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NEWS | Aug. 7, 2019

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s VXS-1 Squadron Welcomes 13th Commander

By Mary Estacion, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Public Affairs

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Cmdr. Jared Tharp relieved Cmdr. Erik Thomas and assumed command of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL) Scientific Development Squadron One (VXS-1) “Warlocks” during a change of command ceremony Aug. 2. Commander of Task Force 67 Capt. William Pennington was the guest speaker.

“Thanks to the leadership of Commander Thomas, the science and technology research forces of naval aviation today, just like those who have served before, play a key role in identifying the right new capabilities that enable our forces forward to operate aircraft at the tempo and timing of our choosing,” Pennington said. “As a team, you provide researchers the opportunity, plus drive the Navy’s efforts to develop, test, and deliver capability critical to the fleet under the water, on land, and in the air.”

During his 16-month-long command of VXS-1, the squadron supported three airborne science and technology detachments for the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and NRL priority missions around the globe.

Thomas said the highlight of his tour was a short notice detachment to Souda Bay, Greece to support the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet. Just 19 days after the initial inquiry, VXS-1 flew its first mission, bringing dedicated technology to theater.

“Warlocks it has been my distinct honor and privilege to serve as your commanding officer,” Thomas said. “The challenge I gave to you when I took command was one to maintain a positive attitude and two to find something within your power to make better every day. Pursue perfection and achieve excellence. I challenged … you responded.”

Under Thomas’ command, VXS-1 continued its stellar safety record with more than 75,500 mishap-free flight hours since 1963. Additionally, the Secretary of the Navy recognized the squadron’s performance with the Meritorious Unit Commendation earlier this year.

Tharp is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in economics and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of West Florida. Prior to VXS-1, Tharp served as military lead for the Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-263) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. He assumed command of the Warlocks after a 16-month tenure as executive officer.

“I am truly humbled, grateful, and excited to be standing before you today as the VXS-1 commanding officer,” Tharp said. “Grateful for the opportunity to serve in the greatest squadron, in the greatest Navy, for the world’s greatest nation.”

Tharp completed two deployments with Patrol Squadron 45 (VP-45) in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He served as the officer-in-charge during the first counter-narcotics operation of an unmanned aerial system in Central America. This tour was followed by two more deployments as a department head in Patrol Squadron 8 (VP-8).

While at Training Squadron 6 (VT-6), Tharp was recognized as VT-6's Instructor of the Year for 2009. Cmdr. Tharp’s personal decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, two Navy Achievement Medals and various campaign, service, and unit awards.

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