OAK HARBOR — Whidbey Island Naval Air Station welcomed Friday its 39th commander in its 74-year history.
"I stand before you truly humbled at the opportunity to work with each and every one of you," Capt. Geoffrey C. Moore said at the change of command ceremony held at the base. "Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is as relevant today as it was when we broke dirt on this very site 74 years ago, almost to the day."
Moore replaces Capt. Michael Nortier, who took command of the base in February 2013.
"Today is certainly bittersweet," Nortier said.
Nortier is retiring after 26 years in the Navy. He said his family will continue to call the area home, saying that of all his duty stations, Oak Harbor was his favorite.
"I, and the Navy, saved the best (station) for last," he said.
Under Nortier's command, the base made the transition from EA-6B Prowlers to EA-18G Growlers, underwent modernization and construction projects worth millions of dollars, and won several military awards, including being named the Navy's top installation.
"In every imaginable metric, (Capt. Nortier) has improved Naval Air Station Whidbey," Rear Adm. Jeffrey Ruth said at the ceremony. "The work that Capt. Nortier and his team have accomplished has ensured that Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is ready, and will remain ready."
During the ceremony, Nortier was awarded the Legion of Merit, one of the military's highest honors.
"I fully realize the big shoes I am filling," Moore said.
"Aircraft that are absolutely necessary for maintaining our combat superiority in today's modern warfare," Moore said of the airplanes.
The first P-8s are set to arrive on base in the fall, said Public Affairs Officer Mike Welding.
Moore will also oversee the growth expected at the base.
The base has about 7,200 personnel, but that number could peak to about 8,900 — particularly if the base gets as many additional Growlers as it wants — before leveling off at about 8,500.
"Together we will continue the vision of one team, operating as one family, focused on one single and immensely important mission," Moore said. "To be ready to answer the call of our civilian leadership to fight and win our nation's wars."