The Navy has a new Air Boss.
Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell took command of Naval Air Forces and Naval Air Force, Pacific Fleet, in a ceremony Friday aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, according to a Navy news release. Whitesell had been serving as deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet since July 2019 and succeeded Vice Adm. DeWolfe “Bullet” Miller III, who has now retired.
“It is an honor to become the ninth Air Boss, Whitesell said, according to the release "The list of those who have served under the title of ‘Air Boss’ … remain the titans of naval aviation.”
Whitesell said sailors remain the Navy’s “competitive advantage.” His priority, he said, will be to ensure the naval aviation community continues to focus on “superiority in aerial combat execution and coordination across multiple domains.”
A 1983 graduate of Old Dominion University in Virginia, he then joined the Navy and later graduated the Navy Fighter Weapons School, or TOPGUN. Whitesell started his career flying the F-14 Tomcat and later flew the F/A-18 Super Hornet. He has racked up more than 4,000 flight hours and 1,000 landings aboard aircraft carriers during the course of his career.
He previously served as the commander of Carrier Air Wing 1 aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise and the commander of Carrier Strike Group 2 aboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush. He also was the assistant commander for career management at Navy Personnel Command, before assuming his role at U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Miller, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal during the ceremony, previously served as the Navy’s director of Air Warfare before becoming the Navy’s eighth Air Boss in 2018.
His other tours include serving as deputy director for warfare systems with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, and the commander of Carrier Strike Group 2.
After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1981, Miller flew the A-7E Corsair II and the F/A-18 Super Hornet attack jets, logging more than 4,000 flight hours as a naval aviator.
Adm. John Aquilino, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, officiated the change of command ceremony and described Miller and Whitesell as “two of my closest friends in the Navy.”
“When I hear Admiral DeWolfe Miller’s name, here’s what I think of: a proven lethal combat pilot, commander of a U.S. aircraft carrier as a captain and as a strike group commander, husband, father, family man, mentor, leader, and friend," he said at the ceremony, according to the release. “Because of your rigorous, tireless commitment, the Navy is in a better place today.”