VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Cmdr. Michael Aiena relieved Cmdr. Joe Oravec as commanding officer of Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Dam Neck Activity in a change of command ceremony held at Dam Neck Activity’s Hopper Hall auditorium, Oct. 16.
“It has been a great privilege to serve as the commanding officer of Dam Neck Activity,” said Oravec while speaking to NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity Sailors, employees, and guests on site as well as those watching via a live Teams broadcast. “I have enjoyed both our challenges and our successes and I will always remain a strong believer in the dedication of the Dam Neck workforce.”
Oravec was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (gold star in lieu of second award) for his achievements as NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity commanding officer. He told the audience that Dam Neck’s ability to maintain direct support to both the fleet and to program sponsors – especially in light of COVID-19 challenges – were nothing short of outstanding.
Rear Adm. Kevin Byrne, Commander of the NAVSEA Warfare Centers, was the ceremony’s senior officer in attendance and guest speaker.
Once Aiena read his orders and assumed command of NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity, he addressed the audience, including his predecessor.
“I would like to congratulate you on a successful command tour and thank you for a thorough turnover,” Aiena told Oravec. “Your dedication to the Dam Neck mission and team is clear, both in your words and in your actions. I will strive to take as good a care of your team as you have done. As you depart, please know we will build upon the solid foundation you have laid. Everyone at team Dam Neck congratulates you on a job well done and is excited for you and your family as you proceed outbound to the Missile Defense Agency as a major program manager.”
A native of New Orleans, La., Aiena served in several seagoing and shore-based assignments after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2000. He most recently served as the electronic warfare and electro-optical and infrared assistant for Above Water Sensors and Lasers Directorate at the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) in Washington D.C.
“I am humbled to have been selected as the commanding officer, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division Dam Neck Activity,” said Aiena. “I am thrilled with this opportunity to work with the Sailors and civilians that make up the command for they are our most valuable resource.”
In the course of his assumption of command remarks, Aiena recounted the commissioning ceremony for the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) in 1991. The lead ship of the Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers was named for former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Arleigh Burke. “This ship is built to fight, you’d better know how,” he said, repeating the words Burke spoke at the ship’s commissioning ceremony.
“For team Dam Neck, this means that in the areas of integrated training, cyber warfare capability, fleet support expertise, and safety – we will execute smartly in doing our part to make our Sailors and their equipment ready for sustained combat operations,” Aiena told his audience.
The new NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity commanding officer also addressed Capt. Casey Plew, NSWCDD commanding officer, and John Fiore, NSWCDD technical director. “Capt. Plew, Mr. Fiore – thank you, I look forward to and embrace this opportunity to work with you and your team as we help design, deliver, and sustain war winning capability for our fleet. “
In his operational tours, Aiena served as communications officer aboard USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) where he deployed in support of counter-narcotics operations. He also served as force protection officer, weapons officer and main propulsion assistant aboard USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) while deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
During his shore tour, he served as a staff officer at the Center for Surface Combat Systems in Dahlgren, Va. An engineering duty officer since 2008, Aiena’s tours in acquisition began at NSWC Port Hueneme Division followed by a tour at PEO for Space Systems. Aiena – a 2010 graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School – was also the National Deputy for the United States at the NATO Sea Sparrow Project Office while serving at PEO IWS.
The NAVSEA Warfare Centers provide research, development, test and evaluation for the future Navy as well as in-service engineering and logistics support for the operational naval forces.
NSWCDD Dam Neck Activity provides integrated training solutions; C6ISR (command, control, communication, computer, combat, cyber defense, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and cyber-engineering support; combat system element support; and system safety analysis to a variety of Navy and Department of Defense sponsors.