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"Black Aces" Change Command at Sea

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070521-07
Release Date: 5/21/2007 12:18:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman (AW) Emily Stroia, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

USS NIMITZ, At Sea (NNS) -- Cmdr. Gregory Keithley became the 55th commanding officer (CO) of the “Black Aces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 when he relieved Cmdr. Dell Bull during a ceremony in the hangar bay May 16 aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).

Bull has been VFA-41’s commanding officer since Jan. 6, 2006. His next assignment is to the Department of the Navy Staff of Legislative Affairs at Arlington, Va., as the aviation operations officer.

During Bull’s tour as VFA-41’s commanding officer, he commanded a training plan which exceeded training and readiness qualifications during an inter-deployment training cycle. The squadron is now the most combat-ready in the air wing, as demonstrated by their successful execution of seven major detachments leading up to cruise.

Under his leadership, VFA-41 accurately managed three operational target budgets, to include Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, totaling in excess of $12 million with 100 percent accuracy.

“[Cmdr. Bull]’s decision to join the Navy was a good one, one that we have all benefited from,” said commander, CVW-11, Capt. David Woods.

“... Courage, compassion and confidence, [Bull] is the personification of these attributes. He is firm, but fair and his Sailors have responded with outstanding results,” said Woods.

Keithley, a former petty officer second class and the son of a retired master chief petty officer, was commissioned in May 1989 and received his first salute as an ensign from his father. He reported for flight training in September 1989 and was designated as a naval flight officer in May 1991.

No stranger to the Black Aces, Keithley has served as the squadron’s executive officer (XO) since January 2006. As XO, he was responsible for all administrative issues and programs for the Black Aces.

This is Keithley’s first time serving as a commanding officer.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and I feel extremely privileged, honored and grateful to be entrusted with this position,” said Keithley. “I accept [it] with humility. The biggest challenge that makes it exciting is genuinely and positively impacting people’s lives.”

He looks forward to seeing all the Sailors in the squadron achieve their goals during deployment. Keithley believes in motivating his Sailors with communication and intends to keep motivation high by making every effort and taking advantage of every opportunity to take care of his crew.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet squadron, the Black Aces are assigned to CVW-11 embarked aboard Nimitz, the flagship for commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11. Nimitz and CVW-11 are currently deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and Maritime Operations.

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