Fighter squadron gets new leader

Lt. Col. John Price steps up at MCAS Yuma

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES GIL­BERT @YSJAMESGILBERT

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.

Buy these pho­tos at Yu­maSun.com PHO­TOS BY JAMES GIL­BERT/YUMA SUN

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.

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