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Commander Matt “THAD” O’Donnell

A native of Baker, Florida, Commander Matthew T. O’Donnell graduated from Florida State University in 2008, earning a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology. CDR O’Donnell was commissioned through the Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI and reported to NAS Pensacola, FL for flight training in May 2009. He earned his Naval Aviator Wings in December 2011. In January 2012, CDR O’Donnell reported to NAS Whidbey Island and the “Vikings” of VAQ-129 for initial fleet training as an EA-6B Pilot.

CDR O’Donnell began his operational flying in February 2013 with the “Patriots” of VAQ-140. His first deployment began that same month aboard USS DWIGHT D EISENHOWER (CVN 69) in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.  Upon return the squadron began the transition from the EA-6B to the EA-18G. CDR O’Donnell remained with the squadron during its first EA-18G deployment onboard USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN 75) in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE.

In March of 2016 CDR O’Donnell reported to back to VAQ-129 to serve as an Instructor Pilot at the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS). During his time with the “VIKINGS” he was the Assistant Student Control Officer and ultimately was entrusted with the safe and expeditious aircraft carrier qualification training of all EA-18G Category 1 pilots and was designated as the Carrier Qualification Phase Head. 

CDR O’Donnell was selected to be CAG Paddles for Carrier Air Wing TWO (CVW-2) and joined them in May of 2018 onboard USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70). He trained over 40 fleet Landing Signal Officers and ensured the safe landing of over 85 fleet aviators over five separate underway periods. CDR O’Donnell also earned his CVN CDO Underway qualification and orchestrated the safe execution of the first combined fleet F-35C and F/A-18 E/F carrier qualification during his time with CVW-2. 

In November 2019 CDR O’Donnell returned to the Growler fleet as a Department Head in VAQ-142, the “Gray Wolves”.  While with the Gray Wolves, he completed two deployments in support of 7th Fleet Operations during the height of the COVID pandemic aboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) serving as the Safety Officer, Admin Officer, Maintenance Officer, and Operations Officer. While at VAQ-142 he also earned his Strike Lead qualification with Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN (CVW-11).

Following his operational department head tour, CDR O’Donnell returned to VAQ-129 for a second department head tour in November 2022 and served as the Admin Officer while also resuming his duties as an FRS Instructor Pilot.  He was selected for operational squadron command in March 2023 and reported to the VAQ-139 “COUGARS” as Executive Officer in February 2024.

CDR O’Donnell has accumulated over 2,000 flight hours and 350 carrier arrested landings, including over 185 combat hours during 27 sorties. His awards include the Strike/Flight Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (4 awards), Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various service awards and ribbons.

Last Updated: 24 April 2024

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