Saints conduct change of command ceremony | NevadaAppeal.com

Saints conduct change of command ceremony

LT Matt Gottschalk
VFC-13 Public Affairs Officer
CDR Brandon Harjer relieves CDR Geoff Hughes as Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron Composite 13.
COURTESY VFC 13 |

The Saints of Fighter Composite Squadron 13 at Naval Air Station Fallon recently conducted a change of command ceremony when Cmdr. Brandon Harjer relieved Cmdr. Geoffrey Hughes as commanding officer of VFC-13.

The ceremony marked the 33rd change of command in the squadron’s history since the unit’s commissioning in 1973.

Harjer previously served as executive officer since March 2016.

A native of Mars, Pa., Harjer graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in May 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Systems Engineering. After Aviation Preflight Indoctrination, he reported to NAS Corpus Christi for primary flight training with VT-28, and then to NAS Kingsville for intermediate and advanced flight training in VT-21. He was designated a Naval aviator in October 2001.

After receiving his initial FA-18 Hornet training at Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) at NAS Oceana, Va., he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 131 (VFA-131) in 2003. While assigned to VFA-131, he twice deployed to the Arabian Gulf supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He served as a Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) instructor, Functional Check Flight (FCF) pilot and Combat Division Lead.

In November 2006, he reported to Fighter Squadron Composite 13 (VFC-13) and transitioned to the F-5 Tiger II. In December of 2008, he completed the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) Adversary course. In October 2009, he transferred to the U.S. Navy Reserve as a Full Time Support (FTS) officer and remained at VFC-13 for his Department Head tour. He concluded his tour as the Operations Officer, during which time the squadron received the Navy Battle “E” award. He served as a Level IV Instructor pilot, FCF Instructor pilot, NATOPS and Instrument instructor, and maintained NATOPS qualifications in both the F-5 and F-16 “Fighting Falcon.”

In January 2013, he was assigned to the Air Warfare Division, N98, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and there served as the Adversary Requirements Officer (RO), Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD)/FA-XX RO, and N98 Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR).

Harjer is married to the former Meghann Donovan of Catonsville, Md. They have four children, John, Jane, Sarah, and Samuel.

Hughes assumed command of the VFC-13 February 2016 after serving as executive officer. In August, he will become operation’s officer at Naval Air Forces Reserve in Coronado.

During Hughes’ tour, VFC-13 flew over 3,937 mishap-free flight hours during 3,103 sorties encompassing six Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program detachments, six Carrier Air Wing (CVW) detachments, five Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) classes, four Electronic Warfare Advanced Readiness Programs, one Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) detachment, five Special Operations Command detachments and three VAQ-129 FRS detachments.

Additionally, VFC-13 participated in multiple detachments to Key West and San Diego in support of emergent Adversary tasking. Under his Command, VFC-13 was the recipient of numerous awards including the Golden Wrench, and RC Personnel Program Excellence Awards. With respect to safety, Commander Hughes commitment to operational risk management contributed to the squadron exceeding 30,000 flight hours class “A” mishap free over the past nine years. He also revamped the squadron Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Tactical SOP resulting in increased squadron standardization and tactical mission effectiveness in alignment with current Fleet expectations.

Hughes is married to the former Christina Carter of Weatherford, Texas, and they have three children, Jackson, Eleanor, and Jett.

Cmdr. Andrew D. Craig is the incoming VFC-13 executive officer. A native of Marion, Ohio, Craig graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in May 2002 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. After Aviation Preflight Indoctrination, he reported to NAS Corpus Christi for primary flight training with VT-27, and then to NAS Meridian, Ms., for intermediate flight training in VT-9 and advanced flight training in VT-7. He was designated a Naval aviator in June of 2005.

After receiving his initial FA-18 “Hornet” training at Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) at NAS Oceana, he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 192 (VFA-192) in Atsugi, Japan, in May of 2006. While assigned to VFA-192, he deployed multiple times to the Western Pacific. He served as a Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) instructor, Functional Check Flight (FCF) pilot and Combat Division Lead. During his time in the squadron, VFA-192 was awarded the Battle “E”.

In January 2009, he reported to the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) where he completed the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) course and remained on staff as a TOPGUN Instructor. While at TOPGUN he held simultaneous qualifications in the FA-18A-D “Hornet”, FA-18E/F “Super Hornet” and F-16 “Fighting Falcon”. He served as the USN’s Air-to-Air Mission Planning subject matter expert and was also selected by his peers to be the TOPGUN Standardization Officer.

In May 2012 he was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 113 (VFA-113) as the Squadron Training Officer. He trained and prepared a ready room of young aviators for a 10-month cruise aboard the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70) which supported OPERATION INERENT RESOLVE. During his time in the squadron, VFA-113 was awarded the Battle “E”.

In July 2014 he joined the United States Navy Reserve (USNR) and Fighter Squadron Composite 13 (VFC-13).

Craig is a first officer for Delta Air Lines, a Dept.of Defense consultant for 2 Circle Incorporated, and owns a hay and beef cattle ranch in Fallon. He lives on the ranch with his wife. Karla (Danekas) of Naperville, Ill. They have two children, Kaylee and Keagan.