It’s time for Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and the surrounding community to say goodbye to Commanding Officer Capt. Geoff “Jefe” Moore and welcome aboard a new leader, Capt. Matthew “Flounder” Arny.
At a change of command ceremony Friday morning at the base’s Indoor Wash Rack Facility, the transfer of authority to the new commanding officer was made official.
The Navy Northwest Band, NAS Whidbey Island Color Guard and Beatriz Campos, who sang the national anthem, gave the ceremony a patriotic opening with a backdrop of an enormous American flag.
Moore led NAS Whidbey Island for two and a half years, in which time the base was chosen by Installations Command as the top large Navy installation in the country for 2016 and 2018. The base also won numerous other high-level Navy awards.
“When I was slated to come here to NAS Whidbey Island, my mentor told me how great a place this was and he definitely was not wrong,” Moore said. “Before I started my journey up here to the Pacific Northwest, he gave me three pieces of advice — one, focus on supporting the operational readiness of the units assigned to the installation; two, build a strong sense of community; and three, take care of the Navy families. That guidance has served me well through my time here.”
Moore thanked the audience for attending and acknowledged some notable attendees, including state Sen. Barbara Bailey, Rep. Norma Smith, Island County commissioners Helen Price Johnson, Jill Johnson and Rick Hannold, Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns, Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes, Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau and Port Townsend Mayor Deborah Stinson.
Representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Maria Cantwell, Rep. Rick Larsen and Gov. Jay Inslee also attended.
Guest speaker Rear Adm. Dell Bull spoke about the symbiotic relationship between the base and the local community and told Arny that he is welcome as the new commanding officer.
“I couldn’t be more happy that you’re going to take on the legacy that Jefe left behind and the wonderful commanding officers before him to run the best base on the planet,” Bull said. “Lord willing, the unique capability of this base and this base’s community will continue for many years to come.”
Moore was presented with a Legion of Merit award in honor of his service.
“I will cherish this medal because it symbolized not what I did, but what we accomplished,” he said. “Coming to work every day is easy, when the people you work with inspire you with their dedication to a life of service…I believe one of the secrets behind our base’s success is that everybody does their job with pride.”
Moore’s next assignment will be with Naval District Washington in Washington D.C., as the chief staff officer.
He spoke about the many things he will miss about living on Whidbey Island, such as living near three national parks, flying with the “best SAR unit in the nation,” seeing bald eagles and being able to raise his children in a community of simple, down-home values.
“It has truly been an honor to be your commanding officer,” he said, “and it absolutely has been an honor to be your shipmate, but the greatest honor of all has been the opportunity to be your teammate.”
Moore said he has no doubt Arny is the right person to sustain the success of NAS Whidbey Island.
“I only have one piece of advice — the whole team in front of you is standing by to support you,” he said. “All you have to do is ask.”
Arny is a native of Alexandria, Va., and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1993. He has logged over 3,000 flight hours and had assignments including tours aboard USS George Washington, USS John F. Kennedy, the USS Enterprise and the USS Abraham Lincoln. He earned a master’s of arts in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College and a masters in business administration from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. He has participated in operations, including Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn in Iraq, Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Tomodachi in Japan.
Arny said that after living six places in seven years with his wife Samar and two young children, he’s glad to finally find a home in Oak Harbor.
“There are three succinct phrases I have developed in my career and my life — serve proudly, choose to be happy and follow your core values,” he said. “I am humbled and excited to be here today assuming command of this great NAS Whidbey Island. And I’m proud to be a member of team Whidbey and our community… I am confident in our ability to succeed and in my ability to proudly serve you in this role.”
Friday’s ceremony marked the 38th change of command since the base was established in 1942. The base is the Navy’s only air station in the Pacific Northwest. The installation employs over 8,400 active duty military and over 2,100 Department of Defense civilians and full-time contract employees.