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