NAS NORTH ISLAND, Calif. (NNS) -- Vice Adm. Thomas J. Kilcline relieved Vice Adm. James M. Zortman as commander of Naval Air Forces (CNAF) during a change of command ceremony June 22.
Zortman assumed command of CNAF in August 2004. As the Navy's "Air Boss," he led the development of the Naval Aviation Enterprise, a partnership among all the organizations involved in providing naval aviation forces to meet the nation's needs -- now and in the future.
The guest speaker at the ceremony, Adm. Robert Willard, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet, credited Zortman with the success of the enterprise.
"Our current [Chief of Naval Operations], Adm. Mike Mullen, is quick to hold up Naval Air Forces and the Naval Aviation Enterprise as the single-most accomplished and best-led enterprise in our Navy," said Willard.
Zortman, completing a 34-year career in naval aviation, thanked the Sailors and Marines in his farewell message to the fleet.
"I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve alongside such talented and committed men and women. It is because of you that we are successful, and it is because of you that naval aviation has been such a personally rewarding career. I have no doubt, the legacy of naval aviation and America's freedom are in great hands."
Zortman was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal during the ceremony.
Upon assuming command, Kilcline spoke of the importance of investing in the future of naval aviation.
"The value of naval aviation is unmistakable and is a key element to reaching our nation's future security demands," he said. "Today, naval aviation is able to meet our nation's demands. To do so in the years ahead we must transition retiring legacy systems to future capabilities."
Kilcline is a 1973 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, and following flight training, was designated a naval aviator in 1975. He commanded Fighter Squadron 154, forward deployed in Japan, and aboard USS Independence (CV 62), and was also Commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
Most recently, he served as Commander, Carrier Group (CCG) 2 and Commander, Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group.
He has logged more than 5,300 flight hours and 63 combat missions in F-4 Phantom, A-4 Sky Hawk, F-5 Tiger, F-14 Tomcat and F-18 Hornet aircraft and has 1,150 carrier aircraft arrested landings.
Kilcline earned an master's degree in systems management from the University of Southern California, graduated with distinction and received a master's degree in strategic studies and national affairs from the U.S. Naval War College. He also earned his master's degree in national security strategy while assigned to the National War College.
CNAF heads a force that includes 12 aircraft carriers, 17 air wings, over 3,500 aircraft, 169 active-duty and reserve squadrons, and 100,000 plus personnel.
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