Support our mission
Vice Adm. Robert Conway Jr., commander of Navy Installations Command, pins the Legion of Merit medal on Rear Adm. Noel Preston, who Thursday relinquished command of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples. Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen, center, assumed command from Preston.

Vice Adm. Robert Conway Jr., commander of Navy Installations Command, pins the Legion of Merit medal on Rear Adm. Noel Preston, who Thursday relinquished command of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples. Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen, center, assumed command from Preston. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

Vice Adm. Robert Conway Jr., commander of Navy Installations Command, pins the Legion of Merit medal on Rear Adm. Noel Preston, who Thursday relinquished command of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples. Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen, center, assumed command from Preston.

Vice Adm. Robert Conway Jr., commander of Navy Installations Command, pins the Legion of Merit medal on Rear Adm. Noel Preston, who Thursday relinquished command of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples. Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen, center, assumed command from Preston. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

Rear Adm. Noel Preston, the former commander of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples, speaks Thursday at his change-of-command ceremony. After two years in Naples, Italy, Preston leaves to serve for a few months as deputy chief of Navy Reserve for Commander, Navy Reserve Force in Arlington, Va.

Rear Adm. Noel Preston, the former commander of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples, speaks Thursday at his change-of-command ceremony. After two years in Naples, Italy, Preston leaves to serve for a few months as deputy chief of Navy Reserve for Commander, Navy Reserve Force in Arlington, Va. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen assumed command Thursday of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples. Groothousen formerly served as commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two.

Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen assumed command Thursday of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples. Groothousen formerly served as commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

A Navy quartermaster ceremoniously "breaks" the flag of Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen during a change-of-command ceremony, unfurling the flag to signify Groothousen's assuming command of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples.

A Navy quartermaster ceremoniously "breaks" the flag of Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen during a change-of-command ceremony, unfurling the flag to signify Groothousen's assuming command of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

NAPLES, Italy — As he looks back on his past two years as commander of Navy Region Europe and Maritime Air Naples, Rear Adm. Noel Preston sees the progress his team has made.

That progress was praised by Vice Adm. Robert Conway Jr., commander of the Navy Installations Command, who noted how Preston kept Navy Region Europe viable as it closed bases to move away from the Cold War era, while also staying on the cutting edge by contributions in fighting terror.

“Noel Preston is no stranger to taking on complex challenges — challenges that allow for lots of opportunities to get frustrated when the going gets tough,” Conway said during Thursday’s change of command at Maritime Component Command Naples’ headquarters on the island of Nisida. “There’s the old adage that how you handle challenges, setbacks and disappointments define you as a leader.”

Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen succeeds Preston, whom Conway applauded for the region’s successes, such as keeping Navy Region Europe viable as it closed bases to move away from the Cold War era, and on the cutting edge as the Navy made its contributions in fighting terrorism.

Conway also praised Preston for his creation of a Europe-wide Individual Augmentee sponsorship program to help ease strain on sailors and their families as the sailors serve downrange.

Preston proved himself both a tactful and diplomatic leader, Conway said. But the outgoing commander deflected the praise, saying it belonged to all sailors and civilians who work for Navy Region Europe.

“We succeeded because of professionalism and trust, and because of respect,” Preston said. “Respect for one another, respect for individual capabilities and respect for national capabilities, and respect for individual cultures and national cultures.”

Preston, a helicopter pilot by trade, leaves Naples to serve for a few months as deputy chief of Navy Reserve for Commander, Navy Reserve Force, in Arlington, Va. He then plans to retire and work in the civilian sector.

Conway welcomed aboard Groothousen with certainty he would lead the region to new levels of successes.

“Command does not come automatically to someone,” Conway said to Groothousen, a trained F/A-18 Hornet pilot. “You don’t get this job by seniority, but by a proven record of accomplishments and excellence.”

Groothousen isn’t traveling far for this new assignment. He last served as commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two, headquartered on Nisida.

As he took command, Groothousen said to his sailors, “Hang on, because I intend to sail hard and fast, into a sea of change charted, or yet to be charted.”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up