Story & Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

Capt. Dale “Woody” Horan relieved Commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 Capt. Paul “Butkus” Haas during a change-of-command ceremony Wednesday.

The change-of-command took place in a traditional Navy aerial ceremony where both pilots fly in formation towards the ship. The relieving captain signals to his predecessor and the relieved captain flies off into the sun.

“The formation was like any other I have ever done before but this one had a symbolic lead change behind it,” said Haas. “We do lead changes with members in flight all the time but to have one that symbolizes passing the torch was a joy to be a part of.”

Haas said that he and Horan are like the, “Odd Couple” since this is the third command they have served in together. Haas and Horan both were department heads in the “Bounty Hunters” of Fighter Squadron (VF) 2 and senior leadership in Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14.

“It has been an absolute honor and privilege serving with Horan on three separate tours, which we worked very closely together on this one,” said Haas. “The air wing is in fantastic hands and couldn’t have picked a better leader for CVW-9 than him.”

This was the first aerial change of command for both Haas and Horan and although weather was a little rough, the overall ceremony was a big success.

“It was a fun and interesting ceremony that I enjoyed doing,” said Horan. “The weather did add some perplexity to it but it really went off without a hitch and I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.”

Now that he and Horan are finally going their separate ways, Haas plans to take with him many fond memories of their time aboard Stennis.

“The Stennis team has been the best boat I have ever been on that sets the best environment for an air wing,” said Haas. “It’s really been a great partnership and the highlight of my professional career. I wish the best for those who continue on deployment and I look forward to reading up about how the ship is doing in the years to come.”

Horan said the ship and the Strike Group bent over backwards to make the change of command a memorable moment.

“Haas is a great leader, inspiring individual and a very close personal friend who I am sad to see go,” said Horan. “Today was a very bittersweet moment for me because it was an honor to share this tour with him. He will be missed.”

With the imminent departure of Capt. Haas, Horan took more of a leadership role in preparation for the upcoming deployment and feels strongly about airwing capabilities.

“We both knew that he wouldn’t be around for the upcoming deployment, so he gave me a lot more say into how we executed the air wing’s mission,” said Horan.

Capt. Haas is slated to become Chief of Staff of Commander Naval Air Force Atlantic.