Sailors  maneuver an F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the "Gladiators" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during flight operations Dec. 7, 2020.

Marking the 78th Anniversary of COMNAVAIRLANT

by Rear Adm. John Meier, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic | 04 January 2021

by Rear Adm. John Meier, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic | 04 January 2021

Not too long ago, we celebrated the 109th Anniversary of Naval Aviation. The many achievements, sacrifices, and daring acts of bravery that make up our history have an enormously humbling effect on history students. Today, our organization continues to further the achievements of those who came before us. As our nation and world ring in 2021, here at Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, we will mark our 78th anniversary highlighting the contributions of our people and our platforms.

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VIDEO | 02:30 | COMNAVAIRLANT 78th Anniversary

In January 1943 Naval Air Force, Atlantic Fleet was formed and was under the command of Rear Adm. Alva D. Bernhard. It is remarkable to consider the many chapters of history our people and our aircraft have witnessed and forever changed the outcome. From the latter days of World War II, through the pioneer days of the space race, to the Vietnam Conflict, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, to Afghanistan and Iraq's conflicts and beyond, Naval Aviation has been at the tip of the spear.

While the complications of this world, as history has shown us, will continue to evolve, we have been fighting the newest battle in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another obstacle our Atlantic team and the Navy has met head-on and overcome this year. We have learned to coexist with this pandemic, and as the vaccine is made available, we will continue to press forward with our manning, training, and equipping role to prepare today’s Naval Aviators for tomorrow’s challenges. The evidence of our prowess in the air is visible to me every day, and I am proud of our organization's contributions to our type command's legacy.

To dive further into how far our organization has come over the years, take, for example, the evolution of our aircraft in the last 78 years. It was only six years after our type command's formation that the first operational use of an ejection seat by Lt. Jack L. Fruin took place over South Carolina in August 1949. Assigned to Fighter Squadron (VF) 171, Lt. Fruin safely punched out of his F2H-1 Banshee at a speed of more than 500 knots and survived.

Just as Lt. Fruin did in 1949, our pilots and aircrew, and other personnel put their lives on the line every day regardless of armed conflict to save countless naval aviators' lives. I shared a similar history to Lt. Fruin when I ejected safely from my EA-6B Prowler during carrier qualifications in the lead up to the Persian Gulf War. I thank the men and women who played a pivotal role in continuing to improve Naval Aviation safety, but we have more work to do. I am confident we will continue to make those essential strides.

Innovations like ejection seats focused extensively on safety throughout our history. However, these innovations were made not only to the aircraft we fly but to the carriers we operate. The Atlantic Fleet participated in the first landing demonstrations with a simulated angled flight deck aboard USS Midway (CV 41) in May 1952. The angled flight deck improved the pilots' safety, and the crew of the ship working tirelessly on the flight deck.

