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Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) and Navy Air and Missile Defense Command (NAMDC) said goodbye to Rear Adm. Joseph Horn Jr. and welcomed Rear Adm. Randall Hendrickson at a change of command ceremony Oct. 25 at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren.

Vice Adm. Michelle Howard, deputy commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and Maj. Gen. Samuel Greaves, deputy director of Missile Defense Agency (MDA), praised Horn for all he accomplished while assigned to Dahlgren and said they looked forward to working with Hendrickson.

Greaves began by reading a message from Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of MDA, who was engaged in "the most complex air and ballistic missile test ever attempted" and could not attend the ceremony.

"He wanted me to do one simple thing which is read this, because he really wanted to be here," said Greaves. The live-fire demonstration O'Reilly was participating in at the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll saw MDA attempt to intercept five targets simultaneously.

O'Reilly's message expressed "heartfelt gratitude for the outstanding service of these two exceptional professionals that we are honoring here today" and he thanked the Horn and Hendrickson families for their support.

O'Reilly praised Horn for guiding the Aegis BMD program office through "a rapid series of unprecedented successes over the past three years." During this time, Horn was a "consummate professional and a great leader," wrote O'Reilly.

Greaves, who recently assumed Hendrickson's old position, thanked Hendrickson for the professional transition into his new job. "I could not be as far along as I am today were it not for Randy," said Greaves. "Thank you for your great service and I'm looking forward to working with both of you very closely in the future."

Howard said it was a "privilege" to share the stage with Horn and Hendrickson and to share the day with the "innovators" of Aegis BMD and NAMDC. Howard saved special praise, however, for the spouses of Horn and Hendrickson. "I'd also like to give a very special welcome to Marge Horn and Annette Hendrickson and the Horn and Hendrickson families that are here today. We want to extend special gratitude to both of you. It's pretty clear to me, without the sacrifices you have made, Joe and Randy would not be here. And if they really are rocket scientists, they would agree with me."

Howard noted the historical importance of change of command ceremonies in the Navy and emphasized the vital role they play in Navy affairs today. "They are an opportunity to pause from a breakneck schedule to celebrate the accomplishments of [Horn and Hendrickson] and the team and remind ourselves of who they are and what they represent," she said.

"And for me, as an end-user of their products, and the innovation that you guys provide, I just want to say thanks for a job well done."

From the perspective of Fleet Forces Command, Horn and all personnel at Aegis BMD and NAMDC provide invaluable service to a program vital to national security, said Howard. "It should not be a surprise to any of you standing in ranks or in the audience that the work you do here is of the highest level of importance."

For his work, Horn received the Defense Superior Service Medal for "exceptionally superior service as the program executive, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, from November 2009 to October 2012."

Horn thanked all who attended the ceremony and who helped him and his family during their tour. "Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to attend today's change of command ceremony between Randy and I. It means an awful lot to both of us."

Horn noted that Hendrickson has relieved him from every job he's had since 2006. "In what can only be called a cruel bureau joke, Randy has come in and cleaned up every mess I have created," Horn said. "Randy I can assure you this time I am turning over two great organizations, with extremely-talented, high-educated and dedicated professionals."

Horn wished the Hendrickson family the best as they settle into their new lives in Dahlgren. "Randy and Annette, Marge and I wish you every success in Dahlgren," said Horn. "I could not be turning over to two better shipmates and I cannot imagine any better officer positioned to take command of these two important commands. God bless you both." Horn said it was an "honor" to lead both Aegis BMD and NAMDC.

Hendrickson thanked all who attended and participated in the ceremony and said Horn left "big shoes" to fill. "It's actually quite easy relieving Joe," he said. "I just take the helm, kind of tweak the course a little bit and keep it going."

National security needs ensure Hendrickson's time at Aegis BMD and NAMDC will be a busy one. "The priority placed on air and missile defense systems, as mentioned by [Vice] Admiral Howard, by the warfighter today are unparalleled," he said. "That makes for early mornings, late nights and seemingly non-existent weekends. But you all make it happen, time and time again, and I'm humbled to work alongside such amazingly-talented people."