NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Rear Admiral Troy "Mike" Shoemaker relieved Rear Admiral Ted N. Branch as Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (COMNAVAIRLANT) during a change of command ceremony Friday aboard USS George H.W. Bush at Naval Station Norfolk.
Change of Command ceremonies are a time-honored tradition in the Navy, and at this ceremony there were some very unique historical moments to discuss for Naval Air Atlantic.
The now former, AIRLANT Commander, Vice Admiral Select Ted Branch highlighted some of those historical moments including the first carrier launch of an unmanned aircraft from the same ship hosting the ceremony.
"I was standing right up there when the X-47B (the unmanned combat air system prototype) made its' first carrier take-off, and I'm sure the landing next month in July is going to be just as impressive right back there," said Branch.
The New AIRLANT Commander will continue his predecessor's work in advancing new technology for Naval Aviation. Rear Admiral "Mike" Shoemaker will inherit another, less desirable challenge from the old skipper.
"I'm acutely aware of the increasing constrained fiscal environment we are in. Tough choices lie ahead," Shoemaker said.
Those choices involve finding money to keep his airwings flying above the clouds of sequestration.
"So that we can keep those squadrons from getting down to where we have to shut them down or bring them to what we call a tactical hard-deck, which mean minimum proficiency for a certain amount of time. Because it takes a while to build our selves back up from that," Shoemaker said.
Budget cuts have already forced the Navy to consider limiting two, Norfolk-based air wings to flying 11 hours per month.
"So far, we've been able to weather through it and keep those next to deploy forces up to speed and ready to go, like (USS) Harry S. Truman that will be leaving next month," Shoemaker said.
Managing a budget that must finance the operation of seven nuclear powered aircraft carriers, four carrier air wings and a strike fighter wing in this current fiscal environment will require all the experience Naval Air Force Atlantic's new leader brings to the job.
Branch became commander of AIRLANT in February, 2011. He has been nominated for promotion to Vice Admiral and assignment to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance/Director of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C.
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