GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- More than 300 Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen and civilians attended a change of command ceremony Sept. 23 at the Windjammer Ballroom aboard Naval Station (NAVSTA) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Capt. Steven Blaisdell was relieved by Capt. Kirk Hibbert as commanding officer of NAVSTA Guantanamo Bay.
During the ceremony, Rear Adm. Townsend "Tim" Alexander, commander, Navy Region Southeast, spoke about Blaisdell's two-year tour as Guantanamo's commanding officer.
"For the last two years, there has been no doubt that Steve Blaisdell has been in charge," said Alexander. "He has maintained an unrelenting focus on the things that matter - our Navy, our Sailors and their families."
During his tour, Blaisdell completed $66 million in construction projects to improve Guantanamo residents' quality of life, including new athletic facilities, new base housing, perimeter road upgrades, new runway lights and the recent renovation of the Windjammer facility. Blaisdell also oversaw the launch of a new energy policy.
Additionally, Blaisdell and his Sailors at Guantanamo Bay received numerous awards, including the 2009 Navy Exchange Service Command Bingham Award, three consecutive Commander, Navy Installations Command Retention Honor Roll awards, the 2009 Captain Edward F. Ney Award for Excellence in Food Service, the 2009 Professional Housing Management Association's Outstanding Housing Installation Team award and two Real Estate Government Housing Awards.
"None of these would have happened without a tremendously dedicated team and a superb leader," said Alexander.
Alexander said Blaisdell also played a vital role in Operation Unified Response, when the U.S. military needed a logistical hub for continued relief efforts.
"Under his leadership, GTMO (NAVSTA Guantanamo Bay)quickly became the beginning of a lifeline for thousands of Haitians, a central hub for tons of water and food, medical teams, rescue teams, and much more," said Alexander. "Through decisive action, tactical knowledge and hard work, Steve played a key role in setting the wheels of restoration in motion, and saved many lives in the process."
Alexander said he knew Hibbert would continue Blaisdell's efforts on furthering the base's accomplishments.
Hibbert came to Guantanamo from Commander, U.S. Northern Command, where he was the chief for Plans and Orders.
During the ceremony, Hibbert said he knows he and all other Sailors at Guantanamo Bay will work together toward a common goal.
"That goal was bestowed upon us by the American people," said Hibbert. "And the bottom line is that we are here to protect and safe-guard our young men and women."
Hibbert also credited his mother, late father, wife and two daughters with his success and assumed command of NAVSTA Guantanamo Bay.
NAVSTA Guantanamo Bay is a 45 square-mile base located in the Oriente Province of Cuba. The land was leased from Cuba in 1903, and to date, the U.S. government sends $4,085 treasury dollars to the Cuban government per month for the land.
In 1961, the United States and Cuba severed diplomatic relations. For almost 50 years, the base has been responsible for making its own energy and water resources. It is the only 100 percent self-sufficient base in a different country.
The NAVSTA is also the only base in a communist country and the only base in a country with which the United States does not have diplomatic relations.
The base supported Fleet Training Group from 1943 through 1995 and Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity from 1903 through 1995.
In the mid-1990s, the base has safely housed more than 45,000 migrants at once and aided migrant operations officials with repatriation efforts.
In 2001, the base supported the establishment of Joint Task Force Guantanamo and continues to support its detainee mission.
In January 2010, Guantanamo served as the logistical hub for Operation Unified Response with disaster relief efforts and humanitarian assistance for Haiti after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck near the Haitian capitol.
For more news from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, visit www.navy.mil/local/guantanamo/.