Navy aviation gets a new ‘air boss’

Newly minted Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker assumed command Thursday as the head of Naval Air Forces board the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, whose strike group he once commanded.

Newly minted Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker assumed command of Naval Air Forces Thursday in San Diego during a ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, whose strike group he once commanded.

Shoemaker relieved Vice Adm. David Buss, the Navy’s sixth air boss, who is set to retire after 36 years of service, according to a Navy news release.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by the opportunity to ‘fleet up’ and take over as your new ‘air boss,’ ” Shoemaker said at the North Island Naval Air Station ceremony.

A 1982 Naval Academy graduate, Shoemaker has racked up more than 4,400 flight hours and 1,066 carrier arrested landings, primarily as an A-7E Corsair and the F/A-18C Hornet pilot,

He served most recently as head of Naval Air Force Atlantic. He has also served afloat as commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 105; Carrier Air Wing 17 and Carrier Strike Group 9, both assigned to the Abraham Lincoln; and Carrier Strike Group 3 aboard the Stennis.

In his remarks, Shoemaker stressed the importance of the carrier Navy, and his commitment to balance that with the challenges of a tight budget.

“Our combatant commanders clearly value the strategic options and flexibility that carrier strike groups and our expeditionary aviation forces bring to their areas of responsibility,” he said, according to the release. “The challenge that lies ahead of us is how we continue to sustain the capacity to generate those forces, and ensure they are going forward with the right to operate where needed… all in a fiscal environment characterized by ever-increasing uncertainty.”

Shoemaker’s command is responsible for 10 aircraft carriers and their air wings, including 170 squadrons and more than 100,000 personnel.

In his final speech as commanding officer, Buss looked back on the aviation Navy’s past achievements.

“When coupled with new operating concepts, new technology, and bright, sharp, forward-thinking minds in naval aviation today, our strategic relevance and our importance to this nation tomorrow should never be — and must never be — in question,” Buss said.

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