The Blue Blasters Hold Airborne Change of Command Over The South
Submitted By Lieutenant Colton “HWANG” Rainey,
VFA-34 Public Affairs Officer
CDR Derek “Doof” Duford was
properly relieved by CDR Perry “Whisper” Solomon as the
commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 during a
change of command ceremony aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) on
March 6, 2017.
Captain Thomas “Rusty” Barber, Commander
Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, presided over the airborne ceremony.
Captain Barber flew on the wing of CDR Duford until the Change
of Command was completed when CDR Duford broke off from the
formation and CDR Solomon took lead of the section of F/A-18Cs
and took lead of VFA-34.
CDR Duford took command of the Blue
Blasters while on deployment on SOUTHERN SEAS in South America
and is relieved of command while deployed in the South China
Sea. Under CDR Duford’s command VFA-34 returned from deployment
and began a work up cycle to include detachments to Tyndall AFB,
NAS Fallon, NV, Boeings Virtual Warfare Center in St. Louis, MO,
and two underways aboard the USS CARL VINSON CVN-70. All in
preparation for deployment to the South China Sea in support of
THIRD Fleet Command as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led
initiative to extend the command and control functions of THIRD
Fleet into the region.
CDR Solomon relieves CDR Duford as
commanding officer and will lead the Blue Blasters on their 2017
Western Pacific deployment with CVW-2 and Carrier Strike Group
VFA-34’s new executive officer is CDR Will “Fathead”
Mathis. CDR Mathis joins the Blue Blasters from VFA-15 and will
be a great asset to the Blue Blasters. The commanding officer
looks forward to continuing the Blue Blaster tradition of
“Victory in Combat” by prioritizing people and aircraft.
Commanding Officer: CDR Derek D. Duford
Commander Derek D. Duford, Commanding Officer
“Doof” Duford is a native of Chichester, New Hampshire. He
enlisted in the Navy in 1991 as an Aviation Electronics
Technician, attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School and
graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1999.
CDR Duford was designated a Naval Aviator in 2001 and joined the
Rough Raiders of VFA-125 in Lemoore, California for F/A-18
In 2002, CDR Duford joined the Warhawks of VFA-97
flying the F/A-18. He completed deployments with CVW-11
onboard USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) and a UDP deployment with MAG-12 in
Iwakuni, Japan. In 2005, following this tour, CDR Duford
attended the Navy Fighter Weapons School, TOPGUN, with follow-on
orders to Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic (SFWSL), NAS
Oceana, Virginia. While at SFWSL, CDR Duford was
responsible for directing and implementing the Strike-Fighter
Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP) to the fleet.
2008, CDR Duford joined the Ragin’ Bulls of VFA-37 on deployment
with CVW-3 onboard USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75) as Training
Officer flying the F/A-18C. Upon completion of this tour,
he attended the United States Naval War College in Newport,
Rhode Island as a member of the Naval Staff College and
graduated with a Master of Arts in National Security and
Strategic Studies in June of 2010.
In July 2010, CDR Duford
reported to the Pukin’ Dogs of VFA-143 as a Department Head
flying the F/A-18E Super Hornet. With VFA-143, he was
assigned to both the Operations Officer and Maintenance Officer
positions. In July 2012, he reported to the NATO staff at
Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM), Northwood, United Kingdom.
While assigned as Battle Watch Captain, he provided command and
control for Counter Piracy Operation OCEAN SHIELD and Counter
Terrorism Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR. CDR Duford joined
the Blue Blasters of VFA-34 as Executive Officer in September
2014 and assumed Command in November 2015.
has accumulated over 2,500 flight hours and has over 500
arrested landings. His personal decorations include
Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Strike Flight Air Medal (2),
Navy Commendation Medal (2) and Navy Achievement Medal (3).