Tester’s 2021 Year in Review: Highlights, milestones | Local


Here are some milestones, highlights and other interesting happenings from across NAS Patuxent River that appeared in the pages of Tester throughout the year 2021:

• Members of the installation’s Fire, Security, and Search and Rescue teams were among the first Pax personnel to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River.

• Assistant Security Officer/Installation Anti-terrorism Officer Jason Rice and Patrolman 1st Class Russell Moore were named the 2020 NAS Patuxent River Senior and Junior Civilians of the Year, respectively.

• Naval Aircrewman 1st Class Jonathan Smitherman was named the 2020 Senior Sailor of the Year; Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Iris Aquino was named the Junior Sailor of the Year; and Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) 3rd Class David Mill was the Bluejacket of the Year.

• France became the second international customer of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye with a signed letter to procure three E-2D Hawkeye aircraft from the U.S. Navy for a maximum value of $2 billion.

• On Jan. 5, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Navy, in partnership with others, announced the successful conservation of 318 acres in the Nanticoke Rural Legacy Area (NRLA) on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With this acquisition from a consenting landowner, the NRLA now contains over 24,000 acres of preserved land.

• Capt. William E. Coleman Jr. turned over command of Airborne Strategic Command, Control and Communications Program Office (PMA-271) to Capt. Adam T. Scott, Jan. 8.

• Pax River airfield services, air operations score high marks following 2020 inspection, evaluation

• The Precision Strike Weapons Program Office (PMA-201) held a virtual change of command ceremony Feb. 8 where Capt. Richard Gensley relieved Capt. John Dougherty.

• NAWCAD delivered the 100th Aegis Radio Communication system to the fleet following a ceremony at Webster Outlying Field.

• Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk det Patuxent River won the 2020 Ashore Blue E Supply Excellence Award, the third consecutive win since the detachment’s initial participation in 2018.

• Base gate entry procedure adjusts to “Stop and Proceed,” requiring vehciles to stop at a point several feet before the gate until directed forward by gate sentries.

• Woodrow “Woody” Paton, product support manager for the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265), was announced the recipient of the 2020 Secretary of Defense PSM of the Year for Major Defense Acquisition Programs/Acquisition Category I Program.

• The “Titans” of Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30 and members of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 successfully delivered an F-35C power module aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the U.S. Navy’s first, at-sea replenishment for this component.

• A rebuilt C-47 that first flew before D-Day is flying again for NAWCAD. Now known as the BT-67, it is equipped with the world’s most advanced airborne antenna for receiving signals from aircraft instruments.

• The Next Generation Jammer Test and Evaluation team won the Department of the Navy’s T&E award for their accomplishments on two Acquisition Category I programs in 2020.

• The E-2D community reached its mission capable goal five months ahead of schedule thanks to efforts made by the E-2/C-2 Airborne Command and Control Systems Program Office (PMA-231) and the Airborne Command & Control Logistics Wing.

• Pax River’s Environmental Planning and Conservation Director Kyle Rambo was recognized by the National Military Fish and Wildlife Association with their Lifetime Achievement Award, March 9.

• The F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) commenced the five-year Growler Capability Modification program at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, which kicked off the first major effort to upgrade the capabilities of the EA-18G Growler in the history of the platform.

• NAWCAD’s Atlantic Test Ranges designed and built a mobile adversary radar simulator from commercial components, primarily for testing the Navy’s EA-18G Growler and Next Generation Jammer, but with variants also available for other military weapon sysems.

• The F-35 Joint Program Office delivered a flight clearance recommendation to the Italian navy for the safe operation of fifth generation F-35B fighter aircraft on their upgraded flagship aircraft carrier ITS Cavour (CVH 550).

• The V-22 Osprey surpassed the 600,000 flight hour milestone in February, a count that began with its first flight in 1989.

• The U.S. Marine Corps H-1 Light/Attack Helicopters Program Office (PMA-276) held a change of command ceremony where Col. Vasilios Pappas relieved Col. David Walsh, March 25.

• The Navy received its first Block V configured Tomahawk missile from Raytheon March 25, paving the way to provide the fleet with an upgraded warfighting capability.

• Capt. William Selk relieved Capt. Hugh Winkel as Commander, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 during an airborne change of command ceremony, March 18.

• The Naval Air Traffic Management Systems Program Office (PMA-213) completed Precision Approach and Landing System certification on the United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) in March, completing a critical step in readying the ship for its first operational deployment.

• Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) and Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) achieved 8,000 aircraft recoveries and launches aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) April 19.

