Naval Weapons Station gets first female commander

Women now command four regional federal bases

The moment of command transfer as Capt. Capt. Jason Sherman, left, raises his hand to salute Capt. Jessica O’Brien, the first female commander in the Navy base’s long and proud history on the west coast as command changes hands. Photo by David N. Young

In a dual change-of-command ceremony this week, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach saw the first female ever take command of the critical west coast ammunitions outpost.

“It’s truly an honor to be here and to be in command again, and it’s great to be back in California,” said Navy Capt. Jessica O’Brien as she officially relieved Capt. Jason Sherman after three years in command during a ceremony Friday at the parade grounds of the sprawling Naval base off Seal Beach Boulevard.

“This is home and we’re thrilled to be joining this great community,” said O’Brien.

“To the community leaders here today, thank you for your continued support,” she said, “and I look forward to working with you, building on the relationships we have, and developing new friendships.”

“To our sailors and Navy civilian staff, I am both proud and humbled to be your commanding officer, and to be joining this tremendous team of professionals,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien relieved Capt. Jason Sherman as Commanding Officer of both Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and Navy Munitions Command Pacific, CONUS West Division, which commands a number of smaller installations throughout the west.   

A career surface warfare officer with over 25 years of service, Capt. O’Brien brings with her a wealth of experience, from ships of the Pacific Fleet to the Pentagon, said Rear Adm. Brad Rosen, the Commander of Navy Region Southwest, who spoke at the ceremony.

He said O’Brien’s previous assignments include Operations Officer aboard USS McClusky (FFG 41), Operations Officer and Chief Staff Officer for Amphibious Squadron Three, and Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of Beachmaster Unit One based in Coronado, CA.

Most recently, she served as the Deputy Branch Head, Security Cooperation and Posture, for the Chief of Naval Operations, said Rosen.

“Captain O’Brien will hold the honor and responsibility of leading Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach into a future that remains largely unknown,” the Rear Admiral said, following her tour at the U.S. Navy Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Rosen also thanked Capt. Sherman for his numerous accomplishments during his tenure.

“During Sherman’s three-year tenure, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach received a number of Navy-wide and regional awards for installation excellence, environmental stewardship, safety, and housing operations,” said Rosen.

“From the big events to the day-to-day challenges, Captain Sherman and his superb team have compiled an incredible list of accomplishments,” he added.

“This success was simply a combination of outstanding leadership and exceptional teamwork,” said Rosen.

Sherman also thanked city officials, Seal Beach Police officials and many others who he said had shown tremendous cooperation throughout the pandemic.

Among the guests were more than 150 local dignitaries, family members and visiting military officials.

Also present: Seal Beach Mayor Joe Kalmick and Council member Shelley Sustarsic. Kalmick said having such a large and sensitive military installation in the city presents both rewards and challenges and said the city will continue to work closely with NWS Seal Beach.

“Words cannot do justice in explaining the level of appreciation I have for every single member of both my command staffs,” said Sherman.  “I treasure the time I was able to spend with you all, overcoming a litany of challenges, and helping to remove myriad obstacles and barriers.  We did it together, and I will savor our friendships and our victories for the remainder of my years,” said Sherman.

“The only reason I survived the past three years is because I was blessed to work alongside two of the most amazing staffs [NWS Seal Beach and CONUS] I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with,” said Sherman.

“Their love of country shines through with grit and determination, as they have never failed to meet the mission, no matter how high the obstacle or what the challenge,” he said.

“Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach has endured a myriad of tough challenges,” said Sherman, “many of which were related to the indoor and COVID environment. During the past three years, Team Seal Beach has fulfilled the mission of four installations and 12 ordnance activities together,” he said.

Sherman said also during his command, the base underwent a $150 million recapitalization and overhaul, bringing new loading assets to the facility.

Commencing operations in 1944 as a U.S. Naval Ammunition and Net Depot, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach is the Pacific Fleet’s premier munitions loading and storage installation.

O’Brien assuming command of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach follows the recent naming of a female commander at Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos and female commanders at two other regional federal installations.

Rosen said Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach is part of the reason the U.S. military is the top fighting force in the world today.

“Today, ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known. There is no other military that is stronger, more capable, more experienced or more innovative,” said Rosen.

“That’s why our military edge is second to none. And it’s a fact that every American ought to be proud.”