GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A historic change of command ceremony took place Thursday morning on the Seabee base in Gulfport. Military precision was on full display and so was the feeling of patriotism. It was made even more powerful by the Navy band. It was a changing of the guard, in front of family and friends, and a sea of white uniforms.
The new commander, Captain Cheryl Hansen, had nothing but good things to say about a base and a coast that has rebounded after the blow struck by Hurricane Katrina.
"I'm really impressed by the way this community has come back. And so there's been some strong leadership and some resilient people who have dedicated the time and the effort to bring this community back to life," Hansen exclaimed.
By accepting command of the Seabee base, Captain Hansen is making history. She's the first female commander in the history of the base, which dates back more than 50 years. She believes that sends a strong message.
"I think that opportunities are available to young women to be in science and technology, as well as in key leadership roles is unprecedented, at least in my lifetime. So I think it's significant in that light," the captain explained.
The former commander, Captain Paul Odenthal, plans on sticking around for awhile.
"I go from being the base CO to my largest tenant on the base, commanding the Seabee group that's down here as well, so I'm very excited to stay down here and continue to be part of this community," Odenthal said.
The guest speaker, a rear admiral in charge of Navy region southeast, praised the base, its people, and its mission.
"NCBC Gulfport is an amazing installation," gushed Rear Admiral Mary Jackson. "It's been here for so many years, but it's critical in terms of training warfighters that go to all corners of the globe."
Captain Odenthal took command of his new unit in a change of command ceremony that followed later in the day.