The departing commanding officer of Fleet Readiness Center East thanked managers and a legion of professionals for “chasing perfection” at the Cherry Point aircraft repair and maintenance facility.
“You did it. Not me. You did it,” said Col. Mitchell Bauman, 54, who retired after 32 years in the Marine Corps and two years leading the depot at Cherry Point.
Bauman handed over the colors to his successor, Col. Blayne H. Spratlin, at a change of command ceremony in the 70-year-old facility on Thursday.
“The F-35 is going to show up here in your back yard this summer. You can’t get much better than this,” Bauman told a large portion of the 3,300 employees of the facility that sprawls on 150 acres at the Marine Corps air station.
“You have set the bar high,” said Rear Admiral C.J. Jaynes, commander of Fleet Readiness Centers, in congratulating Bauman on his time at FRC East. “You have shown a tremendous will to win. You have made a difference.”
Guest speaker George J. Trautman III, a retired Marine lieutenant general, described Bauman as a “fiercely compassionate leader” with “incredible insight and skill” who is “solid, practical and still a farm boy at heart.”
Trautman said two of the most important contributions Bauman made to Marine Corps aviation were the ongoing transition from the CH-46 Frog to the MV-22 Osprey and from the AV-8B Harrier to the Joint Strike Fighter.
“He’s a data driven problem solver who knows how to ask the right questions and then follow through to ensure success,” Trautman said. “He has a distinct disdain for the status quo.”
Bauman was credited with improving safety, shortening turnaround times and lowering costs at the facility.
Bauman told those at Thursday’s ceremony that FRC East workers compared him to Captain Ahab from the novel “Moby Dick” at a recent retirement party.
“It’s time to hand it over to my trusty confidant, Ishmael,” he said of Spratlin. “It’s time to give him the boat. He’s ready, willing and able to sustain the gains we’ve made.”
The employees gave Bauman a standing ovation.
“Captain Ahab is going to be a hard act to follow,” Spratlin said.
Jaynes said Spratlin was the right man to lead FRC East into the future.
“You understand the needs of the warfighter because you are one,” Jaynes said. “What a fine man to lead FRC East. Keep it steady and remain balanced.”
Troutman said he had followed Spratlin’s career closely.
“I know him as a person who can get things done,” he said. “The upward trend will continue.”
Spratlin said he challenged FRC East workers to always do the right thing with honor, courage and commitment, and to treat other people like you want to be treated.
“I’m here for one reason only and that’s to support the warfighter, to support Naval and Marine Corps aviation, and to continue this tradition of excellence at FRC East and hopefully get us a little better and turn it over to the next guy,” Spratlin said.
Spratlin enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1980 and is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He reported to FRC East in 2011 as executive officer. A native of Athens, Ga., Spratlin is married and has two children.
In retirement, Bauman, married with six children, will be splitting time between Maryland and Missouri.