Naval Test Wing Atlantic gets new commander

Commodore Capt. Thomas Tennant assumed command of Naval Test Wing Atlantic in a change of command ceremony March 17.

A new skipper assumed command of Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL) in a change-of-command and retirement ceremony held March 17 in the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School hangar 110 at NAS Patuxent River.

Capt. Brett Pierson, the former NTWL commander, retired from the Navy after more than 30 years of service to the nation.

Rear Adm. Paul Sohl, Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force, was the keynote speaker at the event.

“Lou, Brett’s departure presents a new opportunity for you. You’re taking command of a great organization,” said Sohl. “So the challenge is to make it your own. Take it to the next level by being innovative and fostering a climate that invites critical thinking within your workforce. Two words, lead boldly.”

Capt. Thomas Tennant, the new NTWL Commodore, is no stranger to the test community.

“When I look out at the crowd today, I see basically my entire Navy career. From friends I started with in Monterey 20 years ago to friends I’ve been working with the last two or three years,” said Tennant. “It’s with deep humility that I stand here today charged with leading a test wing representing the finest assembly of engineering and flight test talent in the world. It’s no secret that this is the best and most sought after command in NAVAIR.”

Tennant was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was commissioned through the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program at the University of Notre Dame in 1990, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

He was designated a Naval Aviator in 1993. After initial F/A-18 training at Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106), he was assigned to VFA-136 at Cecil Field, Florida. He served with the “Knighthawks” from 1994 until 1997, deploying to the Mediterranean/Adriatic Seas and the Arabian Gulf aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73).

Tennant was selected for the Naval Postgraduate School/Test Pilot School cooperative program and attended the Naval Postgraduate School from 1997 through 1998.

He attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1999, earning his test pilot designation and Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering degree. He served two years at the Strike Aircraft Test Squadron as the lead F/A-18E/F Weapons Integration Team test pilot and was named the 2001 National Defense Industrial Association Navy Military Tester of the Year.

From 2002 until 2004, Tennant served with the VFA-27 “Royal Maces,” forward deployed from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. During this tour, he completed five Western Pacific and Sea of Japan patrols aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and one deployment to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During this tour VFA-27 earned the 2002 Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award.

Tennant reported to the VX-31 “Dust Devils” in 2004, where he served as the military deputy at the F/A-18 and EA-18G Advanced Weapons Laboratory at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif.

He served as the Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the VFA-105 “Gunslingers” from 2007 through 2009, deploying to the Arabian Gulf aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Following his command tour with VFA-105, Tennant deployed to the Central Command Combined Air and Space Operations Center, where he served as the Fifth Fleet Naval and Amphibious Liaison Element Director.

Tennant reported here to the VX-23 “Salty Dogs” in 2010 as the chief test pilot. He assumed command in 2012 and served until September 2013. During this tour, the Salty Dogs made naval aviation history as the unmanned X-47 aircraft completed carrier qualifications at sea aboard the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77), the first ever successful launches and recoveries of an unmanned air vehicle from an aircraft carrier.

He completed his most recent tour as the Naval Air Systems Command Military Director for Systems Engineering (AIR 4.1) in December 2016, providing full-spectrum engineering guidance and leadership for 44 class desk officers in 28 program offices and 12 specialty engineering divisions.

Tennant has accumulated over 3,400 hours of flight time in 27 models of military and civilian aircraft and has 632 carrier landings. His awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medals, Air Medals with “V”, Navy Commendation Medals, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and other campaign and unit awards.

Naval Test Wing Atlantic provides aircrew, aircraft, maintenance, operational and safety oversight and facility support to conduct research, development, test and evaluation of manned and unmanned, fixed and rotary wing aircraft in addition to training test pilots, test Naval Flight Officers, and flight test engineers in support of Naval aviation programs and Department of Defense requirements.