PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Walking out the door of Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) headquarters Aug. 4, after nearly a half-century of service, Richard L. James leaves behind a distinguished career as an enlisted Sailor, senior naval officer and civil servant for the Department of the Navy.
Serving as the NETC executive director since January 2006, James advised and supported the flag officers assigned as NETC's commander in pursuing the command's mission of transforming civilians into highly skilled, combat-ready warfighters and enabling their career-long growth and development.
Rear Adm. Mike White, former NETC commander who worked with James over the past three years, said James will be missed as a friend, mentor and incredible source of manpower, personnel, training and education history.
"Whether in uniform or as a government civilian, his passion is to the Sailor," said White. "He is a tremendous example of those unique individuals who start from humble beginnings and steadily work their way to the highest levels while always focusing on his people and not himself."
As part of his duties, James oversaw the daily operation of over 700 military and civilian personnel assigned to NETC headquarters in support of 238 activities delivering training every day to over 32,000 students worldwide.
Julie Townsend, who worked with James for seven years as NETC's comptroller, was grateful for his leadership, advice and expertise.
"Mr. James has been a great boss," said Townsend. "His open door policy allowed me to bring any issues to him, and together we would find a way ahead for any financial challenges. He has made a remarkable impact on so many of us here at headquarters and throughout the NETC domain."
James grew up in Sherman, Texas and enlisted in the Navy in 1969 as a personnelman. His early assignments were with Training Squadron 23, at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay and Naval District Washington. In 1977, James was commissioned through the limited duty officer (LDO) program.
He served as the flag secretary on USS Peleliu (LHA 5) and the administration officer on USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). James held a variety of shore assignments, including with the Chief of Naval Operations staff, U. S. Naval Forces Japan, and at personnel support activities in San Diego; New London, Connecticut; and Pensacola, Florida, where he was the commanding officer. He was also the head of the surface LDO/chief warrant officer assignment branch at the Bureau of Naval Personnel and the Chief of Naval Personnel's administrative assistant before reporting to Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity in Pensacola.
Attaining the rank of captain while serving as the executive assistant to the NETC commander, James retired from active duty in 2006 before joining the civil service as NETC's executive director.
"Rich James has so much experience and working knowledge of the NETC domain that he literally knew the history behind every policy, issue and previous decision made in the command," said retired Rear Adm. Joe Kilkenny, NETC's sixteenth commander. "His greatest attribute is that he told me, the boss, what I needed to hear and not what I wanted to hear, and for that I will be forever grateful."
Never wanting to be in the limelight, James was quietly presented the Department of the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award, the highest honorary award the chief of naval operations may bestow on a civilian employee in the Department of the Navy. The citation described him as a training pioneer who furthered NETC's mission of delivering trained personnel to the fleet.
James said he is most proud of the opportunity to teach and mentor the Sailors he has worked with throughout his career.
"Being at NETC allowed me to continue to serve our great Navy and, most importantly, the people in the Navy," said James. "I'm grateful to the Navy for everything it has provided me and my family."
James' father served in the Navy; his wife, Julie, is also a Navy veteran; and his son is continuing the family's tradition of service aboard USS Ross (DDG 71) as command master chief.
"If I had to do all my jobs and assignments again, I would do all of them in a heartbeat," said James.
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