After nearly 20 years of Navy assignments across the U.S. and Europe, Capt. Richard Rhinehart’s next task is already underway as the new commanding officer of Naval Base Kitsap.
Rhinehart took over NBK command in August, replacing Capt. Edward “Alan” Schrader, who served in that role since September 2016.
“Capt. Schrader did an incredible job as commanding officer and it’s really a privilege to come after him and to have the opportunity to build on the great work that he and the team did here,” Rhinehart said.”
A native of Ellsworth, a small town in Northeast Ohio, Rhinehart said he started to garner interest in the Navy after reading an article about the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. After earning his graduate degree from Miami (Ohio) University in 1992 and his postgraduate from the University of Michigan in 1994, Rhinehart commissioned as a Nuclear Propulsion officer that same year.
Ironically, Rhinehart’s first Navy assignment was a junior officer tour aboard the USS Parche at Bangor from 1996 through 1999. His next task would take him overseas to Naples, Italy to be a staff officer for the U.S. Naval Forces Europe from 1999 to 2001. Other assignment locations for Rhinehart included Groton, Connecticut; Kings Bay, Georgia; Norfolk, Virginia; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Northwood, United Kingdom.
Some of his major awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (twice), Navy Commendation Medal (six), and Navy Achievement Medal (four).
According to Rhinehart, he found out about a year ago that he’d been selected to be the next commanding officer of Naval Base Kitsap.
“I was elated, it was exactly the type of opportunity and challenge that I was looking for,” he said. “I had already screened for major command. Like any assignment, you talk to the detailers about what opportunities are available. This was absolutely, exactly the best opportunity I could have hoped for.”
Before being appointed as the new commanding officer to lead Naval Base Kitsap, Rhinehart spent two years as the assistant chief of staff of NATO Allied Maritime Command in the United Kingdom. In that role, he worked with non-NATO entities and all aspects of exercising an operation in Support of NATO naval forces, according to Rhinehart.
“It was an incredible opportunity, I worked closely with the Royal Navy and our allies for many years in different capacities and different assignments,” Rhinehart said. “For me, it was an opportunity to continue to build those relationships and really contribute to our common security interests. I really enjoyed NATO, I think it is a very important organization and trying to support the alliance goals while building kind of that coalition of the NATO nations. It was very challenging and very enjoyable.”
Rhinehart said some of the most memorable and meaningful experiences from his Navy career so far include his time as an engineer officer aboard the USS West Virginia from 2001 to 2004, his exchange tour with the Royal Navy in 2006, and commanding the USS North Carolina from 2011 to 2014, where he underwent two Western Pacific deployments.
Perhaps Rhinehart’s most satisfying Naval experience thus far was teaching for the Naval Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut from 2016 to 2017.
“I really felt like that was an opportunity to kind of mentor and influence [students] in terms of how they were as a leader,” Rhinehart said. “That training and mentorship opportunity I found incredibly rewarding and one of my most enjoyable times in the Navy.”
In terms of what attracted him to his new position as NBK commanding officer, Rhinehart credits the scenery and the people of the Puget Sound area.
“The Pacific Northwest is just incredibly beautiful, but not just that, it’s the people,” he said. “What I find is the relationship that the people of the Puget Sound have with the Navy makes the Puget Sound a very special place. I have the opportunity to work closely with the community and local community leaders.”
The role of the commanding officer at Naval Base Kitsap involves numerous aspects and acts as a “city manager and a landlord,” according to Rhinehart. Some of his priorities during his tenure include supporting the warfighter, advocating for Navy families, focusing on environmental stewardship, and the fiscal responsibility of making sure government dollars are spent wisely.
“Naval Base Kitsap is really unique,” Rhinehart said. “It has an incredible cross-section of very unique warfighting and research capabilities that you won’t find anywhere else in America. We have three research and development operations that work here. We really are on the cutting edge and have a very broad cross-section of strategic capabilities.”
Lastly, Rhinehart lauded the effort of the Naval Base Kitsap workforce for the hard work and time they put in.
“You won’t find a more dedicated group of people in America,” he said. “Truly, they understand the mission that we do here, they understand the importance, they work hard, and they have just incredible professional skills that they bring every day to ensure that the Navy maintains the capability it needs to support its mission.”
In his free time, Rhinehart said he enjoys relaxing, cooking, entertaining, and getting out into the countryside.