New commanding officer arrives

When the naval air station changes command next week, a bit of Navy history will take place. Instead of one jet jockey relieving another, Wednesday’s ceremony will see the more than 60-year-old air station return to its roots as a “P3 person” will take over from a “Prowler person.”

Capt. R. Sydney Abernethy III will relieve Capt. Stephen P. Black as commanding officer of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Oct. 13.

When the base was established in the early 1940s, large, loud PBY Catalina seaplanes roared into the air from Crescent Harbor to patrol shores of the West Coast up to Alaska and into Asia. While patrol and reconnaissance planes have always been stationed here, jets and their crews received much attention.

Abernethy will be the first commanding officer in at least 30 years to come from the patrol and reconnaissance community, according to Kim Martin, public affairs officer at NAS Whidbey Island.

Abernethy was raised in Annapolis, Md. He is a 1981 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. After commissioning, he reported to Naval Flight Officer training at NAS Pensacola, Fla. He completed advanced naval flight officer training and received his wings in March 1983.

Abernethy was then assigned to Antarctic Devron Six, NAS Point Mugu, Calif., in 1983. He made three six-month deployments to Antarctica.

In 1986, he was granted a transition to Fleet Air Reconnaissance. After electronic warfare training he reported to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One (VQ-1), based then at NAS Agana, Guam. VQ-1 is now stationed at NAS Whidbey Island.

Abernethy transferred in 1989 to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his tour, he deployed to Jubayl, Saudi Arabia, for the duration of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He was handpicked to return to Saudi Arabia during re-strike planning when Iraq failed to comply with sanctions.

He returned to VQ-1 in November 1992. His next assignment was with the Bureau of Naval Personnel as the aviation minority affairs officer until June 1996.

Abernethy served as VQ-2’s commanding officer in Rota, Spain. He worked for the Center for Career Development in Millington, Tenn., before joining the Chief of Naval Operation’s staff as Special Assistant for Minority Affairs.

Black took command Jan. 15, 2002. He will transfer to Washington, D.C., as a special advisor to the Vice President of the United States for Homeland Security Affairs and National Security Affairs.

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