Naval Air Forces Command, located on Naval Air Station North Island, held its change of command ceremony Jan. 11, along with the retirement ceremony for the outgoing Commander.
More than a thousand guests, including almost 100 active and retired admirals, community leaders, industry partners and family and friends of Naval Aviation, came to celebrate the accomplishments of Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, the outgoing Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF) who has been responsible for manning, training and equipping all Naval Aviation commands and for providing trained and ready aviation squadrons and aircraft carriers to the operational fleet commanders. CNAF is also responsible for the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, who surprised the crowd with a fly-by honoring Shoemaker for his leadership and dedication.
After three years serving as the Navy’s seventh Air Boss, Shoemaker turned over command to Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III. A well-respected Naval Aviator and trusted leader, Shoemaker began his flying career after graduating the Naval Academy in 1982, accumulating more than 4,400 hours of flight time and 1,066 carrier-arrested landing in the A-7E Corsair and the F/A-18C Hornet. Shoemaker commanded multiple squadrons, Carrier Air Wing 17, and two carrier strike groups (CSG), CSG-9 and CSG-3. As the Navy’s Air Boss he led the force through many challenges including the high demand for ready aviation forces and problems with physiological episodes plaguing the jet training aircraft as well as the F/A-18s. Despite the challenges, Shoemaker’s leadership and dedication to the Naval Aviation team is credited for the many successes they achieved, including successful deployments of Carrier Strike Groups, the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford, the focus on improvement of carrier maintenance and the rapid advancements seen in the carrier air wing. His leadership style, focused on humility, credibility and integrity, inspired all those who served for and with Shoemaker throughout his career.
Shoemaker closed the ceremony with his retirement after serving 36 honorable years to his nation. During the the reading of Old Glory, a common tradition at Navy retirements, Shoemaker presented his mother with the flag that had been flown over all of his commands. During his remarks he acknowledged his wife Peg, known as the first lady of Naval Aviation, for her steadfast support through the years. “Peg, I know it hasn’t been easy but I thank God every day that you have been my partner on this journey.” He also expressed how proud he was of his two daughters, Lucy, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin and a 2017 graduate of Coronado High School, and Grace, a senior at Coronado High School, and thanked them for their enduring support during his Naval career.
Admiral Bill Moran, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the guest speaker at the event, acknowledged the great work Shoemaker accomplished as the Air Boss. “In the past three years Naval Aviation has performed magnificently, [there is] no other way to describe it.”
Admiral Scott Swift, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet was the presiding officer for the ceremony and presented Shoemaker with his end of tour award and then recognized Peg Shoemaker for her service in mentoring spouses and her charity work with Wings Over America.
Vice Adm. Miller closed the ceremony with brief remarks during which he stated, “This crowd needs no reminder of importance of a strong Navy and the value that Naval Aviation provides to our country’s national security. Naval Air Forces are where you need them, when you need them and bring exactly what you need. I’m humbled to lead Naval Aviation as your Air Boss.” Miller recently left his position as the Director of Air Warfare on the Navy Staff in the Pentagon, bringing with him a great understanding of the challenges inside the beltway with regards to the budget and the future force. A 1981 graduate of the Naval Academy, Miller, also an A-7 and F/A-18 Pilot, commanded strike fighter squadron 34 before becoming a nuclear trained officer and commanding the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). As a flag officer, Miller commanded CSG-2, providing support to maritime security operations and combat operations for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Resolve.
Miller offered to answer questions from media directly following the ceremony during which he stated, “I’m excited to be here, and especially to be here in San Diego… it is our first time being stationed in San Diego and we feel we saved the best for last.” With an F-35 as the backdrop, Miller went on to explain his priorities, “I plan to continue the trajectory Naval Aviation is on… warfighting is our number one priority and with that comes the readiness we need for warfighting. Second is our focus on people and leadership.” Miller closed his comments with, “How wonderful our Sailors are, the people who bring the lifeblood into our ships, our maintainers that work on our aircraft… they make me feel really confident about our future.”