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Commander, Naval Air Forces Holds Change of Charge

07 September 2023

From Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aron Montano

Rear Adm. George Wikoff relieved Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell to become the acting Commander, Naval Air Forces and Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, during a change of charge ceremony on Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., Sept. 7, 2023.
“It has been my honor to serve among the men and women who give Naval Aviation its reputation of excellence, professionalism, and quality,” said Whitesell. “Our community’s legacy, and the legacy of our greater Navy, continues with you. I’m proud of all that we’ve done, and even more proud of what’s to come.”

Whitesell served as the ninth Commander, Naval Air Forces after taking command in Oct. 2020. His time as ‘Air Boss’ saw many milestones in Naval Aviation, including the initial deployment of the ‘Air Wing of the Future’ consisting of the F-35C Lightning II, CMV-22B Osprey, and MQ-8C Fire Scout. The Air Wing of the Future provides unprecedented capabilities with both its flexibility and maneuverability.

Throughout the next decade, Naval Aviation is adding a number of new platforms and capabilities to the air wings, making forces more lethal and survivable. This will allow Naval Aviation to meet future goals of delivering capability and capacity to win in the Great Power Competition, generate future readiness across the force, and achieve revolutionary training. By integrating sea-based and land-based aircraft— both manned and unmanned— Naval Aviation will provide a persistent, agile, and tailorable force.

During his remarks, Whitesell emphasized the importance of “standing on the shoulders of giants,” referring to building off of the accomplishments and legacies of Naval Aviation history.

“Those who have gone before us have carried a torch that lit the way for us,” said Whitesell. “Now it is more important than ever that we carry the torch by getting ready and staying ready to meet all challenges that face Naval Aviation.”

Whitesell simultaneously marked his retirement following 39 years of distinguished Naval service. During the retirement portion of the ceremony, he conveyed his confidence in the future of Naval Aviation as he turned over to Wikoff.

“To my Navy teammates, Vice Adm. Whitesell’s priority remains your order moving forward,” said Wikoff. “Naval Aviation will continue to sharpen our focus on capabilities, capacity, readiness, and training to sustain our warfighting advantage against our increasingly advanced
adversaries. I will relentlessly focus on supporting you meet this imperative.”

Wikoff previously served as vice director, Joint Staff, where he assumed duties in May 2021.

Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) is the type commander for Naval Aviation that oversees the Navy’s aircraft wings, squadrons, aircraft carriers, support facilities and training commands. Based at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., CNAF is responsible for manning, training and equipping deployable, combat-ready Naval Aviation forces to compete and win in any environment.

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