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Naval Academy Welcomes 85th Commandant of Midshipmen

Posted on: June 21, 2013 10:00 EDT by Jessica Clark

Last month, the Naval Academy welcomed aboard the 85th Commandant of Midshipmen Capt. Bill Byrne.

Byrne is a surface warfare officer who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1987 with a degree in political science.

His initial sea duty assignments included USS Cook (FF 1083) and USS Lake Champlain (CG 57). His department head tours included a homeport shift from San Diego to Japan on board USS Vincennes (CG 49). He then served as executive officer of USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), deploying shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

His shore tours include several Pentagon assignments as well as the Chief of Staff for Commander, U.S. Third Fleet. He also served as commanding officer of USS Halyburton (FFG 40) and USS Cape St. George (CG 71).

Byrne said he’d always thought about coming back to the academy for a tour, but the timing didn’t work out until now. As commanding officer of USS Halyburton, Byrne worked with a group of eight midshipmen from the Naval Academy during their summer training block, and that experience was influential in his decision to pursue the commandant position.

Byrne tells of a specific moment during a swim call off the coast of Florida that made him want to return to the academy.

“I thought, ‘this is as good as it gets. I’m commanding officer of this ship. I’m doing a swim call with midshipmen. Some of them are up the mast, waving to me.’ And I thought then and there, ‘I want to be the Commandant of Midshipmen someday,’” said Byrne.

“Every year I’m impressed when I see new ensigns coming to the fleet,” he said. “I’m impressed with their energy and their enthusiasm. It warms my heart to know we’re doing the right thing at the Naval Academy. I want to help maintain that motivation.”

The Naval Academy has already played a significant role in the Byrne family. Byrne and his wife Amy met here as members of the Class of 1987. They came back to the get married in the Naval Academy chapel in 1990. Their daughter Brigid graduated this year with the Class of 2013, and their son Michael just finished his plebe year.

“To me, this is family,” he said.

Byrne said his biggest priority going into his first year is to maintain an open dialogue with the midshipmen.

“They’re going to want to know what the ‘new guy’ is about, what I think, what I like, what I don’t like, what my expectations are,” said Byrne. “I want to help the midshipmen appreciate the awesome leadership opportunities they have here at the Naval Academy and the opportunities they’re going to have as soon as they get to the fleet, because that motivation, that energy, that enthusiasm – it makes a difference. I’m going to do my best to help each and every one of them succeed.”

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