Story by PO2 Marc Cuenca on 08/31/2019OAK HARBOR, Wash. Capt. Steven A. Kewish relieved Capt. Christine L. G. Sears as commanding officer of Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor's (NHCOH) during a change of command ceremony on Ault Field, August 30.
Sears served as the NHCOH commanding officer since July 2017, providing exemplary leadership for NHCOH, and guided the command through periods of demanding, transformational, and historic change undergoing a 35-million-dollar modernization project effecting more than 45 percent of the medical facility completed in July 2019. Sears steered the delivery of high-quality patient care to those onboard Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, providing surgical, medical, mental health, dental, and public health support to the more than 50 tenant commands, 22 deploying squadrons, and 28,000 beneficiaries.
Sears' decorations include the National Defense Medal (two), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (three), Meritorious Service Medal, (4), and numerous academic awards.
Rear Adm. Timothy H. Weber, commander of Navy Medicine West, presented Sears with the Legion of Merit award for her outstanding service citing specific accomplishments such as leading the implementation of the Electronic Health Record, Military Health System, GENESIS, enabling the command's unmitigated success as the first Department of Defense site to undergo Joint Commission Accreditation.
"Captain Sears knows there is no greater honor than to lead Sailors in the command," said Weber. "NHCOH is a command that delivers readiness, quality and health to the armed forces and their family, but also embodies the Navy's core attributes, integrity accountability, initiative and toughness. With Capt. Sears at the helm this command has charted a steady course."
The staff of NHCOH also presented Sears with personalized gifts in honor of her time serving as the commanding officer. Lt. Tammy Nguyen bequeathed Sears a large wooden bowl engraved with the NHCOH C.A.R.E.S. philosophy filled with yarn and knitting needles dedicated in her name. Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Michael Zina gifted an engraved hat box from the NHCOH Chiefs Mess to preserve the cover Sears wore as the commanding officer of NHCOH. Sears expressed her gratitude for the gifts as Command Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Stanley Kaneshiro gave his personal remarks.
"You have kept the command, our team, safe focused, and motivated to be our very best, especially during rough seas," said Kaneshiro. "Leadership is truly shown during these times, and you have always been the anchor that kept our command from drifting and the compass to lead us which overcame every storm."
After Kaneshiro finished his personal remarks he opened the floor up for Sears to make her final speech as commanding officer of NHCOH.
Sears said that her time as commanding officer of NHCOH was an honor and privilege. Sears thanked her friends and family for always supporting her. Sears cited her husband as one of the biggest supporters in her career expressing her love and gratitude towards him for the
sacrifices he made for her career. Sears also thanked the contractors and hospital staff of NHCOH with a written letter addressed to them on back of the change of command brochures.
"We are amazing, because you are amazing. It is truly the people that make this command what it is," said Sears. "We provide readiness, quality and health for the armed forces and family and we do so every day."
The ceremony advanced to the reading of orders of Kewish, oncoming commanding officer of NHCOH as he officially relieved Sears as commanding officer of NHCOH. Following the reading of official orders, Kewish's son, Mori Kewish, pinned the command pin insignia on his uniform.
Kewish then approached the podium and spoke as the new commanding officer of NHCOH.
"Capt. Sears thank you for leaving me such a fantastic command," said Kewish. "The facility looks amazing and you and your team have set a very high benchmark that is now my responsibility to emulate and succeed. I shall endeavor to ensure we have everything we need to
accomplish our mission and I expect the staff to keep me in line with that. I look forward to meeting each and everyone in the command and those in the community in the following weeks."