Hanks assumes command of NAS Whidbey Island

— Created July 14, 2021 by Kathy Reed

NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – Capt. Matt Arny, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, has turned over command of the air station to Capt. Eric Hanks.

A change of command ceremony was held July 9 in the Indoor Wash Rack Facility. Guest speaker for the event was Sarah Rhoads, vice president, Amazon Global Air. The Presiding Officer was Rear Admiral Brian Collins, Commander, Navy Region Northwest.

During the past year, Arny championed new tactics, techniques, and processes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, finding transformational ways to lead the installation and provide uninterrupted support to the operational squadrons. His leadership and vision ensured on time deployments that consistently met the Navy’s world-wide mission in support of national interests. He also fully embraced available virtual venues to provide new tools for success, creating a responsive team that had the agility to resolve key issues with a more rapid response time and significantly streamlined management and operational processes.

Arny was also instrumental in expanding community outreach activities throughout his tenure, successfully engaging elected officials, local Tribes, civic organizations and other members of the public on major issues including noise impacts from flight operations, long-term resolutions for  PFOA/PFAS water contamination, adequate military housing, and more than 120 missions by the base’s Search and Rescue Unit. 

Under his leadership, the base won numerous other high level Navy awards, including the Navy Community Service Award Flagship winner for Environmental Stewardship; Solid Waste Association of North America Gold Excellence Award for achieving a 73 percent recycling rate that generated over $200,000 in revenue; Finalist for the Capt. Edward F. Ney Award for Food Service Excellence and winner of the 2019 and 2020 Edward Carlson Award for the best worldwide small category Navy Lodge.

Arny is retiring from the U.S. Navy after 28 years of naval service and will reside in Mill Creek, Wash.

Hanks, a native of Jennings, La., is a 1997 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. Following his designation as a Naval Aviator in August 1999, Hanks amassed over 3,300 flight hours, primarily in the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community. He began his operational career with Patrol Squadron (VP) 16, with deployments to the U.S. Europe and Southern Combatant Command areas of responsibility.   Subsequent operational tours include a tour as USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Catapult and Arresting Gear Division Officer; a department head tour with the Golden Eagles of VP-9 with combat deployments to U.S. Central and Pacific Combatant Command AORs; and a commanding officer tour with the Skinny Dragons of VP-4. While commanding VP-4 forward deployed, he served as Commander Task Groups 67.1/3/5 leading anti-submarine warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in support of U.S. Europe and Africa Combatant Command assigned missions.

Hanks’ shore assignments include a tour as an Advanced Maritime Instructor Pilot with Training Squadron 35; Defense Sensitive Support Officer and Special Activities Officer with U.S. Africa Command; Deputy Division Chief and senior military wargame analyst on The Joint Staff J8-Studies, Analysis, and Gaming Division (SAGD); and most recently as the Executive Assistant to the OPNAV Programming Division Director (N80).

Hanks assumes command of the Navy’s sole air station in the Pacific Northwest. The installation employs over 8,700 active duty military and over 2,100 Department of Defense civilians and full-time contract employees. The annual economic impact the base brings to Island County and surrounding communities exceeds $1.04 billon.