Securing the Base
THE NAVY’S NEWEST INSTALLATION WILL DEFEND EUROPE
BY EDWARD LUNDQUIST, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Capt. Rick Gilbert, commanding officer of
Naval Support Facility Redzikowo, Poland,
is especially prepared for a unique com-
mand opportunity at the Navy’s newest
Gilbert joined the Navy in 1982 as a boiler technician. He rose through the ranks to become a chief petty
officer before being commissioned as an engineering
limited duty officer (LDO). After serving in shipboard
engineering assignments, Gilbert changed his designator to the new 6490 security officer career field.
“The security enterprise was looking for people to
convert over to help with security and I did that as a
lieutenant commander. I made commander and cap-
tain in the security field,” Gilbert said. “I’m currently
the only captain [of] security in the Navy. And the only
security officer to ever fill a commanding officer job in
the history of the Navy.”
Gilbert noted there are currently about 260 offi-
cers in the field, all of them LDOs with prior enlisted
“As we ‘professionalize’ the security forces, we’re
probably going to bring in about 25 LDOs a year. So it’s
a growing enterprise.”
As an engineer, he served aboard carriers, a cruiser,
an amphibious ship, a frigate and an ammunition ship.
“I’m from a small town — Springfield, Neb. —
population 5,200. I grew up on a farm, so the work
ethic from being on a farm doing chores, being
responsible for something besides yourself, I think
prepared me for all this,” Gilbert said. “I had a lot of
great engineering leaders — and I’m talking enlisted
leaders — petty officers, chiefs, senior chiefs, and
master chiefs and chiefs. They brought me up with a
good work ethic. You cannot partially complete a job
in engineering — it has to 100 percent completed cor-
rectly so that a ship could get underway.”
Both of his parents were deaf, so being able to
communicate effectively without talking also helped to
prepare him for this job.
“I had to communicate for them; they were some-
what dependent upon me,” he said. “As a 10-year old
boy, I had to communicate for them on the phone, or
even buy a car. When your dad’s upset with something,
you had to be upset with him, to explain it. So I was a
mediator, and quick de-escalator.”
Gilbert said his experience as an engineer and a
surface warfare LDO, as well as a security specialist,
has helped him in his job commanding an Aegis ballis-
tic missile defense site.
“I understand ships. And AAMDS [Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System] is an operational unit that looks
like a ship, smells like a ship, even though it’s a building. And on the other hand of that, I have to make sure
that I protect that asset, so I also look at exterior forces
trying to come in, versus missiles in the air. I look at
people, vehicles, vehicle-born IDs, personal-born IDs,
fence lines, culverts, and I look at this physical security piece of it in vetting people on and off the base as a
major mission area, by protecting Aegis Ashore.
“As an engineer, you get what you inspect, not
what you expect. I’d tell my people to make sure we’re
doing an inventory on evidence, and then I would go
and verify they did inventory on evidence,” Gilbert
said. “You do that until you’ve got that trust and confidence in everybody, and then you have trust and
confidence in yourself.
“LDOs do not have major commands. They don’t
exist. We have no specific billets for major commands.
So the only time we ever fill a bill like this is when
there’s a gap or a vacancy where a line officer cannot
fill it. And then we support the line community by filling it,” Gilbert said.
The base is being built on the site of a former Polish
Air Force airfield, literally on top of the runway. The
familiar Aegis deck house is not in place yet.
“My role right now is to ensure that the base is
built safely and securely. I don’t want to have a contract move forward fast and forget about the safety
piece of it. I know there’s a balance between the execution and safety — but there will always safety issues
out there and we need to be cognizant of it, and have
everybody pay attention to it,” Gilbert said.
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