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For the third time in four years, Naval Air Station Whiting Field has won the Installation Excellence Award as the U.S. Navy’s top small installation, officials announced Tuesday.

The Navy’s installation excellence award program recognizes the top three large and top three small installations, based on the installation’s performance in accordance with the command’s strategic goals and the Office of the Secretary of Defense criteria for the DoD-wide Commander-in-Chief Installation Excellence Awards.

At South Whiting Field, the base’s fleet of TH-57 training helicopters is joined by an MH-60 Romeo anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare helicopter. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

Whiting Field won first place in the small installations category for 2018, as it did in 2015 and 2016.  California’s Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach won the honor in 2017.

“This year’s competition was intense, and it is clear our winners represent the very best of the best within the shore enterprise,” said Vice Admiral Mary Jackson, Commander of the Navy Installations Command. “I want to personally thank each installation’s superb teams for their stellar work. Their efforts to deliver readiness through the shore are indicative of the teamwork and drive to deliver the very best to our sailors and their families while ensuring we remain good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”

First established near Milton during World War II, Whiting Field — actually a complex consisting of two connected airfields — has evolved to become the epicenter of the Navy’s flight training program. It’s not only the Navy’s busiest air station but the country’s busiest airport period, with more than 1 million flight operations per year. Economically, the base is a juggernaut, directly or indirectly supporting more than 14,000 jobs and registering an overall economic impact of $1.1 billion annually.

Navy lieutenant Corky Maschke (right) orients flight student lieutenant Karl Sergojan in the cockpit of an MH-60R helicopter during Whiting Field’s Fleet Fly-In in 2015. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

“Team Whiting Field’s dedication and outstanding performance, consistent with CNIC’s strategic goals and Office of the Secretary of Defense criteria, are unparalleled and absolutely worthy of praiseworthy recognition,” said Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, Commander, Navy Region Southeast. “Earning such prestigious recognition is a significant accomplishment and a testament to supporting the fleet, family, fighter (and community)! HooYah and Bravo Zulu to Capt. Bahlau and his team!”

Earlier this week, Capt. Paul Bowdich took over command of the base following Capt. Todd Bahlau’s two-year tour at the helm of Whiting Field.

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