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News | April 21, 2023

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Conducts Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony

By Ashley Sherman

Captain Duffey formerly served as the organization’s production officer, executive officer and fleeted up to commanding officer, relieving Col. Fredrick Schenk in April 2021. Each commanding officer serves two years and customarily serves as the executive officer before assuming command.

The ceremony, with its 400 guests, was steeped in time-honored traditions that are indicative of a Navy Change of Command and retirement – reading of orders, reporting command, flag detail, awards, customary readings and more.

A smooth transfer of authority passed the torch from Captain Duffey to Captain Palmer as both families looked on.

Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) Rear Adm. Joseph B. Hornbuckle was the guest speaker and presiding officer for the ceremony and expressed his gratitude for the job done by Duffey.

“Captain Duffey’s superior performance during his tenure as FRCSE’s Commanding Officer is a culmination of his 34 years of honorable and dedicated military service,” Hornbuckle said. “I am confident that his next endeavor will be equally impactful and rewarding.”

Known throughout the command as a personable, caring leader, Captain Duffey led a successful career and command tour at FRCSE. Despite navigating a challenging new world post-pandemic, the organization continued to meet and exceed fleet requirements under his leadership.

During the 2021 fiscal year, FRCSE returned 106 aircraft to the fleet, a historic first for the command, but that’s far from all.

Additionally in FY21, FRCSE hired another round of apprentices; completed the first H-60 in a reduced turnaround time of 135 days; Trainers Production Line won the NAVAIR Commander’s Award for Best Performing Production Line; renovations of hangar 101 commenced; and the command won the Florida Governor’s Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Gold Award to name a few.

“My time here at FRC Southeast saw historical milestones, significant awards, incredible innovation, a first-of-a-kind response to working during a pandemic, and so much more,” Duffey said. “To FRC Southeast’s top-notch workforce, I am humbled to have led you, privileged to work alongside you and extremely proud of all you have accomplished.”

By 2022, FRCSE was fast and furious. Work commenced at Cecil Commerce Center in support of the P-8A Poseidon modification program, and the F-5 production line celebrated a significant improvement in throughput thanks to new airframe shoring, created by the command, which enabled large areas of structural work to be completed concurrently.

With Duffey at the helm, successes within the trades apprentice program also abounded, including the first apprenticeship graduation in more than 20 years. Former students are now fully employed journey-level artisans working at FRCSE.

The command was also activated as a Department of Defense Second Depot Source of Repair (DSOR) for the F135 engine, the propulsion system that powers the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, emphasizing FRCSE’s ability to support fifth and future generation aircraft.

Various efficiencies adopted during Duffey’s tour helped the organization thrive in FY22, earning various prominent awards and accolades, such as the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award, NAVAIR Commander’s Award for Best Performing Production Line (Vertical Lift) and the P-8 FST Supply Team being selected for the 2022 Department of the Navy Acquisition Excellence Award.

Also, during his tenure, the organization contracted, executed and completed numerous vital construction and MILCON projects, with several expected to come to fruition under Captain Palmer’s watch or well into the future -- many of which are geared toward modernization, innovation and fifth generation aircraft.

Projects range from a new Joint Strike Fighter Targeting and Surveillance facility, the first major MILCON in 25 years, to the second of a two-phase renovation of the command’s main administrative building, encompassing the quarterdeck, executive suite, departmental offices, cafeteria and more.

“I feel blessed and humbled that we were successful in rolling out many initiatives that will pave the way for future generations at FRCSE,” Duffey said. “A skilled, diligent workforce and new state-of-the-art facilities ensure this command is ready and prepared for what I believe will be a bright future.”

As he transitions into retirement, Captain Duffey does so with the respect of FRCSE’s workforce, departing with a legacy of charisma and commitment that will endure.

“I didn’t join this organization to become rich. I have, however, found myself wealthy in patriotism, camaraderie and experience,” Duffey said. “In taking someone else’s place on this watch, I have given my best based on my ability, grown beyond my expectations and served my country with pride. I am certain that Captain Palmer will lead FRCSE’s next watch with vigor, integrity and distinction.”

Captain Palmer, the former executive officer at the command, assumed his new role as commanding officer during the ceremony.

 “To the men and women of Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, I am honored today to stand before you as your commanding officer,” said Palmer, “Much has been written and said about leadership. My commitment to you is simple, I will give you everything that I have. In return I will only ask for one thing, and that’s your personal best.” 

Captain Michael Windom, former commanding officer of Fleet Readiness Center Northwest, arrived in March and assumed duties as executive officer during the ceremony.

About Fleet Readiness Center Southeast
Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) is Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, employing approximately 5,000 civilian, military and contract workers. With annual revenue exceeding $1 billion, the organization serves as an integral part of the greater US Navy, Naval Air Systems Command, and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers by maintaining the combat airpower for America’s military forces.