Ringing in a new commander at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach

Bosun (left) and bell-ringer await the start of the change-of-command ceremony. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.
Bosun (left) and bell-ringer await the start of the change-of-command ceremony. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

The change-of-command ceremony at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach begins (and ends) with a bosun’s whistle and a ship’s bell — arrival honors.

Color guard parades the colors from the rear to the space between the dais and the audience. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.
Color guard parades the colors from the rear to the space between the dais and the audience. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

Piping aboard at the beginning alerts everyone to stop jabbering and pay proper attention. The count of bell peals tolls the rank of those participating. A Navy captain gets two bells. A rear admiral gets four bells.

On Friday, July 26, the bell was rung four times when Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, Commander, Navy Region Southwest, was piped aboard. The bell was rung twice each for Captain Noel J. Dahlke, outgoing Commander, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, and for Captain Jason J. Sherman, incoming Commander, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, as the bosun piped aboard each, separately.

Family, friends and VIPs watched from shaded folding chairs.

More importantly, sailors of the command stood at ease to witness the change of command, so there would be no confusion over who was in charge.

After arrival honors, a color guard brought flags forward for the playing of the National Anthem. An invocation was offered by Chaplain William Thompson, US Army (retired).

Rear Admiral Bolivar served as guest speaker, beginning and ending her praise of both outgoing and incoming commanders with a hooyah!

Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, Commander, Navy Region Southwest. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.
Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, Commander, Navy Region Southwest. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

(It should be noted here that everyone participating in the ceremony was entirely serious about its import — which did not prevent a tiny running joke about the diminutive stature of Rear Admiral Bolivar. As he stepped to the podium after she spoke, Captain Dahlke adjusted the mike up and remarked that he did not often get to do that. When he in turn was followed by Captain Thompson, the joke was sustained by the yet taller incoming commander. Both Captains will report to Rear Admiral Bolivar in their new assignments. She was a good sport about the gentle ribbing.)

The heart of the ceremony is the reading of orders by the outgoing commander and by the incoming commander, witnessed by a higher ranking officer.

Captain Dahlke spoke first, then read his orders to relinquish command and report to San Diego. As is traditional, a bouquet was delivered to his wife, in the front row of the audience. He spoke with pride of formal awards of recognition earned over his tenure, and of successfully completing the process to gain approval for rebuilding the Station’s pier. (The California Coastal Commission withstood heavy fire.)

Captain Sherman spoke next, then read his orders to report to Seal Beach and take up command. He especially praised the resiliency of his young daughter through yet another cross-country relocation.

Command was relinquished, and command responsibility accepted, at the center of the dais and in front of Rear Admiral Bolivar, who it must be noted was smiling broadly. Captain Dalke returned Captain Sherman’s salute, they shook hands, and hugged. Then each Captain saluted Admiral Bolivar and shook her hand.

The new Commander of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach then met his wife on the grass in front of the dais so that she could pin on his new command insignia. Keeping with tradition, the insignia-pinning did not go smoothly but did get done.

The Chaplain offered a closing benediction, the VIPs were piped and rung off, and everyone was invited to the reception.

Chaplain William Thompson, USA (retired); Captain Noel J. Dahlke, USN; Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, USN; and Captain Jason J. Sherman, USN. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.
Chaplain William Thompson, USA (retired); Captain Noel J. Dahlke, USN; Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, USN; and Captain Jason J. Sherman, USN. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

Mission of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach

Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach
and its detachments
provide shore-based infrastructure support
to the Navy’s ordnance mission
and other fleet and fleet support activities.