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Naval Support Activity South Potomac Welcomes New Commanding Officer

02 June 2023

From Jeron Hayes

Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) welcomed its seventh commanding officer at a ceremony under beautiful sunny skies at the Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren Parade Field on June 1, 2023. The command bid farewell to Capt. Todd Copeland and welcomed Capt. David J. Wilson, Jr.
Dahlgren, Va. – Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) welcomed its seventh commanding officer at a ceremony under beautiful sunny skies at the Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren Parade Field on June 1, 2023. The command bid farewell to Capt. Todd Copeland and welcomed Capt. David J. Wilson, Jr.

Rear Admiral Nancy Lacore, commandant, Naval District Washington, presided over the ceremony and served as guest speaker. She first recognized the Copeland and Wilson family members present for the ceremony. “Families hold profound significance for military members, serving as a pillar of support, love, and strength. For those in the military, families provide an unwavering foundation that sustains them through the demanding challenges and sacrifices inherent in their service.” She then highlighted Copeland’s accomplishments since taking command in July of 2020 in the midst of the pandemic.

She recalled some of the lighthearted highlights of Copeland’s South Potomac tenure, including some challenging Q&A sessions with Dahlgren School students and his advocacy of wildlife on base when he, at the urging of two children that reside on base, approved the installation of “turtle crossing” signs across the base.

She shared Copeland’s command accomplishments, including passing all inspections and assessments in all departments, with outstanding scores on security inspections and commended the relationships he built with the other regional commanding officers, as well as tenant command leadership and the local communities.

“He expertly managed community outreach in two states, two counties, and four municipalities. He worked tirelessly to improve the effectiveness of interactions and communications between the military and local governments.”

She capped her remarks with words directly from Copeland’s staff. Among the glowing reviews, she shared a staff member’s comment - “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the working relationship we’ve developed over the last three years. It’s been built on mutual trust and respect and I will forever be grateful for that.”

Mayor Robin Schick from the town of Colonial Beach, Va. presented Copeland with a gift, thanking him for the strong relationship between NSA South Potomac and her community. She appreciated Copeland’s support personally of the “restaurants, breweries and activities of our town. We will miss you, you’ve become part of our community.” She also presented a gift to Capt. Wilson to welcome him to the community, including a golf cart rental so he can properly explore her town.

At Copeland’s request, the ceremony’s traditional “side boys” included two Sailors, two police officers and two firefighters from NSASP, a reflection of the command’s mission. When Copeland took the stage, he recognized and shared appreciation for the service-oriented personnel of NSASP.

He first thanked his family for their continued support and recognized the sacrifices his children have made, including serving as his daughter’s college roommate during her first semester at Penn State University, where she attended virtually during the pandemic from their home. He then praised Admiral Lacore for her leadership. “The biggest compliment I can give a boss is that you let me lead, you let me execute mission command.”

Copeland reflected on the establishment of Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) in 2003 and the creation of an installation commander that “essentially labels one person as senior plumber, electrician, landlord, HOA president, and cruise director.” He expressed gratitude to his tenant mission partners at Dahlgren and Indian Head for their patience and letting him learn and “find his pace” while supporting him along the way.

Copeland shared an effusive thanks to NSASP security, fire and EMS staff for their outstanding performance during his tour and declared “you did more with less than anyone else.” He expressed gratitude for the opportunity to present numerous life-saving awards to fire and EMS personnel throughout his three years in command.

He thanked his Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff for their perseverance during the unprecedented pandemic. “You kept the lights on,” he told the staff. “You were creative and resilient” and “did amazing things to take care of our Sailors, Marines and their families.” Copeland especially appreciated their support of his suggestions to continue holiday celebrations from a distance, including Reverse Trick or Treat and Santa parades and delivery of pumpkins to base houses.

Copeland extended thanks to his Sailors, command master chief and executive officer, and for his last act as a commanding officer, presented an Impact Award, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal to Culinary Specialist Second Class Jonathan Richardson, who responded on his own on Christmas Day 2022 to a major water leak at Dahlgren School and assisted in clean-up of the facility and coordination of multiple temporary classrooms while repairs are made.

In closing, Copeland shared the message with all in attendance that “we are the base.” He referred to the many personnel, military and civilian aboard NSF Dahlgren and NSF Indian Head, but also to community leaders outside the fence lines. “We come from different backgrounds, work on different sides of the fence, but we work together because we know that the base is the community and the community is the base. We worked together during the pandemic, we problem solved, we figured out remote work, we figured out masks and six feet separation, we never gave up on the morale and welfare of the community, we took care of each other, and we continued to execute the mission.”

“These installations and the communities around them are special. The work that happens at Indian Head and Dahlgren ensure our Navy continues to meet the emerging challenges across the globe. From energetic production, to the response to a chemical or biological attack, to the training of the operators of weapons systems, to the research and development of the next generation of surface and space warfare, South Potomac is here to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Copeland closed by saying, “It has been the privilege of my Navy career to be part of this team and I humbly thank you all.”

Capt. David J. Wilson, Jr. was then installed as the new NSASP commanding officer. After thanking his wife, children, parents and sister who were in attendance, he thanked Capt. Copeland for “the best turnover I’ve had in 24 years in the Navy.” He wished Copeland and his family safe travels and said he looks forward to hearing about Copeland’s next adventure.

Wilson, who comes to NSASP after eight months at CNIC, thanked Admiral Lacore for attending and said “I know Naval District Washington is the best regional out of all of them. I’m glad to be a part of it and I look forward to working with you.”

He then thanked his new command for their warm welcome. “Everyone I met with throughout turnover seems to really like it here and is dedicated to the installation. I got the feeling that this close-knit group resembles a family and that’s pretty cool. I want to keep that going and build on the strong foundation that you have all laid here.”

Wilson, a University of Virginia graduate, previously served as a helicopter pilot with 2300 flight hours and 595 shipboard landings and commanded the Scorpions of Helicopter Maritime Squadron (HMS) 49 following numerous operational assignments.

Copeland will next serve at Kansas University where he will become commanding officer of the school’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

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