• Air-to-Air Missiles Program Office (PMA-259) International Programs team reached a first-time Foreign Military Sales portfolio value of $3 billion for 34 countries and two NATO member countries.

• The Navy celebrated the delivery of ARC-210 airborne radio number 50,000 to the fleet April 5. The Air Combat Electronics Program Office (PMA-209) effectively manages the ARC-210 program.

• Starting May 1, active DoD civilians and Coast Guard civilian employees were allowed to shop at Navy Exchange (NEX) facilities throughout the U.S. and its territories and possessions.

• The Naval Aviation Training Systems and Ranges Program Office (PMA-205) received Milestone C approval for its next-generation air combat training system, the Tactical Combat Training Systems Increment II on April 27.

• Ground was broken in April to kick-off construction of the $3.5 million Hot Pit Refurbish Project, which upon completion, would result in Pax River being in compliance with NAVAIR 00-80T-109, Aircraft Refeuling NATOPS Manual.

• Aircraft assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School will be painted with an “S” in recognition of their earning the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award for 2020.

• The V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA-275) held a change of command ceremony April 29 where Col. Brian Taylor relieved Col. Matthew Kelly as program manager.

• Beginning June 1, the Navy workforce gained access to a single Microsoft Office 365 collaboration and productivity environment known as Flank Speed.

• The Navy declared initial operational capability for the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) May 4, signaling the system is ready to provide precision approach and landing capabilities to tactical carrier aircraft at sea in support of naval aviation operations worldwide.

• Rear Adm. Joseph Hornbuckle assumed the role of Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers aboard NAS Patuxent River May 12.

• Volunteers under the direction of the Pax River Cultural Resources Manager helped repoint a section of wall still standing from the mid-1700s manor house once occupied by Jesuit’s at the historic site known as Priest’s Point onboard Webster Outlying Field.

• The MQ-25 program successfully conducted the first ever aerial refueling operations between a manned receiver aircraft and unmanned tanker June 4 from MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois.

• For the first time in flight, the AH-1Z Viper established a two-way connection between a ground station and the aircraft’s Link 16 and Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) systems.

• Former Pax River Fire Chief George Kennett, who retired in 2008, was honored by being inducted into the Navy’s Fire & Emergency Services Hall of Fame.

• The USMC AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom surpassed the 400,000 joint flight-hour milestone in April.

• Lt. Col. Gary Shill took command of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (UX) 24 from Cmdr. Daniel Martin at Webster Field, June 3.

• The first operation TH-73A helicopter was presented to the U.S. Navy June 10 at the Agusta Westland Philadephia Corporation (Leonardo) plant in Philadelphia.

• A patent was received for an invention by NAWCAD engineers – the Programmable Silicon Controlled Rectifier Firing System – that will reduce the time required to test the avionics systems of the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, increasing operational readiness of the fleet’s primary strike aircraft.

• A retired F/A-18B Hornet, formerly Blue Angel #7, arrived at Pax River June 10 to take its place on the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum flight line.

• The Direct and Time Sensitive Strike Weapons Office (PMA-242) changed leadership as Capt. Alexander Dutko took over for Capt. Matthew Commerford June 17.

• The USMC’s newest Intrepid Tiger II Electronic Warfare capability flew for the first time on an MV-22B Osprey June 15.

• The Navy’s Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band program received Milestone C approval from the acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition on June 28.

• Capt. Elizabeth Somerville took command of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 from Lt. Col. Mark Anspacher on July 1.

• The Aerial Targets Program Office (PMA-208) transferred leadership from Capt. Molly Boron to Don Blottenberger on July 1.

• NAWCAD welcomed Stephen Cricchi as the new civilian executive director at its Patuxent River headquarters July 14.

• Cmdr. Jeremy DeBons took command of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School from Lt. Col. Rory Feely during an airborne change of command ceremony July 15.

• The Common Aviation Support Equipment Program Office (PMA-260) shipboard aircraft handler was used in an operational environment for the first time aboard USS Harry Truman (CNV 75) in June.

• The Navy conducted its first test flight of the MQ-4C Triton in its upgraded hardware and software configuration July 29 at Pax River, beginning the next phase of the unmanned aircraft’s development.

• History was made as Cmdr. Kelly Varonfakis became the first-ever female Full Time Support Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officer selected for the rank of Captain.

• Pax River’s new barracks and four military housing communities received CEL Crystal Awards for excellence in management performance and commitment to the highest level and quality of service.

• Online shopping and curbside pickup added to the list of benefits for patrons of the Pax River Commissary.

