As Naval Support Facility Dahlgren celebrated its 100th anniversary Friday with pomp, circumstance and speeches about its litany of technical achievements, Les Greeley’s memories centered on the four generations of his family that have worked on the base.
A Greeley has made a living in math or computer science, on the telephone switchboard or by writing code, for all but 15 years of the base’s history. The long line of Greeleys started with Les’ grandfather, Anson Greeley, who was a telephone operator in 1933, and is continuing with Les’ son, Brian, a college student who’s been an intern at the base since high school.
The legacy includes Les Greeley’s parents, Anson and Joyce, who came to the base at the height of the Vietnam War. Each spent more than 32 years working on everything from budgets (him) to calculating the trajectory of various missiles (her).
As for Les Greeley himself, he left King George County for college and marriage, then returned when Brian was born because he wanted him raised among relatives.
“I came home and went into the family business,” said Les Greeley, who’s 49 and started working at Dahlgren in 1999. “This is what we do.”
‘FOLKS BACK HOME’
The Greeleys take seriously the Dahlgren worker’s role of doing everything possible to make sure the nation’s warfighters come home safely—a point made repeatedly on Friday by everyone from Dahlgren commanders to special speakers.
Guests included Sen. Mark Warner, D–Va., and U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R–1st District, state Del. Margaret Ransone, R–Westmoreland, and state Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford. Along with base leaders, they spoke at a podium decked out in red, white and blue and in a pavilion decorated with flags of the state and nation.
The many innovations made at Dahlgren that have kept sailors, soldiers and Marines safe on the seas and battlefields of the past will be just as vital in the future, speakers said.
“The next 100 years are going to be even more important,” Wittman said. “Don’t think our adversaries aren’t using every waking moment, not just to catch up with us but to pass us.”
Les Greeley’s mother, Joyce, who lives in Westmoreland County with her husband, Anson, always considered herself “one of the folks back home that allowed the Navy to do its job.”
“I think the biggest feature of Dahlgren is that Dahlgren never tried to lose sight of the end customer, and the end customer was the sailor at sea who had a job to do to protect our country,” she said.
As a branch head in software development at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Les Greeley has a picture on his door of a little girl holding a sign, saying, “Welcome Home,” as her daddy returns from deployment.
He shows the sign to every new employee of the branch, which develops combat control systems. He also stresses that if they do their jobs, service members will be able to return home safely to their families.
“It really matters that I come to work every day,” he said. “I’m not selling an iPhone, I’m saving somebody’s life.”
NOT GETTING THEIR GOAT
The Greeleys’ protection of all things Navy also extends to goats—specifically, the mascot of the U.S. Naval Academy’s football team.
Seems that sometime in the 1950s, the Navy squad stole the Army’s mule mascot before the two teams battled it out on the gridiron. Fearing retribution the following year, Navy officials wanted to protect their mascot and asked Greeley’s grandfather to take it to his farm near the Dahlgren Navy base so the Army couldn’t get their goat.
It was the perfect hiding place, given that most people outside of King George County had no idea where Dahlgren was, Les Greeley said. He proudly showed off the black-and-white image of his granddad, standing next to the billy goat, with a hand on one of his horns.
Capt. Michael O’Leary, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity South Potomac, happened to walk by as Greeley was sharing his story. O’Leary was the first speaker of the day, and he had admonished the crowd to cheer up.
“It’s not a funeral, guys,” he said. “We can be happy, it’s 100 years.”
He and his wife, Laura, were among the hundreds of past and present base workers, officers and contractors who viewed exhibits highlighting the base’s 100 years of service after the ceremony. Skies were blue and temperatures crisp as the Navy band played patriotic music in the background.
Both O’Learys were enthralled by Les Greeley’s story and photos.
“Oh, my God,” she said, noting how much Greeley looked like his grandfather.
“That’s awesome,” her husband added, after he’d heard the tale. “Thanks for sharing it.”
No doubt, Les Greeley will share the family lore for years to come. He plans to retire at Dahlgren and hopes his son will do the same. Brian Greeley could celebrate 100 contiguous years of family service there.
“This is a magical place,” Les Greeley said. “That’s not just flag-waving hyperbole. It’s the honest truth.”