Capt. Gregory Keithley transferred leadership of Strike Fighter Wing U.S. Pacific Fleet to Capt. David Koss during a change of command ceremony at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore on Dec. 12.
“We’re extremely excited and fortunate that the Wing’s leadership will remain in trusted and devoted hands,” said guest speaker Capt. Monty Ashliman, NAS Lemoore Commanding Officer. “Undoubtedly Capt. Koss will continue to lead our Pacific Fleet strike fighter squadrons into the future and ensure they are best prepared for any tasking our nation may demand.”
The nation’s future was secured during Keithley’s tenure with the introduction of the first, fifth-generation strike fighter to the Naval Aviation Enterprise, the F35C Lightning II aircraft. The wing’s 25th Commodore attributed his success to others up and down the chain of command.
“I look at this entire base and the amount of talent that comprises NAS Lemoore is phenomenal, and it starts with my Deputy,” said Keithley, who began his career as an enlisted Hull Technician.
Besides planning for the integration of a new platform, the duo and their team ensured full mission-capable F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft systems for five Carrier Air Groups. The outgoing commander assured everyone in flight suits their leadership is behind them.
“The leadership from the top is doing everything they can for the flight line. For those wearing flight suits, worry about being great in a jet. Take advantage of every flight hour you have. If you’re not flying, study. If you’re not studying, be in the simulator. You’re in good hands,” Keithley added.
As the torch passed from Keithley to Koss, several founding fathers of NAS Lemoore, including the new commander’s father, proudly watched as Koss took command of the Pacific Fleet’s strike fighter force.
“My dad is my idol. He’s a Vietnam War veteran with 23 air medals. He was a Lemoore flight line guy for many tours,” Koss said during his remarks.
While his dad was serving in Vietnam, his mom kept watch on the Lemoore home front.
“When she was raising us kids here in Lemoore, she’d stand at her kitchen window washing her dishes and watch that black car drive from house to house to tell families they’d lost someone in Vietnam. Thank you for supporting dad through that, and thank you for supporting me,” said the incoming Commander.
Serving as Keithley’s second in command since March 2012, Koss said he’s ready for the challenges ahead as he reminded his team of their mission.
“Our job is to do the nation’s bidding. As we sit in the comfort of this hangar, our brothers and sisters are flying combat aircraft tasked with disrupting terrorist operations and providing protection to those that cannot defend themselves. Remember every day that what we do is done to support the forward-deployed forces or those that are next to relieve the watch,” Koss concluded.
Capt. Markus Gudmundsson, previously the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 122, the Navy’s largest F/A-18 training squadron, will assume duties as deputy commander.
Commander, Strike Fighter Wing U.S. Pacific Fleet, advises Commander, Naval Air Force U. S. Pacific Fleet of the operations of the west coast strike fighters and is responsible for the readiness training of all strike fighter squadrons deploying onboard the U. S. Navy’s west coast aircraft carriers. Additionally, the Wing is responsible for all aspects of training, manning, maintenance, and logistics support for all units under its command.