149th Fighter Squadron welcomes new commander

149th Fighter Squadron welcomes new commander

The 192nd Fighter Wing held a change of command ceremony for the 192nd FW Operations Group, here on June 12, 2016. Lt. Col. Darren P. Gray assumed command of the 192nd Operations Group from Lt. Col. D. Micah Fesler, who was selected for a National Security Fellowship at Harvard in Boston, Mass. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. C. Claudio)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. — The Virginia Air National Guard 192nd Fighter Wing welcomed Lt. Col. Darren “Whip” Gray, former Director of Operations of the 149th Fighter Squadron, as the new 149th Fighter Squadron commander during a change of command ceremony June 12, 2016 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Gray took command of the 149th Fighter Squadron from Lt. Col. D. Micah “Zeus” Fesler.

Fesler served as commander of the 149th Fighter Squadron from July, 2014, to June, 2016. During the ceremony, 192nd Operations Group Commander Colonel Thomas P. “Bear” McAtee praised Fesler’s leadership and noted he brought the Airmen of the 149th Fighter Squadron through the first combat use of the F-22 during Operation Inherent Resolve.

“When you came on board, you inherited one of the best fighter squadron’s in the world,” McAtee said to Fesler. “What we have now, in two years under your command, is the best fighter squadron in the entire world.”

Fesler was awarded with the Meritorious Service Medal during the ceremony. He was selected for a National Security Fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and he’ll be moving with his family to Boston in the coming weeks.

“The Airmen of 149th Fighter Squadron are absolute rock stars. They are the team you want to go to war with. Every one of them steps up and volunteers to complete the mission,” said Fesler. “I am absolutely fired up to hand over command of the squadron to Whip. He is a fantastic individual who will take this squadron to a level it has never been before.”

When speaking about the men and women across the 192nd Fighter Wing, Fesler said, “This family that makes up the 192nd Fighter Wing is awesome. I’m going to miss everyone.”

Gray came to the Virginia Air National Guard in July 2008, after serving on active duty. He has held multiple positions within the 149th Fighter Squadron to include: Weapons Officer, Assistant Director of Operations, Chief of the 1st and 192nd Fighter Wing’s Advanced Programs Office, and most recently, the Director of Operations.

“Whip, I can think of no one better suited to take over this fighter squadron than you,” McAtee said.

“To the men and women of the 149th, I could not be more excited for the opportunity to work for you,” said Gray. “It has been a long, hard, challenging climb to the top of the mountain, but is exactly where we are, and you better believe that is exactly where we will stay. I can’t wait to get started.”

Lt. Col. Michael “BOK” Schaner assumed the role of Director of Operations for the 149th Fighter Squadron from Gray.

The change of command ceremony is a military tradition rooted in history in which uniquely developed flags for each organization are publicly exchanged from the hands of the former commander to the hands of the new commander. This ceremony symbolically marks the change of leadership in military organizations.