The “Golden Eagles” of Training Squadron (VT) 22 held a change-of-command ceremony at Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville, Texas, May 1.
Marine Lt. Col. Kevin “Yank” Goodwin relieved Cmdr. Craig “Manbag” Connor as commanding officer during a ceremony held at the All Hands Club on base.
Connor, a native of Westerville, Ohio, assumed command of VT-22 in October of 2018. During his tenure, Connor oversaw a cadre of around 60 instructors dedicated to training Navy and Marine Corps aviators. More than 67 pilots received their Wings of Gold under his leadership.
“It has been an absolute honor to serve with this incredible Golden Eagles team,” Connor said. “I’m in awe of the team’s dedication to the mission and their positive attitude. I’m very thankful for this outstanding cadre of instructors. They have poured their hearts into training students to become the best strike aviators in the world.”
Commodore, Training Air Wing 2 Capt. Brett “Ned” Lassen presided over the small ceremony.
“Cmdr. Connor’s work here has been nothing short of outstanding,” Lassen said. “His leadership is reflected in the high quality of graduates we have sent and will continue to send to the FRS (fleet replacement squadrons). What Cmdr. Connor and his team have done at VT-22 has a direct impact on future fleet readiness and our nation’s ability to defend America’s interests at home and abroad.”
Connor, a graduate of Ohio University, received his Wings of Gold in 2003. He served with various fleet squadrons including the “Sun Kings” of Carrier Airborne Warning Squadron (VAW) 116 and the “Rooks” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137. While assigned to the Sun Kings, he deployed twice to the Western Pacific aboard aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), and with the Rooks, he deployed to the Arabian Gulf and Arabian Sea in support of operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. In 2015, Connor reported to Joint Electromagnetic Preparedness for Advanced Combat (JEPAC) at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, where he was honored as Field Grade Officer of the Year in 2016. Following his tour at VT-22, Connor will report to aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) as operations officer.
Goodwin, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, earned his Wings of Gold in 2002. He served with the “Green Knights” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 and the “Bats” of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA(AW)) 242. In 2016, he graduated from Naval Postgraduate School and reported to the Pentagon for duty as an operations research analyst. Goodwin has accumulated more than 2,000 hours in the F/A-18 and reported to VT-22 in July of 2018 as executive officer.
Cmdr. Nathan “Yokel” O’Kelly, a native of Lexington, South Carolina, will assume the role of executive officer. Yokel, a prior-enlisted aviation electronics technician, earned his Wings of Gold in 2006. He completed operational tours with the “Black Knights” of VFA-154 and the “Pukin’ Dogs” of VFA-143 and has accumulated more than 1,800 hours in the F/A-18.
VT-22 trains the highest quality aviators for service in the fleet and operation forces. Its personnel include 32 active-duty and 17 reserve instructor pilots who train a group of more than 70 naval aviators at a given time.
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