WEST BETHESDA, Md. —
Capt. Mark R. Vandroff relieved Capt. Richard Blank as the commanding officer of Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division in a ceremony Sept. 8 at the Maritime Technology Information Center in West Bethesda, Maryland.
Blank, who was the 36th commanding officer at Carderock, said he will miss the people of Carderock the most and thanked as many as he could during his speech at the change of command ceremony.
"All these facilities would be useless without the great men and women who operate them and their work definitely shows," Blank said of the technical expertise in Carderock's employees, adding his praise of the support staff, as well. He said he was proud that during his time, Carderock hired many new scientists and engineers to meet the demand of its customers.
Some other division milestones he highlighted included a major renovation of the Maneuvering and Seakeeping (MASK) basin in 2013. The 360-foot-long and 240-foot-wide facility holds approximately 12 million gallons of water and is used to evaluate the maneuverability, stability and control of scale models. There was a grand opening of the Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education (MAKE) laboratory as well. The additive manufacturing (3-D printing) lab provides training for all Carderock employees to provide its workforce with the tools necessary to additively manufacture parts or enhance projects using its printers.
Blank highlighted the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) activities at Carderock as being an exciting part of his tour.
"From LEGO competitions, Mathcounts, Sea Perch, Sea Glide and of course, the world-famous International Human-Powered Submarine Races," Blank said, referring to some of the STEM activities at Carderock.
During the ceremony, guest speaker Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, chief engineer and deputy commander for ship Design, Integration and Naval Engineering, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), praised Blank for the many technical achievements during his time as commanding officer. He also recounted many of the awards Carderock received, to include two 2015 Secretary of the Navy Innovation Awards, the 2014 Vice Adm. Harold G. Bowen Award for Patented Inventions and the fiscal year 2015 Office of Navy Research Technology and Transition Achievement Award.
"It would literally take days for me to highlight all of the command's technical achievements over the past three years," Selby said.
Blank said there were also challenging times during his tour, such as the realignment that separated Carderock and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division into two separate commands in October 2015, sequestration and furloughs, the Washington Navy Yard shooting, and the Montgomery Mall shooting which took the life of a Carderock civilian contract employee.
"There were some very tough times, and in every single case Capt. Blank always met them with compassion, perseverance and resilience," Selby said. "To say it has been a busy three years with Capt. Blank would be an understatement."
Rear Adm. Tom Druggan, commander, Naval Surface Warfare Centers, then presented the Legion of Merit Medal to Blank for his performance as the commanding officer of Carderock Division and his leadership during a time of significant change and fiscal challenges, which resulted in improved business operations and a renewed focus on mission performance.
"I believe I am leaving [Carderock] a better place and have put things in motion to be trending upward, setting the stage for the future," Blank said in his final remarks as commanding officer.
Blank is headed back to NAVSEA to the Naval Systems Engineering Directorate (SEA05) for his next tour of duty. Prior to becoming the commanding officer of Carderock in July 2013, he was the technical director for Surface Ship Design and Systems Engineering (SEA05D).
Vandroff came to Carderock from NAVSEA, serving as the major program manager for the DDG 51 Shipbuilding Program (PMS 400D) for five years.
During his speech after taking command, Vandroff told the crowd of friends, family and Carderock employees the four things he has learned to value during his time in the Navy -- safety, integrity, excellence and compliance. He expects to focus his command around those values.
Besides being grateful to the mentors who taught him the business of being a naval officer and leader over the years, he said he is grateful to have been given the opportunity to lead the team at Carderock, which provides vital services to the Navy and the nation.
"We preserve the past; we service the present; and we invent the future," Vandroff said. "I pledge that I will work to be worthy of this task."