Northwest Navigator: News and Information from Navy Region Northwest in Washington State's Puget Sound, including Bremerton, Kitsap County, Oak Harbor, and Everett

VR-61 welcomes new commanding officer

Cmdr. Bertram W. Wagner

Cmdr. Bertram W. Wagner relieved Cmdr. Tamara S. Ryley as Commanding Officer, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61, the “Islanders,” in a change of command ceremony at NAS Whidbey Island on Oct. 3.

Rear Adm. Robin Braun, Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, was the distinguished guest speaker. She was the first female naval aviator assigned to VR-61 in the early 1990s and has since accumulated over 5800 flight hours in Navy aircraft throughout her career at various commands. 

Capt. Eric Petersen, Commander, Fleet Logistics Support Wing, and previous Commanding Officer of the Islanders, served as the ceremony official.

“The movement of personnel and material around-the-world-around-the-clock in support of combatant commanders is a far more complicated task than people outside of the VR (logistics) community realize,” said Ryley.

During her tenure, the Islanders received numerous awards, including the Retention Award for 2008, the Safety “S”, Humanitarian Service Medals for supporting relief efforts during Hurricane Gustav, and both the 2008 Aerospace Medicine Technician Flight Surgeon of the Year and the Captain Bruce W. Jackson Memorial Reserve Flight Surgeon Awards for VR-61 service members. 

“Our highly flexible schedule and ability to move a variety of types of cargo on short notice set us apart from FedEx and UPS,” said Ryley. “The Islander cadre of logistics and maintenance professionals that I have had the pleasure of working with these last two years as CO and XO is unmatched.”

Ryley’s next assignment is as Centennial of Naval Aviation Program Manager for Commander, Naval Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet in San Diego, Calif.

Wagner, from Jasper, Ind., graduated from Purdue University in 1990. He earned his commission after completing Aviation Officer Candidate School later that year and earned his ‘Wings of Gold’ in March 1993. 

Wagner began his long association with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island as a Fleet Replacement Pilot with VA-128, flying the A-6E Intruder. Upon completion, he reported to VA-196 where he flew aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and served during the Intruder’s final Western Pacific deployment. 

In 1997, Wagner transitioned to the F/A-18C community and joined VFA-125 in Lemoore, Calif. as an instructor. In 2000, he left active duty, returned to Whidbey Island, and joined Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61 as a Selected Reservist. 

During his nine years with the Islanders of VR-61, he served on numerous overseas detachments and has been executive officer since August 2008. Wagner is employed as a First Officer with Alaska Airlines. 

VR-61 Islanders was established Oct. 1, 1982, currently has 293 personnel and a fleet of four C-9B Skytrain aircraft. VR-61, one of four in the Navy, is actively used to support worldwide rapid movement of Navy and Marine Corps personnel and cargo, and supports the Joint Logistics Mission from NAS Whidbey Island and three detachment sites in Atsugi, Sigonella and Bahrain. 

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