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Patuxent River Naval Air Station brought the 2011 U.S. Navy Community Service Environmental Stewardship Flagship Award in the large shore category back home to Southern Maryland last year for demonstrating commitment to preserving natural resources and strengthening community ties through environmental education and outreach.

Pax River has won or received honorable mention in this category 13 times since 1999, “a remarkable achievement” according to Chief of Naval Operations (Fleet Readiness and Logistics) Vice Adm. W.R. Burke, who noted that dedication to partnerships with local organizations, mentorship programs, environmental cleanups, bird watching field trips, tree plantings and environmental celebrations contribute to the base’s successes over the years.

The honor was one of a number of awards acknowledged during a ceremony last week at Pax River, including the Best Small Market Air Show of the Year 2011 and the Project Good Neighbor Flagship Award.

The command also received an honorable mention for the USS Bainbridge Award and Personal Excellence Partnership Award for community relations outreach projects.

“You all have such a dedication to the community service programs in this area,” said Olivia Hunter, regional community service program manager for Naval District Washington. “This community is very blessed to have such a dedicated military community at its doorstep to be able to provide that kind of quality manpower to volunteer opportunities in the area ... That’s why I always say, ‘Pax River got it right.’”

“We have a relatively small active-duty population here, coupled by a very vigorous civilian population ... and both are constantly volunteering in the area. We have a tremendous team, and it shows in the active partnerships we maintain with our local community,” said Capt. H.E. “Ted” Mills, Pax River’s commanding officer. “This is truly an extraordinary base, and we have the awards to prove it. We can back it up ... and every single day, we’re getting the job done. These honors are Navywide; that’s how outstanding this is ... and it’s what we would expect from the finest naval air station around.”

“It’s amazing, because I’ve been working this job since 2004, and Pax River has always come home with the gold in one of the big categories,” Hunter added. “That’s why I always say that when Pax River shines, it makes our region shine. You are the only one throughout the entire region that I can guarantee will come back from a Navywide competition with something that represents our region ... Your work is truly your imprint, and it’s definitely your signature.”

jgoolsby@somdnews.com