ROTA, Spain (NNS) -- The Naval Station Rota community gathered together June 23 to witness the change of command ceremony where Capt. Greg Pekari relinquished command to Capt. Michael MacNicholl.
Pekari, who assumed command in May 2013, ushered in a great deal of positive change throughout the installation during his tenure. Pekari handed the keys over to MacNicholl, who becomes the 32nd commanding officer in the long, storied history of Naval Station Rota.
Rear Adm. Rick Williamson, commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia (EURAFSWA) applauded Pekari for his dedication and leadership.
"We often talk about in our profession that the most important part is the relationships that you leave behind," said Williamson. "I know that you are going to be greatly missed, and I know that you and your family have left your mark and done great work for the United States Navy and for our hosts in Spain."
Pekari infused a wealth of operational, managerial and diplomatic expertise into the daily operations of the overseas naval installation, which is the largest in the Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia area of responsibility. He effectively commanded Naval Station Rota in its transition to an overseas Navy port and the arrival of four Arleigh-Burke class destroyers -- USS Porter (DDG 78), USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), USS Ross (DDG 71), and USS Carney (DDG 68).
"We celebrate his extraordinary leadership and the indelible mark that he will leave behind here in Rota, and whose accomplishments and dedication to his ambassadorial role has helped reaffirm our enduring partnership with our Spanish allies," said James Costos, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Spain and the Principality of Andorra.
He also coordinated the efforts of more than 50 different department and tenant commands, always demanding a high degree of excellence. Naval Station Rota showcased that excellence in the numerous awards they won including the Five-Star Zumwalt Award for the Navy Gateway Inn and Suites, the Bingham Award for Excellence in Navy Exchange Operations, the Secretary of the Navy's Small Shore Installation Energy and Water Management Award, and the Golden Anchor Award for Retention Excellence for each year Pekari was in command. Furthermore, U.S. Naval Hospital Rota became the first military medical facility to receive the National Committee for Quality Assurance Level III certification in addition to its eighth consecutive Navy Surgeon General Blue "H" for public health.
"I thought nothing could ever top my time as a commanding officer for a squadron and after three years, and in fact it only took me three months, I can say with all certainty that this has been, by far, my best tour in the Navy," said Pekari.
Pekari, a 1989 graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in oceanography, will report to Navy Installations Command in Washington, D.C.
Pekari and MacNicholl read their official orders and passed the torch of leadership from one to the other. MacNicholl thanked the Rota team for the time-honored tradition as he became their new commander.
"I'm very honored to be given this opportunity to command Naval Activities Spain ... I am honored to lead you," said MacNicholl. "We will continue to follow the same course charted by Skipper Pekari, our support to the fleet, the fighter and the families is critical to mission success."
MacNicholl grew up in a Navy family and spent time in Lemoore, California and Oak Harbor, Washington. He graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in marine transportation and as a third officer in the United States Merchant Marines. He then reported to Pensacola and was designated a naval flight officer in June 1997.
MacNicholl's fleet assignments include serving with the "Gauntlets" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136 on USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), the "Lancers" of VAQ-131 on USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), as executive and commanding officer of the "Rooks" of VAQ-137 on USS Enterprise (CVN 65), and as the operations officer aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68). He has accumulated more than 2,500 flight hours and 800 carrier landings.
Ashore, MacNicholl served as an EA-6B Prowler instructor with the "Vikings" of VAQ-129, assistant operations officer at Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and information operations officer at the Joint Staff, Deputy Directorate for Global Operations.
Naval Station Rota enables and supports operations of U.S. and allied forces and provides quality services in support of the fleet, fighter, and family for Commander, Navy Installations Command in Navy Region EURAFSWA.
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