'It's about the mission'- NAS Pax River celebrates 75 years

NAS Patuxent River, MD- “I’m overwhelmed with pride to be the Commanding Officer during the 75th anniversary of Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River,” said Capt. Jason Hammond Friday, April 6.

Hammond was joined by a group of distinguished guests to recognize the achievements and advancements in naval aviation thanks to the testing and development at NAS Patuxent River over the past 75 years, including Rear Admiral G. Dean Peters, program executive for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Mission Programs.

“World War II is what really thrust Pax River into the limelight. It accelerated the Navy’s plans to consolidate its testing efforts. Pax River was the ideal place to test flights and it changed the destiny of this rural community,” Peters explained.

Peters said Pax River is where the future of naval aviation begins, “this is where new and improved capability is delivered.” Peters explained the research, evaluation, development and testing that happen at Pax River ensures the entire Navy has the latest technology so the fleet is ready for missions across the globe. “It’s all about the mission. When you think of Pax River, I hope you think of the men and women who make everything happen.”

Hammond noted a number of the historic accomplishments made at Pax River; from the testing of the first all jet-powered airplane in 1944 and to the establishment of the United States Navy Test Pilot School (TPS) in 1945, to four of the first seven American astronauts who were alumni of TPS at Pax River.

“The fabric of this naval air station is the people,” Hammond boasted. “You can be amazed at the technology, flabbergasted by the ability, education and the unbelievable knowledge that resides here but it’s really the people and their stories that create what this naval air station is today.”

Hammond took the time to share stories of those who both served and worked on the base over the past few decades, including Bob Waxman who worked at Webster Field for more than 50 years and Pat Woodburn who worked at Webster Field for more than 40 years.

Wayne Walker was also recognized for his four decades as a member of Pax River’s safety department and his pioneering efforts to shape the Navy’s safety program, which was the start of the Navy’s mishap training program. “This is an incredible testament to the kind of things that happen here that aren’t always what you see,” Hammond said.

Hammond also acknowledged Harry Errington. A retired Navy Lieutenant Commander who was present for the 25th, 50th and 75th anniversary ceremonies at Pax River. “He’s an incredible icon here at Pax River,” Hammond noted.

Errington, a Town Creek resident, spoke with after the ceremony and said he’s simply “part of the archives.” He was stationed here in 1966 and it was love at first sight. “I fell in love with the place when I got here.” Errington performed maintenance on a number of aircraft and after a tour in Vietnam, he returned to NAS Patuxent River and never left. Errington said his favorite memory from serving on base is the people he met. He also acknowledged the hard work and dedication of those serving and working on base. “Everyone here earns their pay.”

While the talent and dedication of those who work at Pax River is a testament to the commitment to the base’s mission, Hammond said that tenacity goes beyond the borders of the base. “It’s not just the people who worked here, it’s the people who are in our community and their unbelievable patriotism that support us every day. The connection with the community is something I’ve never seen in other places. It’s that connection with the community that makes this place so special.”

Peters acknowledged those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the mission. “When you travel through the installation, take time to look at the name of the road and think about the sacrifices that have paved the way for naval aviation.”

Representatives from Senators Ben Cardin and Steve Waugh’s offices, Congressman Steny Hoyer’s office and Governor Larry Hogan’s office were also in attendance and presented citations to recognize the achievements of NAS Patuxent River. St. Mary’s County Commissioner President Randy Guy also presented Hammond with a citation, recognizing NAS Patuxent River as an economic engine for St. Mary’s County.

Several former base commanders were also in attendance for the diamond anniversary.

Happy anniversary NAS Patuxent River!

Contact Joy Shrum at

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