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Carpenter assumes command in Naples

Capt. Scott Gray accepts a gift from Luisa Mazzella of the USO after a command change ceremony for his successor on the base at Capodichino in Naples, Italy, on July 24, 2014. Capt. Douglas W. Carpenter assumed command of Naval Support Activity Naples.

NAPLES, Italy — A former Intruder pilot from Virginia assumed command Thursday of the Navy base here, home to operational commands for Europe and Africa.

Capt. Douglas W. Carpenter, 45, becomes the 33rd commander of Naval Support Activity Naples since the base was established in 1952. He relieves Capt. Scott Gray, who has commanded since 2011 and who heads to Jacksonville, Fla., for his next assignment.

Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, head of the Navy command responsible for shore installations across Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia, welcomed Carpenter and lauded the achievements of Gray, whose tenure coincided with a period of budget cuts, labor issues and new housing requirements.

“Until you sit on that seat, it’s hard to describe the literally hundreds of diverse issues skipper Gray has had to deal with during his time here,” Scorby said.

The most recent example was a near strike by the union representing Italian base workers here, scheduled for Thursday but later postponed. The labor issue is one of the first facing Carpenter, and perhaps a fitting introduction to the challenges of the command.

Aside from his handling of issues on base, Gray is credited by many here for his equanimity last summer, when the senior flag officer forced Gray, his wife and four children out of their on-base villa because of structural damage in the flag quarters and the admiral’s desire to live on base. The March death of Lt. Cmdr. John Keith, a Navy chaplain and friend of Gray’s, was also difficult for the commander.

“For me, it has been a very personal journey,” Gray said in remarks that were occasionally emotional. His next assignment is chief of staff of the Navy command for shore installations in the U.S. Southeast.

Carpenter grew up in a Navy family and spent part of his youth in Rota, Spain. He began his career as an A-6E Intruder pilot before moving to the S-3B Viking, a surveillance and refueling aircraft. He has deployed aboard the carriers USS Harry S. Truman and USS Enterprise for the Iraq War and led a detachment in South America supporting counternarcotics operations. He is married and has a young son.

The NSA Naples command includes the main base in Capodichino, the support site in Gricignano, the home port of the USS Mount Whitney in Gaeta and the Navy recreational facility in Carney Park in Naples. It supports 6th Fleet ships and U.S. servicemembers assigned to the NATO headquarters in nearby Lago Patria.

Gray wished his successor luck, and he appeared to suggest he would need it.

“This is the place that challenges the best of leaders,” Gray said.

beardsley.steven@stripes.com

Twitter: @sjbeardsley

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