• Capt. David Rueter relieved Capt. Michael Orr to become the 19th program manager of the Airborne Electronic Attack Systems Program Office (PMA-234) during a change of command ceremony Aug. 5.

• MQ-25 achieves another first, conducting air-to-air refueling with an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Aug. 18 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutak, Illinois.

• Capt. Dan Mackin transferred leadership of The Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-262) to Capt. Josh Guerre Aug. 12.

• Commander, Naval Air Systems Command Vice Adm. Dean Peters took to the skies over Pax River for his final flight as a naval aviator. After 36 years, Peters retired from active-duty service.

• Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River hosted mass vaccination clinics to meet the new requirement that all service members be vaccinated against COVID-19.

• The Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER) received Milestone C approval Aug. 23, allowing he program to move into its first phase of production.

• Vice Adm. Carl Chebi relieved Vice Adm. Dean Peters as commander, Naval Air Systems Command during a change of command ceremony Sept. 9.

• The Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) program completed its first aerial refueling of an F-35C Lightning II aircraft by the Boeing-owned MQ-25 test asset known as T1.

• The Specialized and Proven Aircraft Program Office (PMA-226) delivered the first F-5N aircraft to Pax River to begin ground and flight test of the F-5 block upgrade prototype project.

• The first of 78 new-production Block III F/A-18 Super Hornets were ferried to Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at Pax River for continued developmental testing.

• The Naval Aviation Training Systems and Ranges Program Office’s (PMA-205) Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS Inc. II) and Advance Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX)-21 teams conducted their first Live-Virtual-Constructive demonstration in an operational environment last month.

• Vice Adm. Yancy Lindsey, Commander, Naval Installations Command, paid an official site visit to Pax River on Sept. 21.

• Cmdr. Deserine Price-Jordan, Tactical Airlift Program Office’s (PMA-207) Fixed Wing/Operational Support Aircraft deputy program manager, became the first-ever black female Full Time Support Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officer to be promoted to the rank of captain.

• The Air Combat Electronics Program Office (PMA-209) avionics architecture team created an instructional video series providing answers to frequently asked questions and other insights on the topic of open architecture/open systems conformance testing for participants in the acquisition process.

• The Navy’s F/A-18E/F Readiness program won the Aviation Week Overall Excellence Award 2021 during the annual Defense Chain Conference in Washington D.C., Oct. 20. Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan, program executive director for tactical aircraft programs, accepted the award.

• With COVID-19 vaccines now mandatory for all military members, the Navy announced plans to start processing for discharge those who refuse vaccination without a pending or approved exemption.

• Pax River held its first observance of Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Remembrance Day Oct. 15.

• A pair of F-35B Lightning II fighter jets performed first-time-ever vertical landings and short takeoffs Oct. 3 aboard a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer undergoing modifications to support F-35 operations.

• Active DoD and Coast Guard civilian employees have access to shop online at the Navy Exchange.

• AC1 Damon Haney, LS2 Solange Gordonbaigand AC3 James Horner are named the NAS Command 2021 Senior Sailor of the Year, Junior Sailor of the Year, and Blue Jacket of the Year, respectively.

• NAS Patuxent River was named the Naval District Washington Region winner of the Installation Excellence Award- Large Shore category, recognizing quality in installation management, program excellence and community outreach.

• Airborne Electronic Attack Systems (PMA-234) former Program Manager Capt. Michael Orr was named Department of Navy 2021 Acquisition Category I Program Manager of the Year during the Acquisition Excellence Awards ceremony Nov. 4.

• Cmdr. John Walsh took command of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 from Capt. Jared Goul during a change of command ceremony Nov. 4.

• The Advanced Helicopter Training System Team, part of the Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems Program Office (PMA-273) at NAVAIR was named the Navy’s Competition Excellence Acquisition Team of the Year.

• Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, touched down Nov. 9 for a day of annual training on NAWCAD’s flight simulator before next year’s air show season.

• The 43rd Annual Arts & Crafts Festival was held in the Drill Hall Dec. 4.

• Lt. Cmdr. Wanda Colon, budget financial manager for Aviation Support Equipment (PMA-260), was awarded the 2021 Adm. Merlin O’Neill Officer of the Year Award recognizing the most outstanding junior officer at Pax River.

• Meghan McAleer is introduced as the installation’s new Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator.

• Patuxent River employees Courtney Hillery, Darryl Romer, and Adrian Bateman are recognized as the NAS Command 2021 Senior Civilian of the Year, Junior Civilian of the Year, and Supervisor of the Year, respectively.



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