SAN DIEGO -- Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell relieved Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III to become the Commander, Naval Air Forces and Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet during a ceremony aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) at Naval Air Station North Island, Oct. 2.
The event was also a retirement ceremony for Miller who was presented with the Distinguished Service Medal after a career spanning more than 39 years of distinguished service.
In his remarks, Miller described his career in the Navy through the perspective of an aircraft carrier pilot departing on an operational mission. “All strapped in, engines started, avionics all set up; I know the checklist by heart,” he said.
Miller also voiced his appreciation for aviation maintenance and support personnel who, “without fanfare, climb all over aircraft under the most extreme conditions to ensure they (the aircraft) are ready and safe; so our Navy can accomplish its mission from the sea. Their work is never done, but it is always well done.”
Turning to Whitesell and his wife, Miller stated “Kenny and Melody, you’re inheriting an amazing team … you are the perfect couple to lead naval aviation into the future.”
Whitesell said, “It is an honor to become the ninth ‘Air Boss’. The list of those who have served under the title of ‘Air Boss’ … remain the titans of naval aviation.”
“Our people remain the competitive advantage,” stated Whitesell, who also said he will ensure that the naval aviation force continues to focus on, “superiority in aerial combat execution and coordination across multiple domains.”
Adm. John Aquilino, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, presided over the change of command ceremony and expressed his gratitude to Miller and Whitesell for the opportunity to, “celebrate this event with two of my closest friends in the Navy.”
When addressing Miller’s character and accomplishments, Aquilino stated “When I hear Admiral DeWolfe Miller’s name, here’s what I think of: a proven lethal combat pilot, commander of a U.S. aircraft carrier as a captain and as a strike group commander, husband, father, family man, mentor, leader, and friend...because of your rigorous, tireless commitment, the Navy is in a better place today.”
Aquilino also praised Miller’s wife, Ellen. “Her efforts in support of our service members and our families has been without peer. It is difficult to comprehend how you give of yourself so often and so much,” said Aquilino.
Whitesell previously served as deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and has completed operational assignments with F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Super Hornet squadrons, and commanded Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 2 aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). Whitesell is a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and has participated in operations Desert Shield, Southern Watch, Deliberate Guard/Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom and Inherent Resolve. He has accumulated more than 4,000 flight hours and 1,000 landings aboard aircraft carriers.
Vice Adm. Miller closed his comments by continuing his operational mission analogy by describing the end of his naval career as if he was preparing to land on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. “Let’s make this last one look really good,” he said.