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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shipyard's commander deserved promotion

 •  Big Isle veterans home survives and thrives

By William Cole

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Capt. Gregory Thomas

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The good news for Capt. Gregory Thomas, commander of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, is that he's been selected to receive his first star as a rear admiral.

The good news for the shipyard is that Thomas will be sticking around a year longer to continue solidifying its future. Just five years ago, by contrast, the state's largest industrial employer was on the brink of extinction.

The Pentagon made the announcement Friday.

"I was very pleased to learn of the promotion and look forward to addressing him as Adm. Thomas," said U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i, who had a thing or two to do with saving the shipyard.

Inouye said Thomas "without a doubt earned his 'star' for his leadership at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. Whether it was preparing for the Virginia-class submarines, or working on a capital improvement plan for the yard, Greg Thomas executed every task with diligence and distinction."

The last shipyard commander selected for flag rank while a shipyard commander was Rear Adm. R.G. Camacho, who was promoted in 1985.

Thomas was picked in 2007 to help turn around the shipyard's efficiency problems and prepare the way for new Virginia-class subs. Submarines represent 90 percent of the shipyard's work.

Thomas served as the first Virginia-class program manager's representative at Northrop Grumman, and was operations officer at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

In 2005, the shipyard barely escaped inclusion on a list of military facilities to be shuttered. The shipyard employs about 4,700 men and women and has an operating budget of about $687 million.

Getting surface ships and submarines out on time and within budget has become the new norm.

Thomas previously said his biggest emphasis was on "getting that sense of urgency to finish what you start what's scheduled to be done today, you've got to get it done today."

He also said the shipyard shifted from a mindset of "Hey, I'm a ship fitter, and the way my shop goes is the way I measure how well I'm doing," to a bigger-picture mindset of measuring performance by completed shipyard projects.

Thomas also has moved forward on an $800 million shipyard modernization planned through 2035.

Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet submarine force, recently passed on the latest thanks after the shipyard this month completed on time a four-month repair project on the USS Bremerton.

"This accomplishment is significant, and the efforts of each individual involved are truly appreciated," McAneny said.