LEMOORE, Calif. (NNS) -- The "Tophatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 held a change of command ceremony March 20 at Naval Air Station Lemoore.
During the ceremony, Cmdr. Corey L. Pritchard relieved Cmdr. Tommy F. Locke as commander of VFA-14.
Commander, Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker was the guest speaker at the ceremony.
"[Cmdr. Locke] clearly, you have earned the Tophatters' utmost respect and admiration, and mine as well," said Shoemaker, "Your CO tour has been absolutely superb - operational readiness, tactical excellence and compassionate leadership have been your trademarks - all successfully executed with humility, credibility and the utmost integrity...the three traits I admire most in leaders at any level."
Locke, a native of Umatilla, Florida, is a 1994 graduate of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. As commander of VFA-14, Locke led the oldest squadron in the U.S. Navy through numerous training cycles, to include multiple detachments both ashore and at sea, as well as multiple hardware upgrades for the squadron's F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft in preparation for the squadron's upcoming deployment in late 2015.
When asked about his tour, Locke said, "The secret to that success has been the Sailors and officers who have served with the 'Tophatters' over the years. They have been dedicated to a relentless search for tactical excellence and not afraid to lead. It has been an honor to be a part of such an organization and serve with the amazing men and women of Strike Fighter Squadron 14 over the last 30 months."
Locke's next assignment will be to serve on the OPNAV N98 Aviation Warfare staff as the F-35 requirements officer at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Pritchard, a native of Kirksville, Missouri, is a 1996 graduate of Southeast Missouri State. A U.S. Fighter Weapon's School graduate, his career as a naval aviator includes assignments with VFA-115, Strike Fighter Weapons School Pacific, VFA-41, VFA-22, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, executive officer of VFA-122, and executive officer of VFA-14.
VFA-14 has been in service since 1919, has flown 23 different airframes from the decks of 20 different aircraft carriers. During its 95 years of active service, the "Tophatters" have had a long lineage of quiet professionalism and sustained superior performance.
For more news from Commander, Naval Air Forces, visit www.navy.mil/local/airpac/.