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NIWC Pacific Holds Change of Command, Retirement Ceremony

04 May 2023

From Maison Piedfort, Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific

SAN DIEGO — Capt. Patrick McKenna assumed command from Capt. Andrew Gainer in a change of command and retirement ceremony at Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific May 4.

As commanding officer, McKenna will lead more than 5,200 civilian employees and military members across the globe in serving NIWC Pacific’s information warfare mission.

A native of Middleton, Wisconsin, McKenna’s naval career began in 2000 at Officer Candidate School in Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. Since then, he has logged more than 3,000 flight hours as an operational aviator and served in various leadership roles, including lead project officer and department head, as well as reporting to the VFA-113 “Stingers” in April 2017 where he completed the 2017-2018 deployment aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, serving as commanding officer until November 2019.

Prior to assuming command at NIWC Pacific, he served as Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) Commander Rear Adm. Doug Small’s executive assistant.

“The technology here is amazing, and the capability we deliver to the fleet is vital, but first and foremost, it’s the workforce here that’s been the most awe inspiring and has me most excited about what the next 36 months will bring,” McKenna said. “I’m inheriting that workforce, and that is one hundred percent a testament to Capt. Gainer.”

During the retirement portion of the ceremony, Small, presiding officer of the change of command ceremony, thanked Gainer for his leadership over the last six years, first as executive officer then as commanding officer: “NIWC Pacific plays an outsized role in preparing the Navy for whatever’s next in the strategic powers competition. Capt. Gainer has been at the heart of making sure the constant sense of urgency, associated with that competition, is brought to bear here every single day. I’m sure Capt. McKenna will do the same.”

Small presented Gainer with the Legion of Merit award for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service during his tours at NIWC Pacific. In the award summary, Small highlighted his “significant, positive impact” while leading the Navy’s largest command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR), cyber, and space warfare center: “Capt. Gainer’s technical acumen, vision, and focused leadership were instrumental in enabling NIWC Pacific’s leading role in reshaping 21st century warfare.”

Under his leadership, NIWC Pacific managed more than 600 technical projects and delivered more than $8 billion of C4ISR, cyber, and space capabilities to the fleet.

When Gainer, a native of Bellingham, Washington, assumed command in May 2020, it was in a socially-distanced, limited-attendance ceremony in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Today he retired after 30 years of naval service surrounded by family and friends.

“It’s important to me that we recognize this career as a joint effort,” Gainer said, highlighting teams and initiatives at the Center exemplifying the collaborative culture needed to accomplish its mission. “We’ll never be done fortifying our culture — it’s a 24/7, 365-day a year job,” Gainer said. “And I’m proud of every team or activity that shines a light on how we’re all interconnected.”

NIWC Pacific’s mission is to conduct research, development, engineering, and support of integrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber, and space systems across all warfighting domains, and to rapidly prototype, conduct test and evaluation, and provide acquisition, installation, and in-service engineering support.


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