By: Major Rocque Garltand, U.S. Air Force (VT-6)
Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla. – Cmdr. Stephen C. Harrington, U.S. Navy, relieved Lt. Col. Jason N. Dale, U.S. Marine Corps, as the 58th commanding officer of the “Shooters” Training Squadron Six (VT-6) in a ceremony at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field. During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Justin M. Wortendyke, U.S. Marine Corps, also assumed the duties as squadron executive officer.
Dale, a fleet KC-130J pilot, assumed command of VT-6 on Apr. 22, 2021. During his time as commanding officer, Dale’s devoted emphasis on mission-focused, team-oriented training and a safety-first culture earned the Shooters the 2021 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Safety Award. A Versailles, Ky., native, he led the Shooters from the front, and is respected and admired as a servant leader who always took care of his people, commented Captain Jade Lepke, Commodore, Training Air Wing Five, during a speech at the ceremony. Serving as the Commanding Officer of VT-6 was Dale’s final tour after a successful career as a Marine aviator.
Harrington is a native of Lynn, Mass., and graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in Systems Engineering in 2003. He was designated a naval aviator in April 2005 at NAS Whiting Field. He completed initial fleet replacement training, flying the SH-60B Seahawk at Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light Four Zero (HSL-40) in Mayport, Fla. He holds a Master’s in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas.
After completing Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) training, Harrington reported to his first sea tour with the “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light Four Four (HSL-44) in March 2006. He deployed aboard USS Underwood (FFG 36) in 2007 in support of maritime security operations in the North Arabian Gulf. Additionally, he deployed aboard USS Monterey (CG 61) with the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in September 2008.
Harrington transitioned to flying the MH-60R Seahawk in May 2009 at Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Four One (HSM-41) in San Diego, Calif., and served as an FRS instructor pilot until October 2010. He then reported to HSM-40 as one of the squadron’s initial MH-60R FRS instructors. He served as the Training Device Officer and worked closely with civilian contractors in the acceptance of the squadron’s first MH-60R simulator. Additionally, he served as the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) Officer and Assistant Operations Officer until September 2012.
Following his tour at HSM-40, Harrington was assigned to USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) as the assistant navigator (ANAV). He served as an Officer of the Deck (underway) and navigation evaluator during several pre-deployment work ups, multi-ship exercises and Afloat Training Group (ATG) graded events until departing in November 2014.
Harrington completed MH-60R refresher training in May 2015, and he reported to the “Grandmasters” of HSM-46. He served as the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) aboard USS Normandy (CG 60) in support of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, Training Department Head, Administrative Department Head and Maintenance Officer.
From February 2018 to March 2020, Harrington was assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense (JFCC IMD) in Colorado Springs, Colo. While assigned, he served as Deputy Director – Training and Education Directorate (J-7) and as an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Watch Commander.
VT-6’s incoming executer officer, Lt. Col. Wortendyke, narrated the change of command event and brings a new and unique skill set to the flight line for the Shooters. A native of Hudson, Ohio, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2003. He was designated a naval aviator in October 2005 and completed follow-on training: flying the F/A-18 Hornet with VFA-125 at NAS Lemoore, Calif. A prior strike instructor and combat proven aviator, VT-6 will benefit greatly from his depth of knowledge and experience.
Together with the experience of Wortendyke, Harrington will continue to advance the standard of excellence that has been synonymous with VT-6 throughout its 60-year history. The diverse platform experience of these two seasoned fleet aviators is sure to benefit the students of VT-6 by providing new perspectives and diversity to the training of future naval aviators.