USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37, the “Ragin’ Bulls,” conducted a change of command ceremony March 28 aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).
Cmdr. Michael Saunders turned over command to former Executive Officer Cmdr. Wesley Huey in a fly-by ceremony. Saunders and Huey, both in F/A-18 Hornets, soared past each other, symbolizing the change of command for VFA-37.
Looking back on his time with VFA-37, Saunders, who has deployed twice aboard Truman with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 to the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said what he enjoyed most was the satisfaction of watching the squadron achieve its goals.
“We set out some goals 15 months ago, and since then, we’ve hit every one of them,” said Saunders. “The squadron has turned into a place where people like coming to work. People want to come here, and that’s been very gratifying.”
He also said he’s proud of how hard VFA-37 Sailors have worked.
“They truly inspired me after all we asked them to do," he said. "We totaled up the months from when I took command back in December ‘03, and we’ve been gone 10-and-a-half months out of the last 15, which was pretty trying on all of us."
After commanding VFA-37 for more than a year, Saunders hopes his Sailors will remember him well.
“I hope they remember that they had some direction and that there was mutual respect on how I felt and what their job was, and that they respected the job I did," said Saunders. "I hope they understood there were some tough decisions to be made, but I always took into account what was good for them and what was good for the squadron. I always tried to balance that out and go with the right decision.”
From here, Saunders heads to Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center Fallon, Nev., to serve as commanding officer of Top Gun. This leaves VFA-37 in the hands of Huey, who hopes to keep the squadron heading in the same direction.
“I hope to equal the record of my predecessor. We’re going to have very similar goals and very similar priorities," said Huey. "My whole goal is to keep the initiative and the momentum going. The future is very bright for VFA-37. We’ve been on an exponential curve going up, and we have people that really want to come here and be a part of the team. The people we have here now, I just couldn’t be happier when I look around here and see the wardroom and the chief’s mess and the Sailors. I’m just ecstatic, and I’m very optimistic about our future.”
Huey graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1987 and attended flight training in Beeville, Texas, earning his wings as a naval aviator.
Early in his career, Huey served with the “Swordsmen” of Fighter Squadron (VF) 32. From 1997 to 1999, Huey served as the naval attache to the president. From there, he completed his department head tour with the “Nighthawks” of VFA-136 and in July 2001 reported to the Staff of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, in London, serving as the strike operations officer. Huey reported for duty as VFA-37’s executive officer in January 2004.
Huey’s awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various unit and campaign decorations.
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