Looking back at his military career, retiring Naval Air Station Fallon commander Capt. Evan Morrison said time has passed quickly since he took the oath to serve his country for the past 36 years.
The next chapter in Morrison’s life began this past Friday when he relinquishes command to Capt. Shane Tanner.
The Chatham, Illinois, native first became interested in the military in the mid-1980s when he enlisted in his state’s Air National Guard’s 183rd Fighter Group. After earning his bachelor’s degree and then a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Northern Illinois University, he decided to enter the Navy to attend Officer Candidate School at Pensacola, Florida, and h earned his wings three years later.
From his first flight to his final one in a military aircraft last week, the thrill and joy of serving his country as a naval aviator will be one Morrison never forgets. After he steps down, Morrison said he’s applying to the airlines either to fly freight or passengers. His predecessor, retired Capt. David Halloran, is a pilot for FedEx.
“I still have a passion for flying,” Morrison said. “I still love it to this day. I also love working with people, and have absolutely enjoyed it … the people I work with, our mission here.”
Upon his arrival three years ago in March 2019, Morrison inherited the role of chief spokesman for NAS Fallon and the modernization and expansion of the Fallon Range Training Complex. As he first advocated three years ago, and he advocates more so considering the current state of world affairs, he said the mission of both NAS Fallon and the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center is extremely important to national security.
“Our ranges have not improved since the late 1970s, early 1980s,” Morrison said.
With advanced weaponry, Morrison said at a January 2020 presentation to the community more air space is need to launch missiles toward their targets. The expansion of Bravo-16 will give the SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land Teams) the ability to conduct more realistic worldwide training.
Morrison said pilots need at least 12 to 14 miles to launch their missiles toward targets, and a larger range will provide 99.9 percent accuracy. He added the current size of the bombing ranges and the Dixie Valley Training Area severely restricts the extent to which the Navy can use its weapon systems to train.
Morrison added Tanner will now “pick up the torch” for the expansion and engage with the many stakeholders who have an interest in the FRTC.
“It is a true requirement that’s 15-20 years behind where we need to be,” Morrison said of the range modernization.
According to Morrison, the current events with Russia invading Ukraine and China saber-rattling about seeking to reunify Taiwan with the mainland are highlighting how important the training is at Fallon. He doesn’t think many people understand how Taiwan is tied to the United States’ economic vitality. He also said the U.S. military must be prepared to meet long-term goals involving China and Taiwan in all warfare domains.
“When you look at long-term planning, we look 5 and 10 years down the road,” Morrison explained, “China looks 100 years down the road.”
Morrison said what distinguishes the United States’ fighting force compared to its foes, however, is people.
“That will always give us a competitive advantage,” Morrison said. “We need to ensure our people have the right tools and ranges to train on.”
During the past two years, though, Morrison also became the face of NAS Fallon’s coronavirus pandemic response and how the naval installation enacted certain procedures to keep its people safe. Morrison said COVID became a leadership challenge across the Navy at all levels. He said much was learned during that time.
“We have seen the number (COVID-related incidences and reports) in the local community and base drastically reduced,” he added.
During the pandemic, Morrison said Fallon’s training mission continued with the proper precautions taken, but the overall individual training diminished. He said risk management became one of the command’s biggest challenges. During the past two years, he also said the base has seen a reduction in staffing because of COVID, primarily from civilian jobs in the service sector.
Not only has much changed in two years but also during the past 20 years since Morrison first completed a two-year tour here as a junior officer at NAWDC. Although he’s stepping away from the day-to-day routine at NAS Fallon, he won’t be far away. He and his wife, Lynn, who works in Sparks, bought a house in Fernley, yet he said his heart will remain 25 miles to the east.
“Fallon is a great community,” he said. “The general support here is fantastic. So many people want to return here and retire like me.”