By Capt. Jeffrey James, Commander, Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam
I turn over command of JBPHH this morning and close out a naval career that has spanned 30 years. As I reflect back over the past three years as your joint base commander, my mind is filled with the rich imagery of the people and the events that have defined this tour.
I can see clearly the quiet stoicism and pride etched into the faces of Pearl Harbor survivors at the 70th anniversary remembrance of the attack, a ceremony which served as the last formal gathering of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
I recall the feelings of awe and immense respect for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye as I stood alongside him at the groundbreaking for the new Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command facility and a year and a half later as I introduced him as the keynote speaker at the blessing ceremony for the Ford Island Child Development Center, a project he championed.
I mostly recall a six-hour luncheon on board a Russian warship during RIMPAC 2012 and the irony of it given my entry into the Navy at the height of the Cold War. I can see vividly the numerous foreign state aircraft parked on the Hickam ramp as I sat alongside the 15th Wing commander in base ops, working together to do our respective parts to receive and protect 20 heads-of-state for the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Conference.
I was privileged to listen to Senior Airman Brian Kolfage, a triple amputee as a result of a mortar attack while serving in Iraq, as he spoke at the 2011 Air Force Ball about looking forward and not dwelling on the past. I can hear the “tap code” being hammered out by former Vietnam POW and Navy Capt. (retired) Jerry Coffee at the 2013 Navy Ball.
I am eternally indebted for the incredible generosity of numerous organizations such as the USO, the Navy League, Friends of Hickam and many others who have given so much for the betterment of our Airmen, Sailors and their families.
I am humbled to have worked among some truly great Americans like the young Sailors who transport nearly two million visitors a year to the Arizona Memorial, or the Navy, Air Force and civilian security forces who stand guard 24 hours a day, seven days a week to safeguard this base and the people who live and work here, or the incredible Morale, Welfare, and Recreation staff who serve daily at the numerous operations across the base and still find the time and energy to put on spectacular events like the Fourth of July concert/fireworks, or the other incredible folks in housing, Navy Gateway Inns and Suites, public works, port ops and on and on.
I fondly remember meaningful engagement with elected officials, business partners, Native Hawaiian civic organizations and community partners. I do not, however, remember much of the bureaucracy.
I guess I feel very blessed and lucky that I remember what I think is important — the people, the relationships and the outcomes. It is my sincerest wish that my efforts as the joint base commander have left a positive mark on JBPHH, Hawaii and the United States Navy.
With aloha, Capt. Jeff James