NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The world’s largest naval base will soon have its first Black woman as commanding officer.
Capt. Janet Days, 54, will take command as Naval Station Norfolk’s 51st commanding officer in a change of command ceremony Friday.
Days will relieve Capt. David Dees, who will then assume duties as the chief of staff for commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.
View the full ceremony below.
It is not lost on her that few decades ago, there were few positions in the Navy available for a Black person. Her dedication to the military dates back her the service of her father, George Hanks.
“I watched a strong role model as I was growing up,” Days said of her father, “and it was in my father.”
During the Vietnam War, her father was in the midst of his own battle back home in Chicago.
“We had some unfortunate instances in our family where myself and my siblings (were put) into foster care for a very short time,” Days said.
Days joined the Army, but later joined the Navy.
As executive officer of the base, Days lives in quarters that for decades have been maintained by Black men and women.
“They’re just proud, and they express that to you,” Days said. “And they’ll tell you ‘I’ve been working on this base 30 years, and I’ve never seen anyone that looks like you. We’re just so proud of you.’ I get that a lot.”
But she’s also had those awkward, ‘I’m in charge, here’ moments.
She said her father would be there in spirit with her Friday morning during the change of command ceremony.
NAVAL Station Norfolk covers more than 6,200 acres, with more than 600 facilities and 326 tenant commands. It supports 63 ships, 188 aircraft, and 18 squadrons, employing over 67,000 personnel, including military and civilian personnel.
Days, a Chicago-native, graduated from Old Dominion University in 1999 with a bachelor of science in business, summa cum laude. She also holds a master of business administration from the Naval Postgraduate School and is a graduate of the Joint and Combined Warfighting School at Joint Forces Staff College.
Throughout her naval career, Days has served aboard various ships, including USS Simon Lake, USS Mahan, and USS Forrest Sherman.
Days has deployed twice, once to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to conduct theater security cooperation and a second time to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility to conduct counter-narcotics operations. Days also served as the executive officer and commanding officer of USS McFaul.
In addition to her sea assignments, Days has served on the joint staff, J7 joint, and coalition warfighting directorate as a military analyst and observer trainer augment to the deployable training team.
She deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan as the joint staff, J7 liaison officer to the International Security Assistance Force headquarters. Days has also worked as the director of maritime warfare at Surface Warfare Officers School, where she was responsible for the training and development of all surface warfare department heads.
Most recently, Days served as the executive officer of Naval Station Norfolk after a tour as the executive officer of Surface Warfare Schools Command in Newport, Rhode Island.
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At the start of Black History Month, ahead of the ceremony, Days explained how to frame the past.
“It’s how we tell that history, how we understand that history,” Days said, “and how that history is not an outlier to American history.”