Front Page News

April 5, 2017


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The Blue Blasters Hold Airborne Change of Command Over The South China Sea
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 (CSG) 1.


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.


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Commanding Officer:  CDR Derek D. Duford

Commander Derek D. Duford, Commanding Officer


Commander Derek “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 training.


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.


In February 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.


Commander Duford 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).












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