Capt. Matthew Arny became the new commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in August. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Capt. Matthew Arny became the new commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in August. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

New commanding officer living the dream

A career in the Navy was Capt. Matthew Arny’s plan since first grade.

His father was an F-4 Phantom II pilot, and Arny remembers giving a presentation to his first-grade class that he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps and fly the same aircraft.

“I’ve just always had it in me,” said Arny, sitting at a long wooden desk at Ault Field. A coffee mug with the letters “CO,” for commanding officer, printed on it sat on the table in front of him.

He succeeded Capt. Geoffrey Moore as the base’s skipper last month.

Though he never flew Phantoms, Arny did serve tours as an F-14 B and F/A-18F flight officer after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1993. The multi-role F/A-18F Superhornet served as the basis for the EA-18G Growler.

His career —- which includes over 3,000 flights hours, sea and shore tours across the globe, and disaster relief operations —- brought him to Whidbey in August. He had heard about Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and its “excellent reputation” throughout his time in the Navy.

“I know that most people who come here, enjoy their time here and a lot of them choose to stay,” Arny said. “So that’s a really good indicator for not only the installation but the community and the area.”

So far, the base, which recently won best large installation from Naval Installations Command, has lived up to its reputation, he said.

Arny officially took command Aug. 17, and since then he’s noticed the concept of “Team Whidbey” shine through in all day-to-day operations.

“It’s not just about your command, it’s what’s going on as a greater team and what the needs are of other organizations as we work together to try and achieve our goals of mission readiness,” he said.

To achieve these goals, he said, the most important thing he can do is provide consistent leadership. A number of changes are already in motion, such as the transition to the P-8 Poseidon aircraft, construction projects that support the transition and new facilities to support operations of the unmanned MQ-4C Triton.

He said most of the changes he anticipates making will be small improvements in day-to-day tasks to maximize efficiency.

Part of the work he is inheriting includes efforts to put a filter on Coupeville’s water system after toxic PFOA chemicals from the Navy’s firefighting foam was detected. The base also tests wells and provides bottled water to affected areas. He said a priority is to track the water filter project to ensure it’s completed as quickly as possible.

He also said he’ll continue to work with the town with regard to noise generated by Growler landing practices at Outlying Field Coupeville and its impact.

“My plans are really to continue our agreements on operations moving forward while we stay within the scope of the record of decision.”

The final Environmental Impact Statement for adding Growlers to NAS Whidbey is expected to be released in early October, and the Navy’s record of decision should come by early December, according to Navy officials.

Arny said he’ll also begin to discuss housing issues in the area after the record of decision is made.

When Arny isn’t coming up to speed on his new job, he said he and his family enjoy exploring the area. Since arriving in July, the family has traveled from Bellingham to Langley in an effort to get outside and get to know the community.

Arny’s two young sons are avid Junior Ranger participants, and he said he’s appreciated the opportunities available at the state parks on the island. Arny said he enjoys being in nature with his wife and kids, whether that’s skiing or being on the water.

Being part of a family unit is one of Arny’s core values. He said growing up that went along with the importance of integrity and work ethic. He now wraps his own personal values into those of the Navy.

“I’ve just spent so much time in the Navy now,” he said, “it always comes back to honor, courage and commitment.”

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