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Davis takes helm at base

After more than a decade away, Capt. Gerral David has returned to Whidbey Island.

David became commanding officer at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station during a ceremony late Friday morning. He is the first member of the P-3 Orion community to command the base.

He is taking over for Capt. Syd Abernethy, who is retiring after 26 years of service in the Navy.

More than a change of command, the hour-long ceremony highlighted Abernethy's tenure as commanding officer, which included earning top Naval installation in 2006 and being nominated for the same award in 2007.

Rear Adm. Robert Passmore applauded Abernethy's ability to work with personnel as well as civilians. He said Abernethy has strengthened ties between naval leaders and local, state and federal officials.

"He's involved people inside and outside the fence line," Passmore said. Of the accolades NAS Whidbey received in recent years, Passmore also pointed out the base received Composter of the Year honors.

Luke Viconti of Diversity Inc. spoke on behalf of Abernethy and the Navy's work on diversity.

Viconti said Abernethy's ideas on leadership helped the air station earn the top base award.

"Pulling it all together and being the Navy's greatest base is a remarkable accomplishment," Viconti said.

Hundreds of sailors and community leaders attended the ceremony in Hanger 6 on the base to watch the change of command.

Abernethy remembered the sailors from EOD Unit 11 who lost their lives in Iraq. He also thanked his family, co-workers and community leaders who helped make his tenure on Whidbey Island such a success.

When David started to speak, he pulled out an index card. He said his wife, Anne, told him the card was all the space he could use for his speech.

He hopes to continue on with the tradition of excellence as the aircraft that fly out of NAS Whidbey change.

"It's my goal, with your help, to continue to execute that vision," David said.

A Texas native, David graduated from the U.S Naval Academy in 1984 and he earned his wings a year later. When he came to Whidbey Island in 1994, he reestablished the Tactics / Special Projects Department for Patrol Wing 10.

Prior to assuming command of NAS Whidbey Island, he served as the Maritime Readiness Section Head and the Deputy Force Requirements Officer for Commander, Naval Air Forces at NAS North Island, Calif.

To mark Abernethy's retirement, the retiring captain went through a symbolic "Piping Ashore" during which he was accompanied by his family.

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