Sailors  maneuver an F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the "Gladiators" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during flight operations Dec. 7, 2020.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 7, 2020) Sailors maneuver an F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the "Gladiators" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during flight operations Dec. 7, 2020. Gerald R. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)
Sailors  maneuver an F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the "Gladiators" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during flight operations Dec. 7, 2020.
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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 7, 2020) Sailors maneuver an F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the "Gladiators" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during flight operations Dec. 7, 2020. Gerald R. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)
Photo By: Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach
VIRIN: 201207-N-XI307-1019
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160419-N-KK394-073 ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 19, 2016) - An E2-C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies above the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group during an air power demonstration. Ike is underway preparing for an upcoming scheduled deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch/Released)
160419-N-KK394-073.jpg
160419-N-KK394-073
160419-N-KK394-073 ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 19, 2016) - An E2-C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies above the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group during an air power demonstration. Ike is underway preparing for an upcoming scheduled deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch/Released)
Photo By: Anderson Branch
VIRIN: 160419-N-KK394-073
C-2 Greyhound aircraft assigned to the �Rawhides� of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 sit on the tarmac after returning home to Naval Station Norfolk, August 6, 2020.
NORFOLK (Aug 6, 2020) C-2 Greyhound aircraft assigned to the �Rawhides� of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 sit on the tarmac after returning home to Naval Station Norfolk, August 6, 2020. The squadron has supported the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and its carrier strike group which has been underway for more than 200 consecutive days. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Pastrick)
C-2 Greyhound aircraft assigned to the �Rawhides� of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 sit on the tarmac after returning home to Naval Station Norfolk, August 6, 2020.
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NORFOLK (Aug 6, 2020) C-2 Greyhound aircraft assigned to the �Rawhides� of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 sit on the tarmac after returning home to Naval Station Norfolk, August 6, 2020. The squadron has supported the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and its carrier strike group which has been underway for more than 200 consecutive days. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Pastrick)
Photo By: MC1 Jason Pastrick
VIRIN: 200806-N-OS895-1025
An MH-60R Sea Hawk assigned to the �Sea Knights� of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 takes off from the flight deck of the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Detroit (LCS 7).
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 8, 2020) An MH-60R Sea Hawk assigned to the �Sea Knights� of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 takes off from the flight deck of the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Detroit (LCS 7). Detroit is deployed to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility to support Joint Interagency Task Force South's mission, which includes counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan T. Beard)
An MH-60R Sea Hawk assigned to the �Sea Knights� of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 takes off from the flight deck of the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Detroit (LCS 7).
200908-N-QI061-0176
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 8, 2020) An MH-60R Sea Hawk assigned to the �Sea Knights� of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 takes off from the flight deck of the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Detroit (LCS 7). Detroit is deployed to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility to support Joint Interagency Task Force South's mission, which includes counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan T. Beard)
Photo By: MC2 Nathan Beard
VIRIN: 200908-N-QI061-0176
An MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, assigned to the "Sea Dragons" of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 12, performs aerial firefighting training exercises using a 1,300 gallon Bambi Bucket Sept. 3, 2020.
NORFOLK (Sept. 3, 2020) An MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, assigned to the "Sea Dragons" of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 12, performs aerial firefighting training exercises using a 1,300 gallon Bambi Bucket Sept. 3, 2020. The HL-5000 Bambi Bucket is a portable and flexible tool designed to facilitate helicopter aerial firefighting and is capable of holding 11,000 pounds of water. This is the first time in history that Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadrons have conducted aerial firefighting and HM-12, HM-14 and HM-15 are currently the only squadrons providing a Navy helicopter aerial firefighting capability on the East Coast. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Sawyer Connally)
An MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, assigned to the "Sea Dragons" of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 12, performs aerial firefighting training exercises using a 1,300 gallon Bambi Bucket Sept. 3, 2020.
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NORFOLK (Sept. 3, 2020) An MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, assigned to the "Sea Dragons" of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 12, performs aerial firefighting training exercises using a 1,300 gallon Bambi Bucket Sept. 3, 2020. The HL-5000 Bambi Bucket is a portable and flexible tool designed to facilitate helicopter aerial firefighting and is capable of holding 11,000 pounds of water. This is the first time in history that Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadrons have conducted aerial firefighting and HM-12, HM-14 and HM-15 are currently the only squadrons providing a Navy helicopter aerial firefighting capability on the East Coast. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Sawyer Connally)
Photo By: Seaman Recruit Sawyer Connally
VIRIN: 200903-N-NQ285-1840
An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the "Warhawks" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 97, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)., Nov. 13, 2020.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 13, 2020) An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the "Warhawks" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 97, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)., Nov. 13, 2020. Under the leadership of Carrier Strike Group 12, Gerald R. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting first-ever integrated carrier strike group operations with Carrier Air Wing 8, Destroyer Squadron 2 and their air and missile defense commander, the commanding officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brett Walker)
An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the "Warhawks" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 97, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)., Nov. 13, 2020.
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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 13, 2020) An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the "Warhawks" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 97, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)., Nov. 13, 2020. Under the leadership of Carrier Strike Group 12, Gerald R. Ford is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting first-ever integrated carrier strike group operations with Carrier Air Wing 8, Destroyer Squadron 2 and their air and missile defense commander, the commanding officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brett Walker)
Photo By: MC3 Brett Walker
VIRIN: 201113-N-FH905-1173
A P-8A Poseidon, assigned to the "Fighting Tigers" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8, takes off from Misawa Air Base during a scheduled flight operation.
MISAWA, Japan (Dec. 14, 2020) A P-8A Poseidon, assigned to the "Fighting Tigers" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8, takes off from Misawa Air Base during a scheduled flight operation. VP-8 is currently deployed to Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan conducting maritime patrol and reconnaissance and theater outreach operations within U.S. 7th Fleet (C7F) area of operations in support of Commander, Task Force 72, C7F, and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command objectives throughout the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jan David De Luna Mercado)
A P-8A Poseidon, assigned to the "Fighting Tigers" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8, takes off from Misawa Air Base during a scheduled flight operation.
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MISAWA, Japan (Dec. 14, 2020) A P-8A Poseidon, assigned to the "Fighting Tigers" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8, takes off from Misawa Air Base during a scheduled flight operation. VP-8 is currently deployed to Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan conducting maritime patrol and reconnaissance and theater outreach operations within U.S. 7th Fleet (C7F) area of operations in support of Commander, Task Force 72, C7F, and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command objectives throughout the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jan David De Luna Mercado)
Photo By: Petty Officer 2nd Class Jan David Mercado
VIRIN: 201214-N-EJ241-1087

Yet another way we have found to protect the most precious resource in our nation's military. Our people. The unique culture of Naval Aviation and its rich diversity of thought, experience, gender, and ethnicity has also matured alongside technology and organization. Our aviators, aircrew, maintenance, and other support personnel have all continued to ride on that cutting edge of innovation and our nation continues to depend upon and to benefit from that evolution.

