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Command changes at Navy base
Capt. John O'Neill's first major task wasn't easy when he assumed his duties as commanding officer at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay two years ago.

His predecessor, Capt. Ward Stevens, proposed the Navy's largest nuclear weapons exercise ever, with more than 1,000 participants at military installations across the nation participating.

He managed to pull off the exercise flawlessly, said Rear Adm. John C. "Jack" Scorby Jr., keynote speaker at O'Neill's change-of-command ceremony Friday.

The ceremony is held to formalize the transition from one commanding officer to another in the presence of friends, family and sailors.

"John has done a tremendous service representing the Navy in this close-knit community," Scorby said. "For every great leader, there's one waiting in the wings to take over."

O'Neill, a 27-year Navy veteran, said he could never imagine what was in store when he assumed command at Kings Bay in August 2010. He discussed the role of Kings Bay as a strategic deterrent to nuclear war with the submarines that remain at sea most of the time, prepared to retaliate to a nuclear attack. He thanked many individuals both on and off base who played a role in his success.

"These have been two of the most significant years of my Navy career," he said. "Thank you for welcoming me into your life."

After his speech, O'Neill stood and faced his replacement, Capt. Harvey Guffey Jr., and read his orders sending him to the Naval Academy, where he will serve as director of science and engineering.

"Capt. Guffey, I am ready to be relieved," he said.

Guffey read his orders assigning him to the commanding officer's job at Kings Bay, saluted O'Neill and said, "I relieve you."

O'Neill responded, "I stand relieved."

Guffey drew laughter from the audience when he said he could finally prove he was actually in the Navy after serving the past two years at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.

He praised O'Neill for the many things he did to improve the base during his time in command.

Kings Bay was awarded for having the Navy's best recycling program in 2011. It was the recipient of the energy conservation award in 2010 and 2011 and the Chief of Naval Operations Award for Environmental Quality Industrial Installation in 2011, as well as numerous other awards for community service, safety and quality of life.

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