By The Leader Staff
Capt. Christopher Hurst
Capt. Christopher Hurst

A unique airborne change of command ceremony will mark the latest change in command involving the outgoing commander and incoming commander of the Naval Air Station Lemoore Carrier Air Wing Seventeen. Capt. Christopher Hurst will relieve Capt. Todd Cimicata, the current commander of the Air Wing, during a December 16 change of command ceremony at Lemoore Naval Air Station.

The new commanding officer will be in charge of nine squadrons that fly various U.S. jets, including the F/A-18. The local air wing is attached normally to the USS Nimitz Strike Group.

The actual change of command takes place while the two commanders each are flying F/A-18 Super Hornets. According to Navy officials, audio from the two airplanes is piped in from the cockpit so guests on the ground – waiting for the two to land – can hear the ceremony.

The two will land at NAS Lemoore, and Cimicata will get sprayed with water (as is the tradition) and deliver speeches.

A native of Wausau, WI,  Hurst graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering. He earned his Navy Wings of Gold in May of1999 and then reported to the VFA-125 Rough Raiders in Lemoore to train in the F/A-18 C Hornet.

Capt. Todd Cimicata
Capt. Todd Cimicata

While deployed with the Vigilantes of VFA-151, Hurst made two deployments to the Arabian Gulf on the USS Constellation, where he flew combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hurst reported to the Sharpshooters of VMFAT-101 in Miramar, CA, in 2003, where he served as an instructor pilot and Carrier Qualification Phase Head. In July of 2005, he was assigned to the CVW-5 staff in Atsugi, Japan, as a Carrier Air Wing Landing Signals Officer. He completed multiple deployments onboard USS Kitty Hawk flying both F/A-18 C and E aircraft.

Hurst reported to the Royal Maces of VFA-27 in March of 2007, remaining in Japan for a second tour with the Forward Deployed Naval Forces. He served as department head in the administrative, safety, maintenance, and operations departments during this assignment. He continued to deploy throughout the Pacific theater aboard USS Kitty Hawk and USS George Washington.

Hurst also attended the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where he graduated with a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. Along the way, he assumed command of VFA-137 in March 2013, and during his tenure, the squadron successfully completed five detachments and was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award. After completing his command tour in 2014, Hurst received orders to the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon, where he served as an aviation analyst in the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) Tactical Air Forces Division until March 2016. During this tour, he was selected for the Seminar XXI fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hurst then assumed command of VFA-122, the Navy’s largest strike-fighter squadron, in May of 2016, where he supervised the combat training of naval aviators for fleet F/A-18 E/F squadrons until November of 2017. After his second command tour, he joined the Commander, Naval Air Forces staff, and served in the Aviation Readiness Department until he was selected for aviation major command.

He is additionally qualified as a Navy Craftmaster and was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Meritorious Service Medals, four Navy Commendation Medals, and five Air Medals. He has amassed 3,900 total career flight hours and 1,040 carrier-arrested landings on nine aircraft carriers.