May 18, 2012
NAVAL AIR STATION LEMOORE — The Black Knights of Strike Fighter Squadron 154 held a change of command ceremony Thursday.
Cmdr. Matt “Flounder” Arny was relieved by Cmdr. James “Cruiser” Christie as commanding officer. Admiral (Ret.) Joseph Prueher, former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, was the guest speaker. Capt. Gregory Harris, Commander of Carrier Air Wing 11, presided over the transfer of leadership.
The Black Knights will be in experienced hands with Christie leading the way. Beginning his career with the VFA-137 “Kestrels,” Christie deployed twice aboard the USS Constellation (CV 64) in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH before reporting to the “Flying Eagles” of VFA-122 as an FA-18E/F flight instructor and Landing Signals Officer. After a one-year tour, he attended Navy Fighter Weapons School (Topgun) and received his follow on assignment to Strike Fighter Weapons School Pacific as a Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor specializing in Combat Systems.
Between 2004 and 2009, Christie deployed multiple times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, starting with the VFA-2 “Bounty Hunters” and ending with the VFA-22 “Redcocks.” He also contributed to the humanitarian aid effort for Indonesia during Operation Unified Assistance.
Before reporting as executive officer to VFA-154, Christie graduated from the Naval War College with a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies. He also completed an individual augmentee assignment to the Force Strategic Engagement Cell as lead strategist for Shia insurgent reconciliation in Baghdad.
Christie said he looks forward to the challenges and excitement of command.
“The Black Knights have a remarkable 66-year history in the Navy. VFA-154 has contributed to most every U.S. conflict or war in that time span, and proudly continues the tradition of loyal service today.”
Cmdr. John “Cosmo” DePree assumes the role as the new executive officer of VFA-154. DePree comes to the Black Knights by way of the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he served as the J-39 information operations division, policy, plans and analysis chief. DePree received an EMBA from the Naval Postgraduate School and he graduated from the Naval War College with highest distinction, earning a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies.
As VFA-154 wishes their former commanding officer fair winds and following seas, Cmdr. Arny said he’s proud of the squadron he led.
“I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished as a squadron. ... I wish the squadron all the best.”
VFA-154 deploys aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in 2013.
Larson is public affairs officer at NASL.