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Blue Angels Name New Commanding Officer

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U.S. Navy
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The Blue Angels announced the commanding officer for the 2016 and 2017 seasons on Monday. And he’s coming to the team from both the cockpit and the classroom.

“I’m still very overwhelmed and humbled by the news I just received, and I’m absolutely thrilled by this opportunity,” said Commander Ryan Bernacchi.

He comes from serving as the Federal Executive Fellow at MIT in Boston, a strategy and national security fellowship. But he does have the requisite 3,000 flight hours and 600 arrested carrier landings; his resume also includes service in Operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

As with many who wear and fly the blue and gold, Bernacchi’s interest began at an early age.

“As a kid growing up in the Bay Area near Moffett Field (California), every year the Blue Angels would come to town and fly the air show,” Bernacchi said. “That made a huge impression on me. That’s what really inspired me to join the Navy and seek this challenge.”

Bernacchi, 41, will lead a squadron of 130 air and ground personnel, as they perform at more than 60 air shows and other events each year. He takes over the Number-1 jet from Captain Tom Frosch, the Boss for the past two seasons. 

“Just three short years ago I was standing up here when I just found out I made the team, and it’s a very exciting time,” said Frosch. “For the Blue Angels, change is always a good thing. It brings innovation, and innovation will continue to propel this organization to new heights.”

As for his future, Frosch says he’s now concentrating on the remainder of the 2015 schedule, which continues this weekend at the Quad City Air Show in Davenport, Iowa.

Admiral Roy Kelly, the Chief of Naval Air Training who oversees the Blue Angels program, says the process began several months ago, with 11 applicants submitting their interest in the job.

“From those 11 we whittled down so that we had six finalists,” said Kelly. “Those six came into town over the weekend; some of them coming from deployed units that are around the world right now. All six of them – great candidates to become the next commanding officer.”

A board of admirals and captains, all former Blue Angels, helped select who they considered to be the perfect successor to Capt. Tom Frosch.

This is also the first selection of a Blue Angel commander since the naming of the Blues’ first-ever executive officer, Commander Robert Flynn. That was in response to sexual harassment and other allegations against then-Boss Capt. Greg McWherter last year. But Admiral Kelly says the process itself hasn’t changed.

Commander Ryan Bernacchi will report for initial training aboard NAS Pensacola in September, and officially take command of the squadron at the end of the air show season in November.

A change-of-command ceremony is scheduled for November 8 at the Naval Aviation Museum.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.
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