Airborne Command & Control Squadron (VAW-121) the “Bluetails”, based at Naval Station Norfolk held a change of command, Sept. 3, to mark the time-honored tradition of changing commanders.
Cmdr. Neil Fletcher of Chatham, New Jersey, having served as squadron executive officer, relieved Cmdr. Martin Fentress of Norfolk with both of their immediate families present. During Fentress’ tour at VAW-121, the squadron deployed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) for an around-the-world-deployment. Additionally, while serving at the helm, Fentress led his squadron in receiving the coveted “Battle E” in 2019.
“Taking command of VAW-121 is a career highpoint,” said Fentress, who added that during the deployment on board USS Abraham Lincoln the crew overcame many challenges but never gave up. “My greatest achievement is leading my Sailors and officers.”
Fentress departs VAW-121 with a keen awareness that his naval leadership experiences have been the “most satisfying” of all his accomplishments. His next assignment is at Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee where he will serve as a detailer for tactical air (TACAIR).
Shortly before relieving his predecessor, Fletcher discussed assuming command of VAW-121 and a career spent bringing him to this point in his life, while learning from the mentors who led him, like Fentress.
Fletcher shared a leadership quote, that “Leadership is a gift given to you by those you lead,” which speaks to the trust and confidence needed up and down the chain of command to effectively lead an organization like VAW-121. He felt Fentress had that gift by both inspiring and connecting with those he led.
For Fletcher he will apply that leadership advice as he assumes the duties and responsibilities of commanding officer of VAW-121.
Fletcher’s interest in the Navy stems from his years serving with the Boy Scouts of Troop 28 in Chatham.
“A senior leader in the troop originally influenced my interest in earning an appointment to the United States Naval Academy,” added Fletcher, who said his squadron’s focus going forward, would be on training and preparation for future deployment.
According to Fletcher, his parents, who were able to view their son’s rite of passage virtually, are the greatest influence in his life.
“My parents gave me never ending encouragement and support and, at times, some tough love and guidance that helped me chart the course I did,” said Fletcher. With the change of command concluded, the Bluetails and their new commanding officer have their sights set on the future as they prepare to receive the latest, most capable E-2D Advanced Hawkeye with the new aerial refueling capability ahead of their future deployment.