By Lt. Chris Pagenkopf, Strike Fighter Squadron Public Affairs
NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan – Cmdr. Sam Gray relieved Cmdr. Doug Gray as commanding officer of the “Eagles” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115, at a ceremony held at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, Jan. 13.
“Being the commanding officer of VFA-115 has been the most rewarding professional experience of my career,” said Cmdr. Gray in farewell remarks to the squadron. “I could not have imagined a better group of warfighting professionals to work with than each and every one of you.”
Cmdr. Doug Gray, a Mililani, Hawaii native, joined the Eagles as executive officer in September 2014 and assumed command in November 2015. He led the squadron through five Western Pacific patrols, completing 6,500 sorties and 10,500 mishap-free flight hours at an impressive 98.7 percent sortie completion rate in operations that spanned the Indo-Asia-Pacific. During these operations, the squadron exhibited outstanding performance in multiple joint and multinational exercises including Black Dagger 16-1, Valiant Shield ’16, and Keen Sword ’17. Under Gray’s leadership, the squadron earned the 2015 Commander, Pacific Fleet Retention Excellence Award, achieved a perfect score on the 2016 Conventional Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspection, and surpassed 22 years and 98,000 hours of Class “A” mishap-free flight operations.
Gray’s command tour marked his third operational assignment with the Forward Deployed Naval Forces and was the latest feature of a highly successful naval career. He previously served as a division officer with VFA-192, as an instructor pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101, as Air Wing Landing Signals Officer with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, as a department head with VFA-115, and as Joint Maritime Planner for the Domestic Operations Division at U.S. Northern Command. He has accumulated over 3,100 flight hours and 800 carrier landings.
“Cmdr. Doug Gray has been an amazing leader for the Eagles,” said Cmdr. Sam Gray after taking command. “He has always dropped everything to do not what is best for him, but what is best for the squadron.”
Cmdr. Sam Gray, a Lyme, New Hampshire native, takes the helm following an accomplished operational career, which began with tours as an S-3B pilot with Sea Control Squadron (VS) 33 and as an instructor pilot with VS-41. Upon completing F/A-18 transition training with VFA- 125, Gray served with VFA-136 and VFA-195 in various division and department leadership roles. He earned his Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies at the U.S. Naval War College, where he was also a member of the Halsey Alfa Advanced Research Program. He then served as Crisis Action Planner for Conventional Military Contingencies at U.S. Pacific Command. Gray has accumulated over 2,500 flight hours and 600 carrier landings.
Established in 1942, VFA-115 is one of the oldest active aviation squadrons in the U.S. Navy. The squadron has seen combat in the Pacific theater of World War II, at Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operations Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.
VFA-115 is currently forward deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, as a component of Carrier Air Wing 5 and regularly embarks USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in support of security and stability throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.