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OICC China Lake Commanding Officer Cmdr. Ben Wainwright being piped ashore marking the conclusion of the change of command ceremony on July 13 aboard Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. / US Navy Photo

NAVFAC hosted change of command ceremony July 13

Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) CHINA LAKE – China Lake Commander. (Cmdr.) Ben Wainwright relieved Capt. Laurie Scott as the commanding officer of Officer in Charge of Construction (OICC) China Lake, during a change of command ceremony aboard Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake on July 13, in Ridgecrest, California.

 The ceremony was presided over by Rear Adm. Dean VanderLey, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Pacific commander. Guest speaker included Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) Deputy Technical Director Brad Harlow, and the invocation and benediction were provided by NAWS China Lake Command Chaplain Lt. David Brainard.

 “One of the things that strikes me about the OICC is that, even with the challenge of such a tight timeline from inception to the start of significant amounts of construction, OICC China Lake has led the way for innovation and effective project delivery within NAVFAC,” said Rear Adm. VanderLey. “Some of the initiatives undertaken by Capt. Scott has the common theme of partnering, skills development and process improvement which is a testament not only to Capt. Scott and the OICC staff, but also to the many people attending today’s ceremony, and to their investment and support in this essential recovery effort.” 

Representing NAWCWD was Brad Harlow, Deputy Technical Director, who stated, “NAVFAC’s true heart and capacity to serve showed itself when China Lake was in trouble after the 2019 earthquakes. NAVFAC stood shoulder to shoulder with us, putting its credibility on the line for the sake of the valuable mission performed here at China Lake.”

Capt. Scott established and assumed command of OICC China Lake in August 2020 and was recognized for leading the uniquely integrated NAVFAC and NAWCWD team in developing a program to reconstruct 22 facilities across NAWS China Lake valued at $2.7 billion.

“The team here at China Lake has risen to the challenge to restore this critical asset to the Navy and the nation. The work accomplished so far has been rapid, calculated and coordinated. I am humbled and honored to have led this amazing team,” said Capt. Scott. “This program’s success also extends to the eight world-class contractors, who have been just as dedicated to this mission. This is apparent, all across the base, with new facilities rising from the earthquake damaged 1940’s era buildings they are replacing.”  

Rear Adm. VanderLey presented Capt. Scott with the Legion of Merit award for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements and applauded his efforts in leading the development and execution of this multi-billion dollar earthquake recovery program. Capt. Scott was also recognized by representatives from locally elected officials and presented a proclamation from the City of Ridgecrest, read by Vice Mayor Solomon Rajaratnam detailing Capt. Scott’s investment and contributions to the community.

Capt. Scott’s next assignment will have him assume command as commanding officer for NAVFAC Southwest, responsible to provide engineering support to 10 naval installations, eight Marine Corps bases, an Air Force base and 18 Navy Reserve Centers, across six western states, leading more than 3,200 federal employees, administering an annual operating budget of over $3 billion.

“He (Cmdr. Wainwright) is an incredibly capable officer and the right person to take the helm here at China Lake,” said Rear Adm. VanderLey. “Ben, you are taking command of an amazing team here at China Lake, I ask that you continue to maintain the innovation, hard work, and partnerships that have made the earthquake recovery program successful to date.”

Wainwright reports to OICC China Lake after serving as the Ocean Operations Officer for Maritime Surveillance Systems in San Diego, California.

“Under your leadership (Capt. Scott), this team built from scratch has awarded all 22 construction contracts, of which are all either on or ahead of schedule, which is remarkable. Thank you for a great turnover and your herculean efforts while leading the OICC team,” said Cmdr. Wainwright. “To the OICC team, I consider the opportunity to lead you an opportunity of a lifetime. What you have accomplished as an integrated organization is absolutely extraordinary.”  

OICC China Lake was established in August 2020 to provide engineering, acquisition, and execution oversight for military construction and repair projects caused by the devastating damage from the 6.4 and 7.1 magnitude earthquakes that occurred on July 4 and 5, 2019.

NAWS China Lake is located in the Western Mojave Desert region of California, approximately 150 miles north of Los Angeles. China Lake’s mission is to support the Navy’s RDT&E missions to provide cutting-edge weapons systems to the warfighter. The installation is the Navy’s largest single landholding. In total, its two ranges and main site cover more than 1.1 million acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.