P​atuxent River, MD — Capt. Scott Starkey relieved Capt. Heidi Fleming as commanding officer (C.O.) at “the world’s finest Naval Air Station” yesterday afternoon in a Change of Command Ceremony.  A retirement ceremony was also held in Fleming’s honor at Hangar 109.

Described as formal and impressive, the ceremony honored the achievements of Starkey and Fleming,  said Christopher Rutland, Lieutenant Commander and master of ceremonies.

“According to Navy custom, command passes when the incoming C.O. says ‘I relieve you,’ and the off-going C.O. being relieved responds, ‘I stand relieved,’” said Rutland.

When the duties and responsibilities are read, command will shift from one to the other, said Rear Admiral Yancy Lindsey, Commandant of the Naval District in Washington, DC.

“At that moment, Heidi will feel an incredible weight has been lifted from her shoulders. She may even appear to float slightly,” said Lindsey. “Scott, on the other hand, will feel the weight of command and over time he may take on a slightly hunched over posture with a look of intense determination on his face. With the mantle of command on his shoulders, I think that’s when we’ll see how he’s feeling.”

Fleming retired from the Navy after serving for 27 years, said Lindsey.

“She is a Renaissance woman. Reading her biography, I couldn’t help but be reminded of those Dos Quis beer commercials, with the most interesting man in the world. I think Heidi could be one of the most interesting women in the world,” said Lindsey.

From her beginnings at the U.S Naval Academy, Fleming has had a remarkable career, said Lindsey.

“From fighting combat missions over Afghanistan, Bosnia, and other areas we can’t mention here, to critical research, development, and testing, an evaluation flights, she’s fought battles in the halls of Congress and the Pentagon. And also on the volleyball court,” said Lindsey. “All of this preparing her for the squadron level and finally commanding what could arguably be the most important installation of naval aviation. And command her at NAS PAX, she did.”

Being able to keep multi-billion dollar aircraft procurement and test programs on schedule while executing critical runway and airfield repairs, and supporting and facilitating over 83,000 air operations across 6,800 square miles of airspace at two separate airfields were listed as achievements during Fleming’s 19 month stint as commander.

“Throughout her career, she made places and people better. She had impact and accomplished the mission, while taking care of people,” said Lindsey. “She made a difference for our Navy and nation. She will be missed. Whatever she ends up doing in her next career, she will be absolutely outstanding and successful.”

Fleming was presented with an End of Tour Award from Lindsey, and thanked her friends, family, mentors and community members for supporting her while she was C.O. at NAS PAX.

“It means a lot to me to have this ceremony here and retire in the home of where I had command of the Warlocks when we moved in here,” said Fleming.  “I was in command when we put those great words, Warlock Country, on that wall there. You continually make me proud of the Warlocks and to be a Warlock.”

“Stay thirsty, my friends,” said Fleming as she concluded her speech thanking friends, family, and community members for supporting her throughout her career with the Navy.

After relieving Fleming from her position as C.O., Starkey thanked family, friends, and community members for supporting him.

“It is my honor to be your commanding officer; do not expect a big change in the way we do business,” said Starkey. “We will continue to treat everyone with dignity and respect, provide outstanding customer service, and be professional at all times. When all else fails, follow the Golden rule.”

About Capt. Heidi Fleming:
A Mobile, Alabama native, Fleming was raised in a military family. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1989, she went on to graduate from National Defense University with a Master of Science in National Resource Strategy and Senior Acquisition Course in 2009.

She was a Naval Flight Officer with the “Meriders” of Fleet Logistic Squadron (VR) 22 in Rota, Spain from 1991 through 1993 in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In 1995, she devoted time to the Patrol Squadron (VP) 40 “Fighting Marlins” and Patrol Squadron (VP) “Pelicans” and completed four operational deployments in areas such as Kadena, Misawa, Sigonella, Roosevelt Roads, El Salvador, and Keflavik.

She also served as an Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer of Scientific Development Squadron (VXS) 1 at NAS PAX and was deployed worldwide with the “Warlocks” including Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Japan, Hawaii, and other locations throughout the country supporting Science and Technology (S&T) research to support Naval Research Laboratory and other government agencies.

Her shore assignments include Instructor and Division 1 Women’s Head Volleyball Coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 11 as Current Operations Officer for Home Cycle Patrol Squadrons.

From 2009-2012, she served as special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, responsible for Department of Defense accounts directly supporting congressional engagements for the Under Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Defense.

She reported as Executive Officer of NAS PAX on April 4, 2014 and assumed command of NAS on Sept. 18, 2014.

Personal awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medals, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and various other campaign and unit awards.

About Capt. Scott Starkey:
A Mitchellville, MD native, Starkey graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Math. He was commissioned in 1991 and designated a Naval Aviator in 1994. Following H-3 fleet replacement pilot training with Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 1, Starkey reported to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) in 1995. He completed two deployments with the Desert Ducks in Manama, Bahrain.

In 1998, he reported to Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 10 for transition training and duty and the MH-60S Team Lead for the H-60 R/S Fleet Introduction Team (FIT). He flew as an instructor while managing the manpower, aircraft transition schedule, NATOPS program and training curriculum.  He also provided support to Commander Second Fleet’s Helicopter reorganization Study, laying groundwork for future Navy helicopter operations. 

In 2001, he reported to the USS Enterprise as the Assistant navigator and deployed to the Mediterranean Sea, Northern Arabic Gulf, and Arabian Sea to support Operations Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom.

In 2003, Starkey reported to HS-3 to serve as Squadron’s Safety and Operations Officer.

In 2005, he deployed with the USS Theodore Roosevelt to support integration of U.S. Navy helicopters with the British Joint Helicopter Force-Iraq in Barsah as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  In 2006, Starkey earned a Master of Arts from Webster University while also attending the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College.

After becoming Executive Officer in 2007, Starkey assumed command of the Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 3 in 2008. After reorganization, portions of the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron were involved in Operation Unified Response in 2010. 

Starkey was a member of the Joint Staff from 2010 to 2013, and transferred to the OPNAV N3/N5 staff to work on the Strategic Laydown and Dispersal Plan for the Fleet.

The captain has been serving as the Executive Officer for NAS PAX since Sept 18, 2014.

Personal awards include a Defense Meritorious Service Medal, a Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal and four Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals. He has accumulated more than 3,100 flight hours.

Jacqui Atkielski can be contacted at j.atkielski@thebaynet.com