daniel Hambrock, passed the flag to his successor, Capt. James McConnell.

In seconds the two transfers were complete, leaving officials to fill out the hourlong event with speeches, golf stories and pageantry.

"We're honored to be the very first base in the Navy to conduct such a transfer," Hambrock said.

Apart from the formal and impressive ceremony--designed to reinforce the respect for authority vital to the military--the event served a practical purpose.

Budget cuts that have resulted in continuing defense downsizing were behind the change. Navy officials said the change will reduce administrative costs, allowing them to spend their money on planes rather than paper clips and reduce a $10-billion to $15-billion budget shortfall.

"We need to reduce our shore installation costs so we can buy new planes and equipment," Froman said. "The bottom line is, we're going to provide better service at a lower cost. . . . We can no longer do things as we have in the past."

And with that, the base entered a new cost-cutting era as the four high-ranking Navy officers each climbed into one of a quartet of white mid-size sedans to leave the parade ground.

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