Meet the new boss

Af­ter set­tling into new job as com­man­der of base, Ham­mond talks about lead­er­ship and Navy cul­ture

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­

Af­ter tak­ing the helm of Naval Air Sta­tion Patux­ent River on Aug. 31, Capt. Ja­son Ham­mond be­came the 40th com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the naval base since its open­ing in April 1943.

Lead­ing the largest em­ployer of St. Mary’s County, Ham­mond said he found it “ex­tremely mo­ti­vat­ing” to be a part of what goes on at the Navy base.

“I’m ex­cited to be part of the things that hap­pen here be­cause there are long-term na­tional se­cu­rity things be­ing solved on this base ev­ery day,” he

said. “While I don’t do those my­self, I fa­cil­i­tate all of it.”

Grow­ing up in the small town of Danville, Ky., Ham­mond came from a fam­ily of ed­u­ca­tors with a li­brar­ian mother and col­lege pro­fes­sor father. Go­ing back to as early as he could re­mem­ber, he had al­ways wanted to be a pi­lot.

“As a very, very young per­son, I wanted to fly,” Ham­mond said. “I was fas­ci­nated by fly­ing air­planes, you know, lit­tle kid stuff.”

His de­sire to fly and his in­ter­est in the U.S. Naval Academy set him on a path to­ward mil­i­tary ser­vice. But the mo­ti­va­tion that drove him to stick with the Navy was not based on fly­ing, but on his in­ter­est in ser­vice and lead­er­ship.

“The Navy gives you the op­por­tu­nity to lead very early,” he said, not­ing he loves lead­er­ship and the process of mak­ing de­ci­sions.

Other than the op­por­tu­nity to lead, the chance to “do some­thing that’s greater than your­self” is the other rea­son that mo­ti­vates him to stay in the Navy.

As the leader of the in­stal­la­tion that em­ploys 22,000 peo­ple, one of Ham­mond’s pri­or­i­ties is em­pow­er­ment.

“One of my big­gest fo­cuses is to get the en­tire work­ing pop­u­la­tion … to truly feel em­pow­ered and be­lieve that what they are do­ing is for the greater good, to ex­ude that cul­ture so that they are re­spected,” he said.

That sense of em­pow­er­ment is what Ham­mond ties to his un­der­stand­ing of Navy cul­ture, in which peo­ple are given the flex­i­bil­ity to op­er­ate au­tonomously and achieve mis­sions.

He said his other fo­cuses dur­ing his 18-month ten­ure as CO will in­clude se­cu­rity, fam­ily readi­ness and sup­port for mis­sion part­ners on the Navy base.

“I’d like to fo­cus a lot on how to best use the re­sources that I have to main­tain the in­fra­struc­ture on the base,” he said. “That’s a chal­lenge. Re­sources are low. They are lower than the re­quire­ment.”

Two months into the job, Ham­mond said his big­gest chal­lenge of set­tling into the new role is more of a per­sonal chal­lenge to man­age the con­trol­ling part in his per­son­al­ity.

“My lead­er­ship mantra is you have to know your­self be­fore you can lead,” he said. “For any leader, that’s key. You got to know what clicks for you and what doesn’t for you per­son­ally. You got to rec­og­nize your own lim­i­ta­tions.”

De­scribed as be­ing a “sweat,” a Naval Academy term that de­picts some­one who wor­ries about ev­ery­thing, Ham­mond said that is a part of his per­son­al­ity that he has to con­trol. As he ma­tures, he has come to un­der­stand the pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives of this per­son­al­ity trait so that he could cap­i­tal­ize the pos­i­tives and con­trol the neg­a­tives.

“I take things very per­son­ally, which I don’t see as a neg­a­tive, be­cause I very much care about ev­ery­thing,” Ham­mond said. “I care about this base very, very deeply.

I care about all the func­tions we have, our staff [and] the peo­ple we serve.”

It’s dif­fi­cult for him, he said, to ac­cept the real­ity that not ev­ery­thing is al­ways go­ing to be right and per­fect, and mis­takes are go­ing to be made. But what he hopes to do is to find the nugget of truth and im­prove­ment within ev­ery prob­lem he faces and fun­nel his “sweati­ness” in a con­struc­tive way to make things bet­ter in the end.

“If we are al­ways try­ing to get bet­ter, then we are never stag­nant,” he said.

Capt. Christopher Cox, ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at Pax River and next in line to “fleet up” and as­sume com­mand when his boss’ ten­ure ends, de­scribed Ham­mond as some­one who un­der­stands the sub­tleties in work­ing with peo­ple and how to mo­ti­vate them — a key dis­tinc­tion be­tween be­ing a man­ager and a leader.

“He’s a great guy, su­per nice,” Cox said. “There’s al­ways a hu­man as­pect that comes out very quickly in any con­ver­sa­tion deal­ing with what­ever prob­lem we are deal­ing with.”

Call­ing Ham­mond an “em­pa­thetic” leader, Cox said Ham­mond al­ways asks about mis­sion im­pacts on peo­ple, and works to make sure peo­ple have the right re­sources and op­por­tu­ni­ties to do the best to their abil­ity.

Be­fore be­com­ing the CO at Pax River, Ham­mond served there as ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer un­der Capt. Scott Starkey, who rose to the com­mand­ing of­fice post in April 2016. A new com­mand­ing of­fi­cer is named about ev­ery 18 months.

Ham­mond and his fam­ily moved to St. Mary’s County in March of 2016. The county re­minded him of his home­town, with a small­town feel and the sense of a tight com­mu­nity.

The big­gest, pro­fes­sional im­pres­sion he had was the level of sup­port the com­mu­nity showed for the Navy.

It is “bet­ter than any other Navy town I’ve been in,” he said. “That was prob­a­bly the most glar­ing, pro­fes­sional ob­ser­va­tion I’ve had.”

Ham­mond grad­u­ated from An­napo­lis in May 1993 with a bach­e­lor of sci­ence de­gree in aero­space en­gi­neer­ing. He also has a master’s de­gree in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion from Old Do­min­ion Univer­sity. Ham­mond and his wife, Julie, have two chil­dren, Jaida, 6, and Jonah, 4.


Capt. Ja­son Ham­mond stands in front of the com­mand­ing of­fi­cer build­ing at Naval Air Sta­tion Patux­ent River last month.


Capt. Ja­son Ham­mond stands in his of­fice in­side the com­mand­ing of­fi­cer build­ing at Naval Air Sta­tion Patux­ent River last month.

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