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Capt. Paul Whitescarver, ‘the finisher,’ turns over command of sub base

May 3, 2019

Groton — Capt. Paul Whitescarver, on several occasions, has described himself as the finishing guy.

During his nearly three-and-a-half years as commanding officer of the Naval Submarine Base, Whitescarver has overseen the completion of infrastructure improvements on base, renovations to the Navy Exchange, and the dedication of the base’s dive locker in honor of the Navy’s first female hard-hat diver, among other projects.

Whitescarver turned over command of the base Friday to Capt. Todd Moore in a ceremony at Dealey Center Theater that drew a crowd of several hundred guests, including Gov. Ned Lamont, who thanked Whitescarver for his service and welcomed Moore, saying the state would continue to support the base.

A native of Roanoke, Va., Whitescarver is retiring from the Navy after 39 years of service.

He came on board as commanding officer amid preparations to celebrate the centennial of the base and the Naval Submarine School, and later he marked the sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, of a Navy installation on the Thames River.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, recalled how his first impression of Whitescarver was of “a reserved, button-down guy.” He wasn’t sure he was a “great fit” to present the history of the base to the community.

“I was totally wrong” Courtney said.

During Whitescarver’s tenure, the base won several awards, including best large galley in the Navy and best security department in the Navy, and the base and southeastern Connecticut were recognized as a Great American Defense Community.

Under Whitescarver, the base “set the standard in how to run a military operation,” said Rear Adm. Charles W. Rock, commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.

Rock joked with Whitescarver’s wife, Katie, that he went looking for “some dirt” on her husband but turned up nothing. He described Whitescarver as having a performance “without reproach,” being skilled at building consensus and “at his best when he’s most challenged.”

Whitescarver enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18 and rose through the ranks. After 11 years of enlisted service, he was selected for a program that allows enlisted sailors to become officers.

“I started this career thinking I was going to learn about nuclear propulsion. But what I soon learned is what a great country this is,” he said.

He went on to say that he’s humbled by what he’s achieved, thankful to the Navy for the opportunities it gave him and “extremely proud to be a patriot who defended a nation that has and continues to achieve greatness.”

Whitescarver and Moore spent time together in the Arctic during the Navy’s biennial exercise there. And on Friday, Moore presented his predecessor with seawater from the North Pole, saying he remembered Whitescarver saying that, in the midst of a move, a bottle of Arctic water he had broke.

Moore, who previously served as commanding officer of the USS Montpelier, called on base personnel to “continue to set the bar high,” picking up where Whitescarver and his predecessors left off.

“There’s no state of perfection that we can achieve and no finish line. There’s no final certification before the big test because we don’t know when that test will come,” he said.

Whitescarver hasn’t decided what he’ll do next but said during an interview in his office this week that he’s thought about running for public office. He said he felt commanding the base, which is much like the job of a mayor, would be a good precursor to that.

“It’s one thing to serve your country in the military. It’s another thing to get elected to serve your country,” he said.

Awaiting him at the reception after the ceremony was a bench, which will be placed somewhere within the Thames River Heritage Park, with a plaque with his name on it and the words “the finisher.”

j.bergman@theday.com