USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 held a change of command ceremony aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Aug. 16.
Capt. Stephen McInerney relieved Capt. Andrew Whitson as commanding officer of CVW 17.
The ceremony, held on Carl Vinson's forecastle, featured Commander, Carrier Strike Group 1, Rear Adm. Ted Branch as the guest speaker.
Branch honored Whitson for his three years of service to CVW 17 and wished him luck in his new job. The admiral then went on to congratulate McInerney on his new position in the Carl Vinson/CVW 17 team.
Whitson recalled his best memories as air wing commander.
"Watching the air wing evolve from an outfit with no strike aircraft and little to no operational mission to a full-up air wing coming together as a vibrant, lethal team on board our new ship, the USS Carl Vinson, has been a real delight," said Whitson. "When the devastating earthquake hit Haiti Jan. 12, we were looking forward to 3 weeks of valuable unit level training. When I received the call on that day that we were heading south to Haiti, my first reaction was that we were ill-prepared for the mission. But the Navy had trained us to be flexible and adaptable and that is exactly what we did. I couldn't have been more proud of everyone pulling together to be the first responders in that tragedy."
Whitson was born in Monterey, Calif., and graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering. Whitson earned his wings of gold in 1985 in Beeville, Texas. He reported to Fighter Squadron (VF) 101 in 1987 to begin flight training in the legendary F-14 Tomcat. Upon completing a fleet replacement syllabus, Whitson reported to VF 102. While at VF 102 he completed two cruises and participated in combat operations during Operation Desert Storm. Following desert storm, Whitson returned to VF 101 as a Tomcat instructor.
In 1995 he returned to VF 102 as a department head completing two more deployments and was subsequently recognized as the East Coast Fighter Pilot of the Year in 1997. In 2000, Whitson reported to VF 2 as the executive officer and assumed command in November 2001. He made two deployments at VF 2 including combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Whitson reported to CVW 17 in September 2007 and assumed command in February 2009.
McInerney, a native of San Francisco, holds a degree in political science from Amherst College. His operational assignments include Helicopter Support Squadron 5, Medium Attack Squadron 165 and Electronic Attack Squadrons 138 and 136. He commanded Electronic Attack Squadrons 136 and 129. He has participated in Operations Earnest Will, Southern Watch, Deliberate Force and Iraqi Freedom, flying H-46 Sea Knight, A-6 Intruder and EA-6B Prowler aircraft. He has served as Whitson's deputy for 18 months.
McInerney commented on his vision for the air wing going forward.
"This is an exciting time to be associated with Air Wing 17 and this battle group. We are bringing together squadrons with an impressive array of capabilities and integrating aircrew and squadron personnel with unique experiences and expertise. Whitson has done an exceptional job setting this air wing up for success, and we will continue to build on this foundation," said McInerney.
CVW 17 has its headquarters at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va. The air wing is composed of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, VFA 81, VFA 113, VFA 25, Electronic Attack Squadron 134, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 125 and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 15.
CVW 17 is currently serving on Carl Vinson conducting operations in support of a tailored ship training availability.
For more news from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn70/.