NAVAL AIR STATION MERIDIAN, Miss. (NNS) -- Cmdr. William Thames took the helm of Training Squadron 7 during the first ever "fly-by" change of command ceremony, June 20, over Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississipi. He relieved Cmdr. Michael Hritz.
"Cmdr. Hritz and I are not big on ceremony, but we are big on tradition so we wanted something different for this change of command," said Thames, a native of Mississippi and graduate of Mississippi State University.
"It feels great to be in my home state training young men and women to fight for our country," Thames said.
Thames earned his wings in May 1998 from Training Squadron 7 before transferring to VFA-125 for F/A-18 training in Lemoore, California.
In March 1999, he reported to the "Kestrels" of VFA-137 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore. During this tour he deployed twice aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV 64) flying in support of Operation Southern Watch in Iraq.
A graduate of Naval Test Pilot School, Thames served as a test pilot at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23). Thames also earned his master's degree in military arts and sciences at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base. Upon graduation, he went back to VFA-125 for refresher training in the F/A-18.
Thames also flew with the "Stingers" of VFA-113 at NAS Lemoore. During his department head tour there, he deployed twice aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) flying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan.
Thames served with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) before assuming his post as executive officer of the "Eagles" of VT-7. He has 2,500 flight hours and 500 carrier landings.
Under Hritz's guidance, VT-7 safely flew 18,589 sorties in the T-45C Goshawk, logged 20,119 flight hours, conducted 1,153 carrier arrested landings, designated 83 naval aviators, and trained 20 new instructor pilots.
Thames assumes command of the squadron that exceeded all objective safety metrics and received a grade of Outstanding on the 2014 Chief of Naval Air Training Standardization and Safety Evaluation. VT-7 also recently garnered the squadron's ninth consecutive CNO Aviation Safety Award.
Hritz's next assignment will be as air boss on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
For more news from Naval Air Station Meridian, visit www.navy.mil/local/nasmeridian/ .