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VFA-131 Holds Airborne Change Command

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120816-09

By Lt. Brandon Cook, Strike Fighter Squadron 131 Public Affairs

USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea (NNS) -- The "Wildcats" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 held an airborne change of command ceremony in the skies above USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), Aug. 16.

Cmdr. Timothy Tippett relieved Cmdr. Jon Taylor. Capt. Samuel Paparo, commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 presided over the ceremony from the cockpit of another F/A-18 Hornet while Wildcat Sailors and fellow shipmates from Carrier Strike Group 8 observed the event from the flight deck.

VFA-131, embarked on Eisenhower, is currently on deployment supporting Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

Taylor joined the Wildcats in February 2010 as executive officer during the squadron's previous OEF deployment. Taylor took over as the commanding officer May 26, 2011 and has since led the squadron through a number of major training evolutions and inspections as part of the inter-deployment readiness cycle. He oversaw nine separate squadron detachments and more than 200 days away from Naval Air Station Oceana.

During his tenure, the squadron amassed more than 3,200 sorties, 4,300 flight hours, and exceeded a total of 24 years and 103,000 Class "A" mishap-free flight hours.

While Taylor is extremely proud of the operational accomplishments that the Wildcats have achieved over the last 15 months of his tenure, he is most proud of the cohesive and professionalism of those in the squadron that helped bring about those accomplishments.

"Like all squadrons, we have been faced with some setbacks but at no other point in my career have I seen a more impressive display of teamwork," he said. "Despite a challenging schedule, the Wildcats have managed to maintain an incredible level of motivation and sense of pride throughout. There is a true 'One Team, One Fight' mentality and I am so proud of this fantastic organization. I feel lucky to have been a part of it."

Following the airborne ceremony, Paparo presented Taylor with the Meritorious Service Medal recognizing him for his tremendous efforts while in command. Taylor's next assignment will be as air boss aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Lincoln is scheduled to undergo a four-year refueling complex overhaul in Newport News, Va.

The Wildcat's new commanding officer, Tippett, is from Tullahoma, Tenn. He graduated the U.S. Naval Academy in 1995 and was designated a naval aviator in 1997. Tippett's previous tours include an operational tour with VFA-37, flight instructor with VFA-106, assistant navigator aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), department head in VFA-14, and a tour with the National Reconnaissance Office prior to reporting to the Wildcats as executive officer in May 2011. He has accumulated more than 2,600 flight hours and 600 arrested landings.

Cmdr. Matthew "Flea" Barker is the Wildcats' new executive officer.

Tippett said he is thankful for the ground work already laid by Taylor and plans to continue the level of success as the Wildcats continue to fly combat support OEF missions.

"Cmdr. Taylor has done a remarkable job preparing us for combat operations. I am honored to be taking command of such a well-trained and professional group of Sailors and look forward to leading the Wildcats as we support U.S. and coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan," said Tippett.

The Wildcats and Eisenhower are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, conducting maritime security operation efforts and support missions for OEF.

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