Rear Adm. Dixon Smith (Navy)
NORFOLK, VA. — Navy installations from North Carolina to Maine have a new leader after the man who served in the post for the past two years retired Friday, welcoming his successor to the “big leagues” of Navy base management.
Rear Adm. Dixon Smith relieved Rear Adm. Tim Alexander as commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic during a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, where the command is headquartered. The installation is the world’s largest naval base and one of 16 under the command’s purview. Among others, the region includes a large submarine base in New London, Conn.; the East Coast master jet base in Virginia Beach; and Navy Information Operations Command Sugar Grove in West Virginia.
Installation commanders manage the Navy’s shore-based facilities and are often referred to as the mayor of a base, which often resembles a small city.
Among their duties, installation leaders provide security, housing, family services, recreational services, port services, air services, and supply, medical and logistical aid for active-duty, reserve and retired military members in the area. In addition to making sure fleet commanders have what they need to operate smoothly, installation leaders touch on virtually all aspects of life on a base. Sailors applauded Friday when Alexander was praised for getting gym towels for each of the region’s fitness facilities.
Alexander had been in the post since 2011, but installation commanders in the Mid-Atlantic Region will now report to Smith. He held a similar job at the San Diego-based Navy Region Southwest.
There, he was responsible for all Navy installations in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. U.S. Fleet Forces Adm. Bill Gortney, who spoke at Friday’s change of command ceremony in a helicopter hangar, noted that Smith had been honored by the city of San Diego for his service with a day in his honor.
Fostering relationships with city officials is one of the most critical aspects of the job. Among other things, the regional command helps coordinate an annual force protection and anti-terrorism exercise that usually involves civilian police and other first responders. The command has made reducing traffic congestion near bases caused by the exercises a priority, citing the security concern they cause in addition to being a headache for the surrounding community.
During his tour, Alexander coordinated regional recovery efforts after the F/A-18D plane crash in Virginia Beach in April 2012 and oversaw crisis response efforts following the storms Irene and Sandy throughout the region. Alexander praised his staff for working through a variety of challenges, including the recent implementation of civilian furloughs.
In brief remarks, Smith said he had large shoes to fill and would work to maintain and build relationships with local civilian officials.
After serving for nearly 33 years, Alexander said he planned to spend more time with his family in northern Virginia.