NUWC Keyport gets first female commander
June 11, 2008 · Updated 11:35 AM
"Capt. Mary Townsend-Manning stepped into Navy history books Wednesday, Aug. 8, when she became the first woman to command a Naval Warfare Center. Townsend-Manning relieved Capt. Thom Violette in a unique change-of-command ceremony before a packed Jack Murdock Auditorium at the Naval Undersea Museum. Violette commanded the Naval Undersea Warfare Center at Keyport for two and a half years, seeing the base through its usual torpedo testing, evaluation and engineering as well as expanding into unmanned underwater vehicles and robotics. The command won several awards during Violette's tenure, including Vice President Al Gore Hammer Awards and Chief of Naval Operations and Naval Sea Systems Command logistics awards. Last year, Keyport was one of two Navy finalists for the 2000 Presidential Quality Award. Rear Adm. (select) John Butler, who two weeks ago assumed command of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I., praised Keyport's successes. It's through the actions of your captain (Violette), Dr. Jim Meng and Estes Grade before him, that Keyport is recognized worldwide for its efficiency, expertise and commitment to supporting the evolving mission of littoral undersea warfare, Butler said. None of these things have happened because Capt. Violette said they would. It takes hard work, dedicated highly skilled men and women, and the vision of people like Capt. Violette to put it into action. In this area, Keyport has been blessed with a workforce that is the envy of every Navy industrial activity. Violette presented a slide show that depicted employees from the nine major base departments, briefly commenting on their daily work. As I look back on the accomplishments over the last two and a half years with great pride and gratitude, I feel very fortunate to have been here and share this time with you, Violette said. Violette's next assignment will be as supervisor of shipbuilding, conversion and repair at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Townsend-Manning earned earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987, and a post-master's degree as a Naval engineer while on active duty and also being a mother.During a tour of duty with the commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Townsend-Manning was the first woman to earn submarine dolphins as she became an engineering duty officer, qualified in submarines. During that qualification process, she served aboard the Trident submarine USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735). Prior to arriving at Keyport, Townsend-Manning served at the Naval Sea Systems Command as director of the Submarine Safety and Quality Assurance Division.Townsend-Manning thanked family and friends and said she and her husband were happy to be closer to family on the West Coast.We're also looking forward to the opportunities and friendship in the great Northwest. But most important, I'm very very excited about joining the proud team of professionals here at NUWC Keyport. You have a wonderful reputation, Tonwnsend-Manning said. "