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Capt. R. Wayne Radloff, Naval Air Facility Misawa commanding officer for three years, will turn over leadership of the facility in northern Japan on June 28.

Capt. R. Wayne Radloff, Naval Air Facility Misawa commanding officer for three years, will turn over leadership of the facility in northern Japan on June 28. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

NAVAL AIR FACILITY MISAWA, Japan — After three years under the same leadership, the U.S. Navy’s northernmost installation in Japan soon will welcome a new captain.

Capt. R. Wayne Radloff will relinquish control of NAF Misawa to Capt. Peter B. Rush at a change-of-command ceremony June 28 in Hangar 971 at 1 p.m.

Rush is due to arrive Wednesday from Carrier Strike Group 3 in Bremerton, Wash., where he was operations officer.

Radloff and his wife, Debi, are headed to Atlanta, where Radloff, 48, will assume command of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Atlanta Consortium, a cluster of six universities and colleges with a total of 160 midshipmen. Radloff also will teach naval science at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Morehouse College.

The job will be a great opportunity to influence future Navy leaders, he said, adding it’s also a bittersweet change since Misawa was “absolutely the best tour” of his 27-year Navy career to date.

“It was 24-7 … but I loved every minute of it,” Radloff said in an interview Monday, noting that he learned a lot from Air Force and Navy leaders, as well as from Japanese workers on base. “I’ve come away with an appreciation for what Misawa is as a community of people working together.”

For Debi, an avid community volunteer who moonlighted as the base’s Easter Bunny come spring, Misawa felt like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry: “It’s just a very close-knit community. At a big base, you kind of get lost in the crowd. Here, you go to the commissary and it takes you half an hour to get out of produce,” she said.

About 200 sailors report directly to Radloff, though as NAF Misawa commanding officer, he’s also responsible for supporting about 1,200 Navy personnel assigned throughout the base’s various Navy commands.

He was a hands-on leader who often could be found walking through the barracks or downtown bar district late on a Friday night, checking on Navy personnel after-hours. He tried to get the know the sailors in his command by first name.

“When you get to know people, you get to know what they’re capable of doing,” he said, “what expertise they might have, what talent they have.”

The April 2004 death of a Japanese civilian, killed when a 19-year-old NAF Misawa sailor ran a stop sign on a back road to Shimoda Mall, was a difficult time for the command due to the tragedy’s magnitude and aftermath.

“There was no alcohol involvement … he probably was distracted; we’ll never know,” Radloff said of former seaman Joshua H. Pierson, who received an 18- month suspended prison sentence from the Japanese courts. Pierson later was administratively separated from the Navy.

“That was probably the thing that, boy, if I could have one day over, that would be the day,” Radloff said, “because it was a preventable accident.”

Radloff will carry over his advice to fresh enlistees at Misawa to his new post in Georgia: “Always have a plan, and have a backup plan; have options,” he said. “I think from day one now you need to start thinking about how you want to succeed in the Navy.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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