Capt. Shashaty returns to NAS Pensacola, this time as the boss
Naval Air Station Pensacola’s new commanding officer is getting settled into his new duty station, after the change-of-command ceremony two weeks ago.
“Being the commanding officer of Naval Air Station Pensacola — I mean, this is a cherished location, just because of the history with the Cradle of Naval Aviation,” said Capt. Terry Shashaty.
When we caught up with Shashaty at his office, he was still in the process of unpacking personal effects, two weeks after taking command of the installation. And he had just finished his first meeting with department heads.
“We had a couple of big things on tap for the first week, but we take everything as it comes,” he said. “I’ve got a staff that actually knows how to do their job and do it well, so it was easy. Knock on wood, but it was a good first two weeks in the seat.”
Shashaty’s Navy journey has taken him from his native Brooklyn, NY, to the U.S. Naval Academy, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with 400 combat hours over Iraq and Afghanistan. “Village," his call sign, earned his wings of gold at NAS Pensacola in 2000 and returned for some command training after that. He noticed some changes at the base — some compliments of Mother Nature.
“I did come back in 2005 after Hurricane Ivan and saw the devastation that happened there; I was back in 2015 for aviation CO training, to be a commanding officer of a squadron,” Shashaty said. “But I was also pleasantly surprised about off-base, and all the improvements that happened downtown.”
Before hanging their hat aboard NAS Pensacola, the base commander is selected by the Navy conducting a selection board. Candidates’ service records are gathered for — in Pensacola’s case, a “major command.”
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“My record was selected as a major commander, and what they do after that — there’s kind of a list that we put preferences in,” he said. “This is the way that the normal detailing process works with the Navy, and me and my wife spent a lot of time going over it, and Pensacola was by far our top choice.”
One of Shashaty’s first jobs as the new skipper will be to oversee a number of initiatives put into place by his predecessor, Capt. Tim Kinsella.
“When it comes down to my personal priorities, I haven’t identified those yet. Said Shashaty. “My plan on that one is when something comes up — whether it’s near-term or long-term — we’ll identify it and start getting after it.”
It’s been just over two years since a Saudi Royal Air Force officer opened fire at a building aboard the base, killing three U.S. sailors and wounding 11 others before he was shot to death by law enforcement. Shashaty realizes that one of his duties is to take actions to avoid another such confrontation.
“The events in December 2019 were horrendous, but I have the utmost confidence in my security team to be able to handle any situation that comes our way,” Shashaty said. “They train constantly. I actually ended up certifying my K-9 unit; to see them in action was awesome.”
The mission is clear — making sure the base and its personnel provide the services the Navy’s tenant commands need. That, says Shashaty, is the focus of him and the military and civilian workforce. Family, he says, is important.
“To making sure that the military families — whatever it is that comes up — they get the proper services they need,” Shashaty said. “Just making sure that the tenant commands have, from a facilities side, the proper support to be able to execute their mission. And that’s training — whether it’s aviation, the cryptologists that are over at Corry Station, making sure they get what they need from NAS Pensacola to do their mission.”
Base commanders do not go it alone when it comes to overseeing their installations. Capt. Shashaty says the layers of command over him include the Naval Installations Command, and his immediate boss — the commander of Naval Region Southeast, based in Jacksonville.
“In big organizations, you have overall policy guidance and then subsequent policy guidances that are kicked out,” he said. “So we obviously stay in line with that guidance — or orders — that are kicked down to us. Outside of that, there are certain authorities that I have and when needed, I would execute as appropriate.”
As mentioned earlier, Capt. Terry Shashaty took the reins from Capt. Tim Kinsella earlier this month. The new CO says Kinsella, call sign “Lucky," left some large shoes to fill.
“He allowed me to kind of tag along, so I was kind of a ‘plus-one’ on some of the events he ended up doing [and] some of the conversations he had,” Shashaty said. “Yes, we get training, but this is new. I’m an aviator. I flew tactical aircraft off of carriers. So this is a new job for me. Being able to shadow Lucky in some of the things he ended up doing, most certainly helped educate me on the roles and responsibilities I have for this job.”
As he settles into his new command, Shashaty was asked about the future of NAS Pensacola, which opened in 1914, amid developing technology and tactics to meet 21st-century challenges.
“We’re going to make this base continue for the next 100 years; we’re going to make this a viable naval air station, not only for the Training Command but for the Navy at large,” said Shashaty. “My goal is to make this not only the preeminent training base for the Navy but also if and when they need to up the ante with regards to Naval Air Station Pensacola ready to take anything on board.”
Capt. Terry Shashaty’s new command is the second-largest training base in the Navy with roughly 60,000 students coming through each year from all branches of the U.S. military, as well as allied military.