STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School held a change of command ceremony on Aug. 4, at the international training center’s headquarters on the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
Cmdr. Clay Pendergrass, who assumed command of NAVSCIATTS on July 9, 2015, formally relinquished command to Cmdr. John T. Green in front of family, friends, and the staffs of Naval Special Warfare Group 4, the Security Cooperation schoolhouse, Special Boat Team 22, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity, and NASA Stennis Space Center representatives.
In emotional remarks to family, friends and the NAVSCIATTS staff, Pendergrass spoke of how his two years at the Naval Special Warfare command has impacted his career. “I have always felt more at home amongst sheepdogs,” he stated. “Those who choose to guard the flock.”
“This command is a different command. It is unique and it will change you,” expressed Pendergrass, a 28-year U.S. Navy veteran who has spent the majority of his service as a SEAL. “It is the only command in the entire U.S. Department of Defense that is not focused on training American forces.”
“We solely focus on building our partners so they can carry more of the burden, to man their own walls, to fight their own battles,” Pendergrass continued. “This is good for America. This is training more partner sheepdogs, which translates into more sheepdogs in the fight. Every American regardless of political stripes wants more of that.”
Capt. J.R. Anderson, commodore of NSWG 4, provided words of encouragement to the two commanders and reiterated the importance of the NAVSCIATTS mission and its staff to the more than 150 in attendance.
“I have sometimes heard that command is the single achievement of an officer’s career,” Anderson said in remarks addressed to those in attendance. “It is the ultimate vote of confidence by one’s superior officers; a job of immense personal satisfaction and of unrelenting pressure. But what every successful commanding officer fully understands is the responsibility, authority and accountability that goes with the privilege of being addressed as ‘C.O.’ or ‘skipper’; the privilege of command,” the Group 4 leader expressed in honor of the outgoing commander.
“Commander Pendergrass’ innovative way of bringing new ideas to fruition enabled NAVSCIATTS to become the Security Force Assistance front-runner for the entire U.S. Special Operations Command enterprise and he has proven to be an outstanding example of the kind of leadership that this awesome force needs today and will continue to need as we operate in the future against our near-peer adversaries,” he continued. “He has forged an even stronger bond of total force unity and capability here at NAVSCIATTS.”
During Pendergrass’ more than two years at NAVSCIATTS, his leadership has solidified the center’s position in Foreign Internal Defense, Maritime Security Force Assistance and Security Cooperation in the efforts to coordinate U.S. Special Operations Command and Theater Special Operations Command Security Force Assistance priorities.
Over the past two years, the facility has trained almost 2,000 international military and law enforcement agency personnel from approximately 80 partner nations via in-residence courses of instruction and mobile training teams in the areas of waterborne operations, maintenance, human rights, rule of law, and instructor development under his leadership. Pendergrass, who has served on both east and west coast SEAL teams, is credited with expanding NAVSCIATTS to a global training center, resulting in the addition of 14 new countries including Uzbekistan, Madagascar, Nepal, Serbia, Rwanda, France, Greece, Malta and Denmark.
The Louisiana native is also credited with initiating the schoolhouse’s Partner Nation Instructor program that paved the way for foreign guest instructors to be assigned to NAVSCIATTS, with the first PNI arriving in May of 2016. This PNI, a native of Colombia, successfully became the first PNI in U.S. military training centers to earn the U.S. Navy designation as Master Training Specialist.
Pendergrass’ next order of assignment will be working in Security Force Assistance for USSOCOM in Tampa, Florida. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his tour at NAVSCIATTS that included responsibility for approximately 100 military and civilian personnel at a command that offers 20 courses with an average of almost 1,000 personnel graduating from in-resident and mobile training events annually.
The incoming commander expressed his excitement regarding his assumption of command and NAVSCIATTS’ future direction. “Nicole and I have a motto for our family and it is just one simple word: together. This word is the foundation of our family tree and is our call to action as a family,” Green stated. “When you think of the motto of this command, there is more than a little serendipity. For our guests here, the motto of the command is ‘mas fuertes juntos’ or ‘stronger together.’ This is our call to action as a command.”
A native of Los Angeles, Green commissioned into the Navy after completing Naval ROTC at Harvard as a National Merit Scholar. During his distinguished career, he completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training with class 228 and served on multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and completed a duty assignment with the Joint Special Operations Command, where he directed kinetic strikes and operations in support of national missions. He completed studies for a Master of Public Administration at Harvard and is proficient in several foreign languages, to include Arabic, French, Latin, ancient Greek and Sanskrit.
NAVSCIATTS is a Security Cooperation schoolhouse operating under USSOCOM in support of Foreign Security Assistance and Geographic Combatant Commands’ Theater Security Cooperation priorities. The facility trains and educates international special operations forces, SOF-like forces and SOF enablers across the tactical, operational and strategic spectrums through in-residence and mobile training team courses of instruction, including operations, repairs, sustainment of craft, communications, weapons, small unit tactics, range safety, Unmanned Aircraft Systems and intel fusion operations. Since 1963, almost 12,000 students from 110 partner nations have completed training at NAVSCIATTS. Courses are offered in English and Spanish or in other languages through the use of translators.
For more news from the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School, visit http://www.socom.mil/navsoc/navsciatts/.