The “Red Rippers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11 held an aerial change-of-command ceremony in the skies above aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), Aug. 16.
Cmdr. Marcus Lopez relieved Cmdr. Daniel Sullivan as commanding officer. During the ceremony, Sullivan and Lopez flew F/A-18F Super Hornets. After both aviators read their orders, Sullivan gave the formation lead to Lopez, symbolically turning over the squadron to his relief.
“I would say I have not left my mark on the Rippers, the Rippers left their mark on me,” said Sullivan. “I was blessed to be the 76th commanding officer of the Red Rippers [in] 85 years and, I would honestly say, I’ve taken away as much as I’ve given.”
Sullivan has taken orders to the Pentagon to work on the Quadrennial Defense Review, a 20-year investigation into future Navy and military program expenditures. His future may lie in Washington D.C., but his past remains with Enterprise.
“When I was growing up, my dad told me stories about when he was a young boy learning and reading stories about the Big E. And now, fast-forward 50 years and I’m serving on it as a commanding officer of one of the fighter squadrons on board,” said Sullivan.
Like Sullivan, the Red Rippers have early ties to Enterprise as well. The Rippers were the first squadron to trap aircraft on the flight deck of Big E.
“It’s special to be back here 51 years after that first trap,” said Sullivan. “Hopefully the Red Rippers will have the last trap on Enterprise.”
The Rippers have been hard at work since that first trap, completing many combat operations and deploying with different aircraft carriers, and, even as they prepare to make more history, they remember their forbearers.
“The ship and the squadron are kind of paired up in that sense of long lineage and heritage,” said Lopez. “That’s a pretty cool aspect of this deployment. It’s particularly nice because I worked really hard and I wanted to come to this squadron from the get-go, so it’s very cool to get here and be with what I see as the best squadron out there.”
Lopez has a large task at hand, being the final Red Ripper commanding officer to serve aboard Enterprise, but he said he feels up to the task, thanks in part to Sullivan.
“Cmdr. Sullivan really helped me out along the way and really gave me the opportunity to exercise being the executive officer,” said Lopez. “I think we’ve been able to accomplish a lot together here and I enjoyed working with him.”
As for Sullivan, his parting thoughts are simple, yet heartfelt.
“The only thing I would leave with the Rippers is to continue to take care of each other and remember and be proud of our heritage and what has made us great, which is the people of this squadron,” said Sullivan.
This change of command ceremony comes a day after the Carrier Air Wing 1 change of command ceremony held above Enterprise.
Naval Today Staff, August 20, 2012; Image: US Navy