Ten years later, the type command supported space exploration. Helicopter Anti-Submarine (HS-3) pilots flying the HSS-2 Sea King were responsible for recovering astronaut Lt. Cmdr. M. Scott Carpenter after his space capsule, Mercury-Atlas 7, in the spacecraft Aurora 7, launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, for the second manned orbital flight in U.S. history. Carpenter's capsule overshot the initially planned recovery position on May 24, 1962, which resulted in the Tridents of HS-3 returning him to USS Intrepid (CVS 11) four hours after he initially touched down in the water. This mission, not just another milestone for the young Type Command, but the world.

We have advanced and achieved so much since the '40s, not only in capability but also in diversity. We are proud of how far we have come as a community. It is with great admiration when I read about these pioneers in our community, such as Lt. Donna L. Spruill of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC-40), who became the first female naval aviator to qualify in a fixed-wing aircraft. Donna completed her achievement alongside her co-pilot and commanding officer, Cmdr. Jerry L. Wright in their C-1A Trader. Other women have set many milestones since, such as Cmdr. Linda V. Hutton who was the first woman to take command of a squadron in the Atlantic fleet. She assumed command of Donna's old squadron, VRC-40, beginning Sept. 4, 1992. Other pioneers, such as Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, who will become the first female commanding officer of a nuclear aircraft carrier when she reports to her new assignment in 2021. 

Simultaneously with our growth as a fighting force, we have stood ready in defense of our country. The challenges in the global arena have tested our men and women continuously. Take, for instance, the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Atlantic Fleet stood to watch and flew thousands of sorties until Nov. 20, 1962, when the Atlantic Fleet was ordered to cease operations regarding the crisis. Their presence proved a powerful deterrent as the Soviets stood down their units in parallel.

We have been training for the next page in history since our creation in 1943. The methods we have employed and the aircraft that we have flown serve as their benchmarks in our history. Many of today's seasoned aviators in squadrons under Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic completed their training in the T-34C Mentor. These orange and white beauties were introduced to basic air training on June 24, 1976, over 33 years after the birth of Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic. They have since been replaced by the versatile T-6B that currently trains the youngest aviators in our ranks. With these new pilots filling our ranks, I am confident that Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic will continue to be in good hands.

We have seen the sundown on powerful platforms like the F-14 Tomcat, an aircraft with no small part in history. Naval Aviators furthered the flight hours of that mighty aircraft. I find it remarkable that those involved continue to benefit from their wisdom today.  It is present in the Sailors who supported the platform in its final years, retired from active duty, and served as civilians within the Naval Aviation Enterprise. We benefit from their service, sacrifice, and dedication to Naval Aviation. One might be surprised to know that Lt. Cmdr. Grover Giles on USS Enterprise (CVN 65) made the first landing of an F-14A Tomcat on March 18, 1974, more than 46 years ago.

The transformation from yesteryear to today continue with the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, both components of the Air Wing of the Future. As impressive and memorable as the Tomcat was, our aviators and maintenance team are at the forefront of today's warfare. Only recently did Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC-22) receive the newest series of the Fire Scout MQ-8C, which has been an advancement in the works for over half a century. Our efforts in this endeavor come almost 64 years after the first unmanned helicopter flight, which occurred in July 1957 when Kaman Aircraft designed and built a helicopter under an Army-Navy contract that achieved this feat Bloomfield, Connecticut.

Like the Fire Scout, we see many achievements come to fruition today that have been labored on by Sailors for years in yesterday's navy. Airborne Command & Control Squadron (VAW-121) now aerial refuel the E-2D, initial testing for which occurred in 2005 as an E-2C connected to a KC-130 on Dec. 19, 2005. Today the VAW community is more capable than ever before with increased range and duration to their mission set.

Looking back on the last 78 years, I hope that we continue to approach tomorrow's fight with the same pride and tenacity that has been on display since our creation in January 1943. I have seen firsthand the fighting spirit of our people, which pays great tribute to the past Sailors. I am confident in the years ahead that we will continue to be the world's premier Naval Aviation Force. I remain optimistic that our people, which remains our greatest resource – our sons and daughters -- will continue advancing today's capabilities in preparation for tomorrow's fight.

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