News Release, US Navy
PATUXENT RIVER (NNS) —NAS Patuxent River Commanding Officer (CO) Capt. Jason Hammond carried out his final duty for the U.S. Navy April 11, turning over command of the air station to Executive Officer Capt. Christopher Cox before a crowd of Sailors, coworkers, and well-wishers in Hangar 306.
The use of Hangar 306, part of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20, was in recognition of the squadron’s allowing Hammond the opportunity to fly a C-12 with them throughout his tour at Pax.
For Hammond, who ended a satisfying 26-year naval career, it was all about the military life – the ability to be part of a team, and the opportunity to be part of something bigger than himself.
Choosing the Navy
With a college professor father and a high school librarian mother, young Jason Hammond wanted to do something completely different with his life. His interest in flying had developed from typical kid stuff, including having once seen the Blue Angels perform on television; and he made the decision to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
“Going to the naval academy looked cool, the Navy looked cool, and I’d be lying if I said there was a deeper reason,” Hammond said, chuckling. “There was no military background in my family except for grandparents who were drafted during World War II. My father literally said to me, ‘I can’t help you with that, I have no idea what it is or what it means.’”
At the academy, Hammond said he was initially “shell shocked” and it took him a while to go from being an overwhelmed teen to someone who could function successfully in that type of environment.
“I was a small-town Kentucky boy and my roommates joked later that they weren’t sure I could read when I first got there,” he said. “But the academy turned me into what I am. It took me from being a kid who didn’t understand anything to being someone who was goal-oriented and pushing hard to try to figure things out.”
Graduating in 1993 with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, Hammond was winged as a naval aviator in 1995 and went on to fly the C-2 Greyhound, racking up more than 400 arrested landings along the way.
“It’s a far cry from the Blues, but was still a lot of fun,” he noted. “I enjoyed the autonomy of the C-2A mission. You move around following the aircraft carrier and get a lot of decision authority at a very young age – which really summarizes what is so great about the Navy.”
Building a career
By the time he reported, in September 2000, to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 120 as a flight instructor, Hammond had already completed deployments with USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). He would go on to hold various other leadership positions, including Commanding Officer for VRC-30 where his squadron supported the deployments of every Pacific Fleet aircraft carrier while transitioning into the improved C-2A aircraft.
Prior to reporting to Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet as the Future Operations and Global Force Management Officer in November 2013, Hammond left command and served onboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) as the Operations Officer from August 2011 to October 2013, a job he says was possibly the biggest challenge in his career.
“In the carrier strike group, there are a lot of entities – carrier, entire air wing, cruiser, destroyer squadron – and the leadership necessary to get all of those entities working together when you really don’t have direct authority over them was a tremendous challenge,” Hammond noted. “The leadership involved isn’t directive, it’s encouragement; working together to find a solution. There is a lot of coordination necessary, a lot at risk, and a lot of moving parts to put together. It was a very rewarding job.”
Arrival at Pax River
Hammond took command of Pax River Aug. 31, 2017 after serving nearly a year and a half as the installation’s executive officer, a position that falls under the Navy’s Fleet-Up program.
“When I came here, I knew Pax’s mission, but the complexity of Pax as an installation, the kind of work done here, the relationship between NAVAIR and NAWCAD, and how they do their business financially and operationally – that I had no idea about,” Hammond admitted. “There’s a definite learning curve, but with the XO [executive officer] to CO fleet-up advantage, you get a chance as the XO to get your legs under you as you figure out what’s going on.”
During his time as CO, Hammond’s horizons were expanded most in the area of working with civilians and the surrounding community.
“There are about 700 civilians in my organization, some are unionized; so having an understanding of those relationships and how they differ from the military is a huge thing I learned here,” he said. “I had never had a job with an official community role either. I had the opportunity to interact and work with the county commissioners, the Patuxent Partnership, and the Navy Alliance; and I got to speak to and engage with the community on a much more official level. It’s been a great part of my job, something I’ve really enjoyed. The synergy we have here with the local community is absolutely key to our success at Pax.”
It was likely that synergy that led to what Hammond believes is his biggest personal accomplishment as CO – the signing of the Inter-Government Service Agreement (ISGA) with St. Mary’s County, a mechanism allowing the Navy to move some of its services to people within the community who can do the job more efficiently.
“We signed the first ISGA in the NDW Region for sure, but it’s also one of the first in the Navy that’s operating,” Hammond noted. “The DoD doesn’t exist to maintain roads or manage waste and recycling. If we can figure out how to give that to people who are better at it, then it moves the needle a little on how we can be more efficient in the way we do business as the DoD. We’re about to begin a project this spring.”
Memories, accomplishments, thanks
While he has many fond memories during his time at Pax River, Hammond mentions the 2018 Air Expo as one of his favorites.
“From the macro to the micro, the teamwork necessary to pull that together was amazing,” he added. “Air operations, security, MWR, Public Works – it tickled the four major areas I have in my direct responsibility. That manifestation of teamwork, professionalism and excitement showcased who we are as a service. It was an incredible success and very gratifying.”
As he moves on with no regrets, Hammond hopes to be remembered for his primary focus on mission orientation and the tenants he served.
“I started command with my focus on tenants,” he added. “When a tenant says they can’t get their job done, I drop what I’m doing and that’s what I work on because I know it’s the only reason why we exist. It’s up to the tenants to decide whether I actually accomplished this, but that was where I tried to focus my efforts.”
When asked what advice he would give to the incoming CO, Hammond mentioned that he really doesn’t need any advice.
“Capt. Cox is unusually intelligent and capable; probably one of the most capable officers I’ve worked with,” he said. “His ability to understand problems and then start to move the needle tangibly is beyond what I’ve ever witnessed. I’d simply tell him to keep doing what he’s doing.”
Before retiring, Hammond wants to recognize everyone he worked with during his years at Pax.
“Whether Sailors or civilians, Pax has been wonderful to me and I’d like to thank them all for their professionalism and dedication,” he said. “And thanks to the county too. I’ve always been treated with such respect because of my orientation with the base and the military. It’s been incredible here, one of my favorite jobs.”
The next chapter
Where Hammond goes from here is still a mystery.
“I don’t know and that’s an honest answer,” he said. “With a young family, I have to work, and while I love this county and would like be part of the community, I’m not in a position to turn my back on any opportunities.”
One thing that’s clear to Hammond – and what kept him in the Navy for 26 years – is that while he loved flying, he quickly learned his true passion was leadership.
“There are lots of leadership opportunities the Navy gives you and I really enjoyed them,” he added. “There are only three reasons I’m leaving the Navy – my wife, my son and my daughter. I’m leaving, because to stay in the Navy and do the things I’d want to do, would not be congruent with where I want to be with supporting my family.”