MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
Lt. Col. Steve Gillette, commanding officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, relinquished his command to Lt. Col. James Bardo during a change of command ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, Aug. 14.
Gillette first assumed command of VMFA-121 on Oct. 22, 2013, and under his leadership, VMFA-121 became the first F-35B Lightning II squadron to achieve Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in the Department of Defense.
“It’s certainly a huge accomplishment, but IOC is the first step,” said Gillette. “My next post will be here with [Marine Aircraft Group 13]. I’ll be making sure each squadron has the assets they need to accomplish the mission.”
Bardo previously served in the MAG-13 headquarters and said this will be his first assignment as a commanding officer.
“I’m excited at the opportunity to command these Marines and to command the first operational F-35 Squadron,” said Bardo. “We’re sort of the ‘tip of the spear’ right now, so we’re always trying to train. It’s a humbling experience and I’m very fortunate to lead these Marines.”
Bardo said he looks forward to preparing the F-35B as a functional asset in the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF).
“The biggest challenge is going to be making sure everyone is ready to take this plane into combat,” said Bardo. “Right now, our biggest task is doing what we need to do to take this aircraft into the MAGTF, and it’s going to require a lot of hard work.”
Gillette said he will miss certain aspects of working with the Marines of VMFA-121.
“I think what I’ll miss most is the people,” said Gillette. “Working those long hours on monumental tasks that you believe need to get done [helps] you really develop a personal relationship with the people you work with.”