The Blue Blasters Hold Airborne Change of Command Over The South China Sea –

By Lieutenant Colton “HWANG” Rainey, VFA-34 Public Affairs Officer

* * * * * *
Tybee Island, GA:  CDR Derek “Doof” Duford was properly relieved by CDR Perry “Whisper” Solomon as the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 during a change of command ceremony aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) on March 6, 2017.

Captain Thomas “Rusty” Barber, Commander Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, presided over the airborne ceremony. Captain Barber flew on the wing of CDR Duford until the Change of Command was completed when CDR Duford broke off from the formation and CDR Solomon took lead of the section of F/A-18Cs and took lead of VFA-34.

CDR Duford took command of the Blue Blasters while on deployment on SOUTHERN SEAS in South America and is relieved of command while deployed in the South China Sea. Under CDR Duford’s command VFA-34 returned from deployment and began a work up cycle to include detachments to Tyndall AFB, NAS Fallon, NV, Boeings Virtual Warfare Center in St. Louis, MO, and two underways aboard the USS CARL VINSON CVN-70. All in preparation for deployment to the South China Sea in support of THIRD Fleet Command as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of THIRD Fleet into the region.

CDR Solomon relieves CDR Duford as commanding officer and will lead the Blue Blasters on their 2017 Western Pacific deployment with CVW-2 and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1.

VFA-34’s new executive officer is CDR Will “Fathead” Mathis. CDR Mathis joins the Blue Blasters from VFA-15 and will be a great asset to the Blue Blasters. The commanding officer looks forward to continuing the Blue Blaster tradition of “Victory in Combat” by prioritizing people and aircraft.

Bio of Commander Alexander P. Solomon: Commanding Officer

Commander Alexander Perry “Whisper” Solomon is a native of Tybee Island, Georgia and a 1999 graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology where he received his commission via the ROTC program. CDR Solomon was designated a Naval Aviator in 2002 and joined the Rough Raiders of VFA-125 in Lemoore, California for F/A-18 training.

In 2003, CDR Solomon joined the Marauders of VFA-82 flying the F/A-18C Hornet aboard MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. He deployed in 2003 and 2004 with CVW-1 onboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) and again in 2004 with CVW-2 onboard USS LINCOLN (CVN 72). In 2005, CDR Solomon reported to the VFA-106 Gladiators as an F/A-18 Instructor Pilot.

Completing his instructor tour in 2008, CDR Solomon reported to Commander, Carrier Strike Group 10, embarked onboard USS TRUMAN (CVN 75) for duty as Flag Lieutenant. After his aide tour, he attended the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Quantico, Virginia where he was a 2010 Distinguished Graduate and awarded a Master of Military Studies.

CDR Solomon reported to the Blacklions of VFA-213 in September 2010 as a Department Head flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet. There he served as the Administrative Officer, Operations Officer, and Maintenance Officer. In March 2013, he reported to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium where he served as the Executive Officer for the Deputy Chief of Staff, Resources. CDR Solomon joined the Blue Blasters of VFA-34 as Executive Officer in November 2015. CDR Solomon took command of VFA-34 in March 2017 while deployed aboard the USS Carl Vinson CVN-70 in the South China Sea.

Commander Solomon has accumulated over 2,650 flight hours and 760 arrested landings. His personal decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Strike Flight Air Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal (2), Joint Service Achievement Medal, and Navy Achievement Medal (3).

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