Training Squadron Two, “Doerbirds,” changes hands during aerial ceremony
Story by Julie Ziegenhorn on 08/09/2019
MILTON, Fla. Cmdr. Wesley Barnes, U.S. Navy, relieved Capt. Mark Jackson, U.S. Coast Guard, as the 56th commanding officer of the “Doerbirds,” Training Squadron Two (VT-2) in a unique ceremony onboard Naval Air Station Whiting Field Aug. 9. In the aerial change of command flying the T-6B Texan aircraft, Jackson handed the reins of the squadron over the aircraft radio to Barnes.
Three aircraft, one with Barnes and a second pilot, one with Jackson and another pilot, and one aircraft with the deputy commodore of Training Air Wing Five (TW-5), Col. Jeffrey Pavelko, who acted as the officiating officer, flew in a three-ship formation. During the flight, Barnes stated he was ready to relieve Jackson as commanding officer. Jackson then read his order over the airways, “I stand relieved,” and banked his aircraft out of the formation. As their lead officiating officer, Pavelko acknowledged the turnover in the air.
Directly after landing the T-6B aircraft, the officers completed the ceremony in a hangar on the installation with commodore, TW-5, Capt. Doug Rosa presiding. Rosa congratulated both officers in a speech before an audience of more than a hundred people including family, friends and “Doerbird” instructors and student pilots. He also presented Jackson with a meritorious service medal for his accomplishments leading the squadron.
Jackson, a fleet HH-65 Dolphin pilot, assumed command of VT-2 on June 15, 2018. During his time as commanding officer, Jackson’s standard of excellence led the Doerbirds to fly more than 43,500 mishap-free flight hours, highlighting the squadron’s safety-first culture that makes them one of the leading squadrons in the Naval Air Training Command (CNATRA).
Barnes is taking command of the squadron after having served as the executive officer.
“I’m honored and humbled for the opportunity to lead such a fine group of men and women at VT-2. For almost two years, I’ve been blessed to be part of this outstanding organization, and I look forward to the next 15 months serving as their Commanding Officer,” Barnes commented.
A native of Paris, Tenn., Barnes graduated from Middle Tennessee State University where he majored in Plant & Soil Science. After graduating, he enrolled in Officer Candidate School where he was commissioned an ensign in September 2001. He reported for flight training in Pensacola, Fla., earning his aviator wings in January 2003.
After successfully completing initial training at Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron 10 (HS-10) in 2003, CDR Barnes reported to the HS-7 “Dusty Dogs” in Jacksonville, Fla., for his first operational flying tour. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom onboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN75). Following a successful tour as a Fleet Replacement Squadron instructor with HSC-2, Barnes reported to the USS Denver (LPD 10) forward-deployed in Sasebo, Japan, as the ship’s air boss and safety officer. During his tour with HSC-2, Barnes earned his executive master’s degree in business administration.
Barnes returned to Norfolk, Va., in December 2011, where he served as the administration officer and operations officer with the “Nightdippers” of HS-5. He deployed twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) onboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during these two years.
In January 2014, Barnes was assigned to the Joint Staff Hampton Roads, J-35S Global Force Management, as a training and aviation joint working group lead, as well as the Secretary of Defense Orders Book Writer. During this tour, he attended the Joint Forces Staff College and earned Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase I/II credit.
Narrating the ceremony, Cmdr. Edward Ahlstrand, U.S. Coast Guard, also assumed the duties as executive officer of VT-2.
Serving alongside Barnes as executive officer, Ahlstrand, brings a fresh perspective to the flight line for the Doerbirds. Ahlstrand’s experience flying the HC-130H Hercules, as well as his time serving as military aide to the Secretary, Department of Homeland Security in Washington D.C., will prove invaluable in this training climate.
Barnes and Ahlstrand are expected to continue to further advance the elite distinction that has been synonymous with Naval Air Training Command throughout its history. Their depth of experience, coupled with their shared vision of success will greatly benefit future VT-2 students and promote the reputation and capability of Naval aviation as a whole.
Barnes went on to say, “I’m excited to build on the tremendous relationship we have with our partners here at Whiting Field: to include base support personnel, TRAWING FIVE, our contract maintenance team, and simulator instructors.”