Fighter squadron gets new leader
Lt. Col. John Price steps up at MCAS Yuma
The Marines of Fighter Attack Squadron 122 (VMAF-122) welcomed a new commander Tuesday morning during an assumptionof-command and appointment ceremony held at the squadron’s hangar at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
Lt. Col. John Price, a decorated AV-8B Harrier and F-35B Lightning pilot with 1,900 flight hours, will now lead the squadron after his predecessor, Lt. Col. Michael P. Brennan, officially relinquished command to him during a similar ceremony in September at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, where the squadron was originally based.
“The Marine Corps does a very good job at picking commanders with the right experience for the job,” said Col. William Sauerland, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 13 (MAG-13). “Lt. Col. Price has a very rich experience level with the F-35 and Marine aviation in general and is imminently qualified for this.”
The relocation to MCAS Yuma now puts VMAF-122 under the command of Sauerland’s MAG-13.
Price, who previously served at MCAS Yuma as an instructor pilot for Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1), will lead the squadron as it now transitions from the F/A-18 Hornet to the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
In his first words to the squadron, Price shared his excitement and expressed how proud he was to be its new commander, saying a lot has been accomplished in a short time.
“We have a long way to go, but we will stayed focused on the mission, focused on doing things right and focused on taking care of each other,” Lt. Col. Price said. “With that, and the combination of your talent, skill and dedication that I have already seen and witnessed first-hand, I know we will achieve all of our objectives.”
He also spoke about squadron’s illustrious history, saying it has been filled with many first, and heeding America’s call whenever and wherever needed.
VMFA-122 was the first jet squadron in the Marine Corps, was the first squadron to be day and night qualified for carrier operations, and it fielded the Marines’ first and only aerial flight demonstration team, The Flying Leathernecks.
In addition to being used to firsts, VMFA-122 is no stranger to changing aircraft, as it was also the first squadron to transition to the F-8 Crusader, which at its time was the most technologically advanced fighter jet in the Marine Corps.
“I have no doubt that legacy of firsts will continue as we transition to the F-35, and that we too will be ready to fight when called,” Lt. Col. Price said. “To the Marines, sailors and families of VMFA-122, I’m extremely proud of everything that you have accomplished getting the squadron online. I appreciate the burden you have shouldered without hesitation and making things easy.”
Price also called attention to the new insignia
painted on the tail of the F-35 that was parked inside the squadron’s hangar during the ceremony, saying he couldn’t help but reflect on the similarities between the squadron that originally used it and what his squadron is now doing.
He explained that the insignia was originally created by the 1st Marine Aviation Force, which was the first Marine aviation unit to engage in aerial combat, serving in World War 1 during the Summer and Fall of 1918.
“They started a new unit in a new place, with new people, and they brought a new war fighting capability to the operating forces,” Price said. “I’m proud and excited to be part of that legacy 100 years later,
bringing this operational capability online and supporting the sailors, airmen, soldiers and Marines whenever and wherever called.”
Sgt. Major Stephen Lutz also became the senior enlisted Marine leader during the ceremony after he was appointed as the squadron’s new Sergeant Major.
“It is going to be a pleasure and fun working here. I’m ready to help the Marines, sailors and families of VMFA-122 for the next
mission we have,” Lutz said. “It is truly an honor for me to be a part of this great history.”
According to Sauerland, VMFA-122 does not yet have its full compliment of F-35s or Marines, but is expected to be fully operational within 18 months.
ABOVE: A CHANGE OF COMMAND CEREMONY WAS HELD TUESDAY AT MCAS YUMA for Lt. Col John Price, who will lead VMFA-122 as it transitions from a F/A18F Hornet to the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter squadron. The squadron relocated to MCAS Yuma in September from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. LEFT: Lt. Col. John Price, a decorated AV-8B Harrier and F-35B Lightning pilot with 1,900 flight hours, took command of Fighter Attack Squadron 122 on Tuesday.