Naval Air Station Whiting Field will observe a time-honored Navy tradition Wednesday, Dec. 17 at the installation’s auditorium building at 10 a.m. when command of the air station will pass from one officer to another.
Capt. Todd Bahlau will accept command of NAS Whiting Field from Capt. Matthew Coughlin following Coughlin’s three year tour at the helm. The change of command ceremony is a Navy tradition that enables the two officers to formally exchange duties in front of the assembled military and civilian staff. It is also a time to recognize the accomplishments of the outgoing “Skipper” in front of his family and friends.
Coughlin’s professional management of a military facility valued at over one billion dollars directly enhanced the ability for Training Air Wing FIVE to meet their aviation training mission. Under his guidance, NAS Whiting Field provided air traffic control, emergency fire and rescue services, and runway and grounds maintenance to more than 13,000 acres of property and 4,500 nautical square miles of airspace, supporting the safe execution of 377,000 aircraft flight hours, and four million flight evolutions, as well as classroom and simulator training/support for 3,600 student naval aviators. Productivity at the fifteen airfields under Coughlin’s direct control supported Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and allied forces operations, equating to 65 percent of the entire Chief of Naval Aviation Training (CNATRA) annual flight curriculum and accounted for 11 percent of the Department of Defense’s annual flight hours
NAS Whiting Field will be Coughlin’s final tour as he will retire during the ceremony. The installation served as the final step in a distinguished 27-year Naval career. Previous commands included: the “Vipers” of HSL 48, USS Peleliu (LHA 5), Fleet Replacement Squadron (HSL-41), the “Scorpions” of HSL-49, Operations Directorate (J-3), the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the HSL-43 “Battle Cats” and the USS Peleliu once again. He also earned a Master’s Degree at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Cal. And a second Masters at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, Washington D.C.
Bahlau will become the installation’s 41st commanding officer, and brings a wealth of experience as an aviator within joint operational environments. A native of Jackson, Michigan, he is a 1991 graduate of the United States Naval Academy where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics. Bahlau received a Master of Science Degree in Management from Troy State University in June 1992 and was designated a Naval Aviator on Feb. 4, 1994.
Bahlau’s first operational assignment was with the “Grandmasters” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light FOUR SIX (HSL-46) in Mayport, Florida, flying the SH-60B Seahawk helicopter. Follow on assignments included: the “Airwolves” of HSL-40 (two tours), the Staff of Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12 (CCDG-12), the Chief of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC, as the Head Officer Promotion Planner, another tour with the Grandmasters, the 33d Flying Training Squadron (33d FTS) at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma, and a tour as Chief of the Strategic Engagement Cell and Chief of the Joint Visitor Bureau at Headquarters International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan. Bahlau also earned a second Master’s degree from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. His most recent assignment was with the United States Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
Commander Navy Region Southeast Rear Adm. Mary Jackson will serve as the guest speaker for the event.
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