MILTON — Naval Air Station Whiting Field observed a time-honored Navy tradition Monday, Dec. 18 at the Clyde E. Lassen Auditorium, where command of the air station passed from one officer to another.
Capt. Paul Bowdich accepted command of NAS Whiting Field from Capt. Todd Bahlau following Bahlau’s three-year tour at the helm. The change of command ceremony is a Navy tradition that enables the two officers to formally exchange duties in front of the assembled military and civilian staff. It is also a time to recognize accomplishments of the outgoing "Skipper" in front of his family and friends.
Bahlau’s leadership of the installation included supporting the aviation training mission of Training Air Wing FIVE. Under his guidance, NAS Whiting Field provided air traffic control, emergency fire and rescue services, and runway and grounds maintenance to more than 13,000 acres of property and 4,500 nautical square miles of airspace, supporting the safe execution of 415,239 aircraft flight hours, and 4 million flight evolutions, as well as classroom and simulator training/support for 3,945 student naval aviators.
Productivity at the 14 airfields under Bahlau’s direct control supported Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and allied forces operations, equating to 65 percent of the entire Chief of Naval Aviation Training annual flight curriculum and accounted for 11 percent of the Department of Defense’s annual flight hours.
Under his leadership, NAS Whiting Field was honored with 50 higher headquarter awards, including CNIC and Association of Defense Communities Installation Excellence Awards, CNO Retention and Environmental awards, and the USS Brainbridge Navy Community Service Overall Excellence Award.
NAS Whiting Field will be one of the last duty stations in Bahlau’s career as he will move on to his last assignment with the Miami University ROTC Unit in Oxford, Ohio.
His previous commands include:The "Grandmasters" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 46 (HSL-46) The "Airwolves" of HSL-40, Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12 (CCDG-12) Chief of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C., USCENTCOM The "Dragons" of the 33rd Flying Training Squadron at Vance AFB Headquarters International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan United States Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
Bowdich, who becomes the installation’s 42nd commanding officer, brings a wealth of experience as an aviator. A native of Berkley, Michigan, he is a 1994 graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, in Kings Point, New York and was designated a Naval aviator in April 1997.
Bowdich’s first operational assignment was with the Fleet Angels of HC-2 with two deployments to Manama, Bahrain. Following this assignment he completed detachments with Commander Second Fleet onboard the USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) and the USS Enterprise (CVN 65).
His other assignments include: Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC-2) with detachments to the USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) for Operation Strong Resolve, in which he flew with NAS Oceana SAR, NAS Pensacola SAR and NAS Key West SAR; USS Ogden (LPD 5) in San Diego, California, Air Boss during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom; and The Merlins of HSC-3 and a deployment to Barking Sands, Hawaii.
Bowdich reported to the Naval War College to earn a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. He reported to the Coalition Coordination Center U.S. Central command; following this assignment he reported to Training Air Wing FIVE as executive officer of Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHT to become commanding officer from December 2011 until April 2013.
Bowdich then reported to the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVJN 71) with a deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. His last assignment before taking over command with NAS Whiting Field was to Naval Education and Training Command, Pensacola.
Commander Navy Region Southeast Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar served as the guest speaker for the change of command.