MILTON — Naval Air Station Whiting Field Command Master Chief Lee Stephens retired after 30 years of service to the U.S. Navy in a Jan. 18 ceremony onboard the installation, among family, friends and shipmates.

Stephens served as the command master chief beginning April 2016, culminating 30 years of Naval service.

The ceremony was full of Navy tradition and included the reading of the "Old Glory" reading and flag pass, shadowbox presentation, reading of the chief petty officer retirement creed, "the Navy Wife" and "The Watch." Guests included many former shipmates who traveled from far and wide to take part in honoring Stephens’ naval career.

Cmdr. Gil Clark, Commanding Officer of Afloat Training Group, Western Pacific, was the guest speaker for the ceremony. Clark spoke about serving with Stephens aboard USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) and wished him the best as he moves forward following his retirement.

"For 30 years Lee, you stood the watch with honor, courage and commitment. Now we will relieve him. This truly is the American dream, a retired master chief, a teacher and two beautiful kids that are starting to walk down their own paths," Clark said.

Clark went on to say, "it has honestly been one of the most cherished professional relationships that I have had working with Lee, even better I made a life-long friend."

A native of Orlando, Fla., Stephens entered naval service in 1989 after completing basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois. He then attended Operations Specialist "A" School at Fleet Combat Training Center Atlantic Virginia Beach, Va. His assignments and deployments include the USS MacDonough (DDG 39), USS Reasoner (FF 1063), Fleet Area and Surveillance Facility Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Antietam (CG 54), USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), Fleet Area and Surveillance Facility, Jacksonville, Fla., Joint Special Operations Center, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. USS Vicksburg (CG 69), Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., USS The Sullivans’ (DDG 68), and NAS Whiting Field.

Stephens thanked his family and showed appreciation for their support before presenting his wife, April, and daughter, Hannah, with flowers. After the passing of the flag ceremony, he presented his son, Logan, with the American flag.

"I am honored to be a part of the legacy of serving our country, and I am proud to have served alongside every man and woman who volunteered to continue to preserve the liberties and freedoms that our veterans fought so hard to establish and defend," Stephens said.

About NAS Whiting Field: Naval Air Station Whiting Field, home of Training Air Wing FIVE, is the backbone of Naval Aviation Training, supporting approximately 60 percent of all primary fixed-wing flight training and 100 percent of all initial helicopter training for the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps. NAS Whiting Field is the busiest aviation complex in the world with more than 973,000 flight operations flown at the installation last year. It is comprised of two main airfields and 12 Navy outlying landing fields across four counties in Southeast Alabama and Northwest Florida.