NORCO, Calif. — The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division’s commanding officer pinned on the rank of captain during a ceremony attended by several hundred guests and base employees, who gathered in front of the historic command headquarters Nov. 7 to witness the Navy tradition.
Retired four-star Adm. James R. Hogg, the promoting officer who now serves as director of the Navy’s Strategic Studies Group, lauded Capt. Eric Ver Hage for his accomplishments and potential to accomplish much more in his career. A mentor to the newly minted captain who took command of the warfare center a year ago, the admiral said Ver Hage served as an associate fellow of the prestigious strategy group that reports directly to the Navy’s top commander, the Chief of Naval Operations, on issues of vital interest concerning the Navy’s future.
“I first met Eric seven years ago,” said Hogg, who got a laugh from the crowd by telling them he is known as “Boss Hogg” among his select group of naval officers who advise the Chief Naval Officer on the Navy’s future course. As the head of the SSG since 1995, Hogg said Ver Hage stood out among his peers because of his forward-thinking and spirited leadership.
About a third the SSG senior fellows eventually are promoted to admiral, he said after the ceremony, adding that he could immediately see Ver Hage had special talents and was a “true surface warrior who loves to go to sea and who is at his best when engaged with people.”
Ver Hage studied cyber warfare during his stint at the Navy think tank and his analysis work has helped the Navy prepare for this nation’s most sophisticated and nefarious threat, the retired admiral said. He added that Ver Hage’s study group help give rise to the Navy’s recently established U.S. 10th Fleet Cyber Command.
Ver Hage, whose family helped him reveal the fourth sleeve-stripe showing his highest rank, told the guests that no officer “achieves success on his own” and thanked his family and shipmates for supporting him throughout his career. He said he joined the Navy in 1984 with a General Education Development Test certification and quickly found his calling, emphasizing hard work was critical to his success.
Ver Hage later received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy where he graduated with merit in 1991.
Under bright Southern California skies, local dignitaries and elected representatives attended the ceremony in front of the command building that overlooks historic Lake Norconian on a base that began in World War II as the famed Corona Naval Hospital.
Retired Army Col. Mark Earley, who once commanded a unit at March Air Reserve Base and now works for Riverside’s Mayor-elect William “Rusty” Bailey said, “We give Captain Ver Hage the warmest and deepest congratulations for making the grade.”
Corona Mayor Eugene Montanez said he was honored to witness the ceremony steeped in Navy tradition and wants the citizens of Corona to continue to appreciate the importance of the warfare center and the contributions the naval base’s personnel make to the Corona and Norco communities. “It’s so important the community is aware,” he said.
Norco Mayor Kevin Bash said his city and the base are special partners in preserving the Navy’s heritage in Norco. “It’s wonderful to be a part of it,” he said of the partnership and to be present at the captain’s promotion. Bash, who has authored books about the Navy base and the Norconian resort that was purchased by the Navy in December 1941, commended Ver Hage for being in a long line of captains to serve at the base.
The first captain who established the Norco Navy base, Capt. Frederick Conklin, went on to become an admiral and would also present a future U.S. President with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism during World War II, Lt. John F. Kennedy.
Last November, Ver Hage arrived to command a staff of some 1,800 at the Norco facility and at field locations around the country that serve as a key engineering and analysis group for the Navy. Largely comprised of scientists and engineers, the base is also one of the newest federally designated laboratory sites with three premiere labs and assessment centers.
Ver Hage has a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Annapolis and received a Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.
Among his assignments are executive officer of the cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) and commander of the destroyer USS Carr (FFG 52). His command of the Carr resulted in his recognition as a 2010 U.S. Fleet Forces Command finalist for the Vice Adm. James Stockdale Leadership Award. The late Stockdale is among the Navy’s most decorated officers and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic service during the Vietnam War as a prisoner of war.
Ver Hage has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal four times, the Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal six times, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal three times, plus other service medals and ribbons.