USS KITTY HAWK, At Sea (NNS) -- In a stunning display of aerial power and maneuverability, Capt. Patrick "Blood" Driscoll handed over the reigns of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 to Capt. Joseph "Joey" Aucoin, Dec. 5 during a unique airborne change of command ceremony.
Driscoll, flying an F/A-18C Hornet from the "Golden Dragons" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 192, handed over command of Carrier Air Wing 5, "Team Badman," to Aucoin, flying in an S-3B Viking from the "Redtails" of Sea Control Squadron (VS) 21 while performing a fly-by of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), currently operating in the western Pacific Ocean. Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, Commander, Carrier Group (CCG) 5, officiated the ceremony as he led the flight of three in an EA-6B Prowler from the "Gauntlets" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136.
The words of their radio broadcasts were piped throughout the ship for all to hear the unique event, while Sailors watched on ship television or packed Vulture's Row and the signal bridge to witness the fly-by ceremony.
"An airborne change of command for an air wing commander is truly where it's at," said Kelly.
Driscoll couldn't agree more, noting, "It's great for me as a naval aviator. This will be my last real flight and my last day as CAG (air wing commander), and I get one last trap, so it's pretty exciting."
According to Driscoll, he will take a lot of great memories away from this tour.
"I'm going to miss the way this strike group, the Hawk, the air wing, works together to make things happen," he said. "We go to war on the shoulders of Kitty Hawk, and they have done a great job of getting us there every time.
"I'd really like to thank every Sailor on Kitty Hawk and Air Wing 5 for all the hard work they've done in the last three years. It's been a great honor to serve with all of you."
Kelly, addressing the Sailors and officers who gathered after the fly-by in the ship's wardroom to celebrate the change of command, remarked, "The combat-proven capabilities of the Badman team across the spectrum of aviation warfare directly reflect (Driscoll's) extraordinary leadership and personal commitment to the training and well being of his carrier air wing."
Before cutting the ceremonial cake, Kelly presented Driscoll with the Legion of Merit, signed for the president by 7th Fleet Commander, Vice Adm. Robert F. Willard, for his exceptionally meritorious conduct and performance of outstanding service as commander of Carrier Air Wing 5.
Driscoll has commanded CVW-5 since August 2002. While deployed for a scheduled underway period in the fall of 2002, the air wing, embarked aboard Kitty Hawk, provided a forward presence in the Asia-Pacific region, conducting training and exercises with regional allies, and, as America's "9-1-1" strike group, remaining available to respond to emergent national tasking where needed.
After less than five weeks at home, the Hawk-5 team deployed again in January 2003, this time to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of the global war on terrorism. During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the air wing conducted air interdiction and close air support missions in support of the U.S. Marine Corps' 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and the U.S. Army's V Corps, projecting air power ashore. Under Driscoll's leadership, the air wing served at the forefront of operations, flying more than 3,000 combat sorties.
"CAG Driscoll has run one of the most tactical and the most proficient air wings, really, in the history of our Navy," according to Kelly. "It's up to CAG Aucoin to take them to a new height, and I know he will."
Driscoll's advice to Aucoin, "You have to be ready."
Aucoin says he's ready for the challenge, and has his own vision for the future.
"My goals are to maintain the high state of readiness of this air wing," Aucoin said. "We're forward deployed and that is critical."
Aucoin becomes the 57th commander of the U.S. Navy's only permanently forward-deployed air wing. His last assignment was with the Strike Warfare Branch, N780C/D, in 1999. He served as the F-14 requirements officer and as the Navy's principal representative on the Precision Strike Panel and the Fixed-Wing Panel on the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review Board.
As for the future of the Kitty Hawk Strike Group, Kelly assured the Hawk-5 team they can look forward to "a lot of good flying, a lot of good steaming, a lot of liberty and a lot of good living in the FDNF (Forward Deployed Naval Forces), working together on the greatest team on the face of the earth."
CVW-5 is currently embarked aboard Kitty Hawk for a scheduled underway period, conducting training and exercises with regional allies in the Asia/Pacific region.
For more news and information about Carrier Air Wing 5, visit their Navy NewsStand Web page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cwv5.