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When Cmdr. Eric Washington joined the U.S. Navy 20 years ago, he dreamt of making a difference through honor, courage and commitment.

Now, two decades later, his dream is realized as he becomes the first African-American to attain the rank of captain in the Reserve Full Time Support (FTS) Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officer (AMDO) community.

At an Oct. 1 ceremony in the atrium of the William A. Moffett Building, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Rear Adm. C.J. Jaynes, the program executive officer for the Air ASW, Assault and Special Missions Programs (PEO (A)), and Washington’s wife, Jossie, attached captain shoulder boards to Washington’s uniform.

“Throughout his career, Eric’s met every challenge head on and has proven himself to be an innovative and inspiring leader,” Jaynes said. “This is an incredibly proud moment for Eric. To be able to punctuate your advancement in a stellar career as a first within your peer group makes this momentous occasion even more special.”

Active-duty and retired members of the AMDO community, Washington’s co-workers as well as family and friends were witness to the historical event.

Initiated in 1990, Reserve AMDOs serve as experts in Navy Reserve personnel management systems and aircraft systems acquisition and sustainment. This blend of skills brings an added strategic depth to naval aviation engineering, acquisition, logistics and maintenance at affordable cost. Additionally, this group of officers maintains knowledge of contracted logistics, naval aviation airworthiness and maintenance, and 14 Code of Federal Regulations (Aeronautics and Space) practices and policies.

Since inception, the FTS AMDO community has promoted fewer than 30 officers to the rank of captain.

“When you set standards, the odds don’t matter,” Washington said. “The pursuit of excellence transcends a person’s race, religion or gender.

“Regardless who has come before me, what they look like or where they’ve come from, the Navy Sailor’s Creed recognizes that we are bound by things much more important like core values, a fighting spirit, and a commitment to excellence,” Washington said. “Among countless other factors, the Sailor’s Creed aids in creating an environment in which we all can succeed.”

Originally from the Bronx, N.Y., Washington earned his commission through Aviation Officer Candidate School in 1993. He completed Aviation Maintenance Officer School in 1994 after attending South Carolina State University for mechanical engineering.

“My plan was to gain experience in the Navy for four years and then transfer to the commercial sector,” Washington said. “My wife would like to say she made me stay in the service, but the truth is, I felt like I was contributing to something bigger than myself and truly enjoyed naval aviation maintenance.”

His diversified experience stems from assignments at the organizational, intermediate, type-commander and systems command levels. Washington’s naval career includes tours with Patrol Squadron 10 and Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron Six, both in Jacksonville, Fla.; Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department, New Orleans; Commander, Naval Air Forces Reserve, San Diego; Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), both housed at NAS Pax River.

Washington currently serves as deputy program manager for Tactical Airlift, Adversary and Support Aircraft Program (PMA 207)’s Fixed Wing and Operational Support Aircraft program, which includes seven of the 10 type-model aircraft managed by the program.

“Eric is an exemplary naval officer,” said Capt. Michelle Guidry, PMA 207 program manager. “Our program office has benefitted greatly from his leadership. I know he will continue to strive for excellence as a new senior officer in the U. S. Navy.”

Washington’s decorations include the Meritorious Serve Medal, five Navy and Marine Commendation medals, and three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of New Orleans, a Certificate in Legislative Studies from Georgetown University, and is a Defense Acquisition Corps member, level III certified in program management, production quality and manufacturing and logistics.

Washington’s next assignment is with NAVAIR’s Operational Support Office where he’ll serve as an operational support officer — the command’s prime advocate to accessing the entrepreneur and business experts that serve as selected reserve members in the Navy Reserve and NAVAIR Reserve program.