Story by Julius Evans on 03/22/2019Cdr. Steve Aboona assumed command of Naval Medical Logistics Command (NMLC), relieving Capt. Tim Richardson in a ceremony held on Fort Detrick, Maryland on March 15.
Well attended by family members, friends and co-workers from current and previous commands of both participants, Capt. Richardson thanked the NMLC staff for the unprecedented amount of success the command achieved during his tenure in his remarks to relinquish command.
Since August 2017, the command earned high praise and awards that included the Logistician of the Year Award, the Surgeon General's Blue H' Award for Retention, successfully completing the Medical Inspector General inspection and successfully completing the Naval Supply Systems Command's Procurement Performance Measurement and Assessment Program inspection.
Rear Adm. Tina Davidson, Commander, Navy Medical Education Training, and Logistics Command, expressed her pleasure in having Richardson as her deputy commander when he reports to his next duty station in April 2019.
Rear Adm. Davidson, who served as the ceremony's presiding officer, also praised Cdr. Aboona as he prepared to take command of NMLC. "After having served as the deputy commander, you already know your outstanding team and you have had the opportunity to wear the shoes as the acting commander at various times," she said. "We are witness to your talent, your expertise and your leadership. With you in the lead, Navy Medicine will continue to ensure that you are well equipped to meet the forces afloat and warfighters' needs each and every time. I wish you all the best and I look forward to working with you."
Capt. Richardson departed NMLC after one tour of duty, knowing he left the command in good hands. "We've been able to pull together a great team of leaders, managers, contracting professionals and special assistants to address and resolve the evolving world-wide medical crises," Capt. Richardson said in an interview with a local newspaper reporter.
He thanked his upper echelon chain of command and praised the support they provided that allowed him to engage the largest transformation in Navy Medicine in decades, as administrative control of all Military Treatment Facilities is transferred from the military services to the Defense Health Agency. He then turned his attention to the staff he described with passion and affection.
"I led an incredible team. Not just NMLC, but Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command, Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity and NMLC Detachment Pirmasens, Germany. You have helped me express a shared understanding of our primary mission of becoming a ready medical force. I feel honored to have served as your commanding officer and as your commander," he said with compassion. "I am extremely proud to have had this opportunity. You are what makes the tour a success. Be proud of what you have accomplished. You are truly a winning team. No commanding officer earns success in all the achievement we have earned together, without a solid team."
At the conclusion of Capt. Richardson's remarks, NMLC's Deputy Commander and Master of Ceremonies Cdr. Matthew Marcinkiewicz invited Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Joe Marshall Jr., to offer his comments.
Mr. Marshall thanked the Richardson and the Aboona families for their support throughout the careers of their loved ones and he thanked them for being present at the ceremony. Then, turning his attention to honorees, he said, "Let me start by thanking both of you for inviting me to speak today. I've worked with both of you for some time and we have had many cherished memories."
He shared with the audience two separate, personal work-related stories, one with Capt. Richardson and then one with Cdr. Aboona, demonstrating the long history each man has shared with Mr. Marshall at different commands. Then, he said we have come to witness a time-honored Navy tradition of passing the rungs of leadership from one Shipmate to another. "Cdr. Aboona, you are probably feeling a little overwhelmed right now, but go forward, be focused and we know you are going to do a great job."
After receiving a warm welcome, Cdr. Aboona thanked select audience members and then took a moment to recognize Lt.(Ret)., Michael Meadows, MSC, USN, a long-time personal friend and mentored who influenced Cdr. Aboona throughout their 21-year friendship dating back to their time at Middle Tennessee State University. Coincidentally, Capt. Richardson also knew Mr. Meadows when they were both in the United States Air Force stationed together in Arizona.
As he continued his speech, silence fell among the audience as their attention was captured by the most sentimental moment of the ceremony.
"To my wife Maria, you are the source of my strength, my life and my rock. Thank you for your patience and support, during the constant changes in military life and the demands of executive medicine. On top of your career as a family nurse practitioner, having spent countless hours sometimes in the middle of the night with no sleep caring for patients, some who are veterans, I know it's not easy," Cdr. Aboona said. "Thank you for your generosity helping those around us with such grace and compassion. You may not wear the uniform, but you wear the fabric of the nation in my eyes. Thank you."
The audience erupted in applause after Cdr. Aboona's heart-felt tribute to his wife. He ended with a quote that has inspired him over the years and is the reason why he serves.
"Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It's a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have," Cdr. Aboona said, quoting President Ronald Reagan.
With this, the official ceremonial portion of the program began. In the Change of Command, the Chief of Naval Operations states, "the responsibility of the commanding officer for his or her command is absolute, and the authority is commensurate with his or her responsibility. While the commanding officer may, at his or her discretion, delegate authority to subordinates for the execution of details, such delegation of authority shall in no way relieve the commanding officer of continued responsibility for the safety, well-being, and efficiency of the entire command."
As each man approached the presiding officer and rendered crisp hand salutes, Cdr. Aboona turned to Capt. Richardson and said, "Sir, you stand relieved," signifying authority had changed hands.