NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION, Patuxent River, Md.– Cmdr. Jeremy “Silas” DeBons took command of United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) from Lt. Col. Rory “Pikey” Feely during an airborne change of command ceremony at Pax River, July 15.

The United States Naval Test Pilot School’s 50th Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Jeremy DeBons, shakes hands with former Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Rory Feely, after the school’s airborne change of command ceremony, July 15, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo)

Col. Richard E. Marigliano, Commodore of Naval Test Wing Atlantic, presided over the ceremony. 

“USNTPS is the foundation of all we do in flight test and Lt. Col. Feely passionately led this organization who champions the school at every turn,” said Marigliano. “Cmdr. DeBons is ready to take the reins and will continue to train the students at USNTPS to be ready for the toughest of challenges.”

DeBons, who served as USNTPS’ executive officer for the last 18 months, is the first commanding officer of USNTPS that did not graduate from the school. He participated in an exchange program with the French Test Pilot School (EPNER), another one of the four major test pilot schools around the world.

“I remember the constant repetition of “travail en equipe” or as we would say in English – teamwork,” said DeBons. “Flight test is not a one-person show, it is a collaborative effort because no one person has the answers, and that is foundational to all that we teach here.”

While DeBons brings a diversity of academic experience with him, he did say that the training at EPNER is not that different as problem-solving and critical thinking are at the core of each school’s curricula. DeBons is ready to continue the tradition of training flight test professionals. A tradition Feely is passionate about.

“My job as commanding officer was to be the champion of my team’s hard work, and that was easy,” said Feely. “You get to provide influence and shepherd the team for a time, and then you turn it over to those coming behind you.”

Feely not only ended his time as the commanding officer of USNTPS, but also concluded his time as an active duty Marine. After nearly 27 years of service, Feely retired from the United States Marine Corps.

During the ceremony, Marigliano awarded Feely the Meritorious Service Medal for his leadership and judgment while guiding the world’s largest test pilot school. He initiated the modernization of aircraft systems and increased capabilities for the Command’s aircraft securing the school’s future in manned and unmanned aviation.

USNTPS trains pilots and engineers for the development, test, and evaluation of aircraft. USNTPS is a component of Naval Test Wing Atlantic, test wing under Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, Maryland. NAWCAD advances capability and operational readiness for naval aviation.

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