NORFOLK (NNS) -- Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic (SURFLANT) held a Force Master Chief Change of Charge ceremony Oct. 31, at their new Naval Station Norfolk location.
Just one day before officially opening the new SURFLANT headquarters, Force Master Chief (FORCM) FORCM Susan "Suz" Whitman relieved (SW/AW) James Williams. Williams is set to retire in January after serving the Navy for 30 years.
"It went by fast," said Williams. "It went by very fast and that's an indicator of being somewhere you liked to be."
Looking back, Williams was very proud of the progress made within the Chiefs mess and the direction the Navy is headed with the Sailors the Navy is bringing in.
"I love seeing the younger Sailors coming into the Navy today and how awesome they are, how much smarter they are and how bright of a future, not just that they have, but that the Navy has as well. The Navy is going to be 110 percent better as this new generation takes over. It's just been awesome seeing the transition."
Williams' memorable 30-year Navy career began at Great Lakes, Ill., in 1984. His commands include: USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in Yokosuka, Japan; USS Oldendorf (DD 972) also in Yokosuka; USS Peterson (DD 969) in Norfolk and from there, he cross-decked to USS Austin (LPD 4). He then transferred to shore duty at Navy Recruiting District, Memphis, Tenn., and in September 1994, he was initiated into the chief petty officer ranks.
Upon completing his recruiting tour, he reported to USS Estocin (FFG 15) and then the staff of the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic/United States Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, where he served as Senior Enlisted Advisor for the J3 directorate. In May 2002, he reported aboard USS Nassau (LHA 4). He next reported to USS Mahan (DDG 72) and assumed the duties as
Command Master Chief (CMC). His follow-on CMC billet was aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1), before wrapping up his career at SURFLANT.
At the top of his list of accomplishments, he cited the Chief Petty Officer Waterfront Training as one of the programs of which he was most proud.
"Someone could make Chief and receive their initial training at CPO 365 Phase II, but could potentially go years without any additional training, until they go to the senior enlisted academy", explained Williams. "There was a gap in leadership training and we wanted to bridge that gap. That's why we started it.
I had an opportunity to get out from behind my desk and see Sailors on ships," he said, summarizing his career. "It's the best job in the Navy."
Prior to reporting to SURFLANT, Whitman served as the CMC of the Naval Safety Center here. As the new Senior Enlisted Advisor at SURFLANT, Whitman now oversees more than 23,000 Sailors assigned to more than 70 ships and nearly 30 special mission and fleet support units.
"I love Sailors," said Whitman. "It's all about the Sailors. If Sailors are hurting, then something is wrong. I want them to understand they're a part of the team, that without Sailors, those ships wouldn't go anywhere."
Whitman aims to be proactive with a strong emphasis on teamwork.
"My goal here is to let every Sailor know their job is important," said Whitman. "I want them to know, the job they do is a cog in the wheel for SURFLANT's success, that they are part of our success no matter what job it is."