Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, known as the “Salty Dogs,” welcomed its newest commanding officer at a ceremony held at Naval Air Station Patuxent River on Sept. 20.
Cmdr. Mike Masica, chief test pilot for VX-23, assumed command of the squadron from Capt. Thomas “Lou” Tennant.
“Over the last year and a half, Lou has flawlessly led this squadron through numerous history-making events,” said guest speaker Rear Adm. Jeffrey Penfield. “In all cases, your involvement has ensured success that can be directly attributed to your leadership.”
Tennant, an Oklahoma native, earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in May 1990 from the University of Notre Dame, where he was commissioned through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. He attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1999, earning a test pilot designation and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. He has more than 3,400 hours of flight time in 27 models of military and civilian aircraft and 632 carrier landings.
“When I reflect on what the squadron has accomplished over the last three years since my arrival, particularly on the accomplishments of the last 18 months, I am truly in awe,” Tennant said. “It is all due to the professionalism, leadership, discipline and teamwork of the hundreds of professionals who contribute to the command’s mission.”
Tennant’s successor, Masica, of Sarasota, Fla., graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering. In 2009, he earned a master’s degree in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee. He has flown more than 2,650 hours in 20 different types of aircraft, completed 586 aircraft carrier arrested landings and is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
Masica had several family members in attendance when he accepted command of the squadron, including his 91-year-old grandfather, Capt. Gene Masica, a 1945 Naval Academy graduate, and his father, Cmdr. Mike Masica, naval aviator and a 1969 Naval Academy graduate.
“The idea of service is that we do things for others because we know the things we do will bring benefit to others,” Masica said. “Brave, hardworking men and women serve in our U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to protect our nation. They serve to get the mission done and they serve to make a difference. We must always remember these dedicated service members who deploy worldwide and make our efforts and service match theirs.”
With more than 1200 military, civilian and contractor personnel supporting the effort, VX-23 executes test and evaluation of fixed wing tactical aircraft by providing aircraft and pilot assets, maintenance service, safety oversight and facility support. VX- 23 maintains 47 uniquely configured aircraft, including F-35B, F-35C, F/A-18A-F, EA-6B, EA-18G, T-45A/C and X-47B. The squadron conducts operations from a facility that includes three large hangars and also operates and maintains a TC-7 catapult and MK-7 arresting gear facility.