Sailors, civilians line streets of Sasebo Naval Base in Japan, to salute exiting commander
By JAMES BOLINGER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 25, 2020
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Capt. Brad Stallings handed off command of Sasebo Naval Base in southern Japan on Friday, ending a three-year tenure capped by a fight against the coronavirus.
Capt. David Adams, most recently the reactor officer aboard the nuclear-powered carrier USS John C. Stennis, took over from Stallings at a ceremony reduced to just 50 attendees due to coronavirus restrictions.
“It is my great honor to stand before you as the successor to a great lineage of commanders who set the example and guarded against external threats, preserved an amazing relationship with our Japanese friends, and secured a course of peaceful development and progress for over seven decades,” Adams said during his address inside the base fitness center Friday.
Adams, a native of Beaumont, Texas, graduated in 1997 from the University of San Diego with a bachelor’s in business administration and a commission through Naval ROTC, according to a Navy statement issued Friday.
Stars and Stripes was provided with copies of Adams’ and Stallings’ speeches prior to the ceremony.
Stallings’ next assignment is not far away. He’s heading to Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo, to serve as chief of staff to Rear Adm. Brian Fort, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan.
A native of Attica, Ohio, Stallings holds masters’ degrees in electrical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School and in military studies from the Command and Staff College. He was commissioned through the Enlisted Commissioning program, according to the Navy. He has also served in South Korea and Afghanistan.
Fort, guest speaker at the ceremony, presented Stallings with the Legion of Merit for his service at Sasebo, about 30 miles northwest of Nagasaki.
“I am one of many who are exceptionally proud of this entire team, your contributions to the mission, and your strengthening of the relationship between the United States and Japan,” Fort said to Stallings, according to the Navy. “Success is always a team sport and you played it well.”
Though the ceremony was sparsely attended, many sailors and civilians lined the street, properly spaced and wearing masks, to render salutes and farewell waves as Stallings drove past, according to a video posted Friday on the base Facebook page.
It was definitely not a traditional change-of-command ceremony, Stallings said during his remarks.
“In order to keep the numbers down, there is no band, there were no side boys posted for a formal entrance of the official party,” he said, “as you can see there are very few guests, there are no flowers to hand out and there is no reception.”
To punctuate the past seven months of Stallings’ career, the base on Friday morning announced that the only active coronavirus patient there had tested free of the virus.
Sasebo is homeport for the amphibious assault ship USS America, the flagship of an amphibious readiness group, along with 48 tenant commands and 7,400 sailors, civilian employees and family members, according to the Navy. Keeping the coronavirus off the base, and out of the amphibious group warships, became Stallings’ daily first priority.
“Although COVID-19 interrupted our lives, all of you here continue to serve the fleet by providing gas, ordnance, stores, services and repairs,” Stalling said Friday, referring to the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. “Schools are open, training has resumed, church services are happening, folks are eating out and going to the gym. All this is possible because all of you take personal responsibility every day, and you demand it from others.”
The base reported a relatively low number of coronavirus cases as the pandemic moved across Japan. Meanwhile, Stallings on social media posted regular, personalized messages to encourage or scold, as the circumstances required. He was often blunt.
He also held frequent townhall meetings via Facebook Live to pass information and answer questions about the coronavirus and base policies.
At the start of a livestream session April 23, he tallied up the U.S. dead from the virus, a number then nearly equal to the Americans killed in the Vietnam War. In a subsequent session, Stallings shared the fact that because of travel restrictions he could not attend the funeral of a cousin who had succumbed to the virus.
In May, Stallings barred several civilians from the base after they violated a prohibition on patronizing area bars and restaurants in order to curb the virus’ spread.
“COVID-19 has changed how we operate,” Stallings said during his address, “and we live in a very different world as compared to just seven months ago.”
Capt. David Adams took command of Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, on Sept. 25, 2020, from Capt. Brad Stallings in a small ceremony at the base fitness center.