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History made as Naval Station Norfolk welcomes first African American woman to lead base

Captain Janet Days takes over as the 51st commanding officer of the world's largest naval base.

NORFOLK, Va. — Captain Janet Days became the 51st commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk on Friday. 

As noteworthy as that achievement is, her ascension marks a much more significant historical first for the Navy.

In the 106-year history of the world's largest naval base, there has never been anyone like her.

There was one other female commanding officer: then-Captain, now retired Vice Admiral Mary Jackson, who served from 2010 to 2012.

But, in Friday's change of command ceremony, Days became the first Black woman to take command of the 6,200-acre installation, which is home to  63 ships, 188 aircraft, and more than 67,000 personnel.

"It is a bit overwhelming and I do recognize that my presence is uplifting and empowering to others," she said. "So, the importance of that is to represent and to be representative, but also to show ladies, not just African American young ladies, that opportunities await."

Still, the 1999 Old Dominion University graduate acknowledged her arrival has been a long time in coming.

When asked if she could have imagined that it would take until 2023 for the base to get its first African American female c.o., Days said: "No, I can't. I cannot."

Retired Commander David Larson saw greatness in Days earlier in her career and encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

Larson said he is proud of Days.

"Absolutely. And I would be happy to salute her," he said.

Days relieved Captain David Dees. Dees will assume duties as the Chief of Staff for Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.

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