Florida Keys News
Monday, June 23, 2014
Local squadron to get new commander

Of all the fighter jets that come and go from Naval Air Station Key West, only one squadron calls Boca Chica Field home -- Composite Fighter Squadron 111 (VFC-111), also known as the Sun Downers.

They are an adversarial squadron, meaning they play the bad guys (and instructors) to the trainees who fly the familiar F/A-18 Super Hornets or its variants. The Sun Downers fly the much older, but sleeker, F-5N Tiger II.

The squadron announced this week that current commanding officer David "Supafly" Faehnle will be leaving in July as the unit welcomes its current executive officer, or second-in-command, Cmdr. Todd "B.B." Peasley, as its new first-in-command.

Faehnle will be heading to the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., for a year to complete his graduate degree in national security. Beyond that, he isn't sure.

"There's few jobs in the cockpit that I could go to after that, but that's part of thr process," Faehnle said, adding that he loved his time in the F5 and will miss the squadron he's been a part of since 2012.

"It's a really fun airplane to fly," Faehnle said of leaving the cockpit. "For the most part, though, what I will miss is working with the men and women in this squadron. They're really a great group, and what I'll miss most is the atmosphere on the flight line with all of them."

Key West will say goodbye to the Texan, husband and father on July 19 at the Sun Downer Hangar on the western side of Boca Chica Field at the official change-of-command ceremony. Such squadron ceremonies are usually much lighter and jovial affairs as fighter pilots often use the time to poke fun at officers and each other.

Incoming commanding officer Peasley is a 2009 graduate of Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and has more than 450 aircraft carrier landings with 3,500 hours in fighter jets that include the F/A-18 Super Hornet, as well as the F5. He has been deployed to the Middle East multiple times since 9/11 aboard the aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Nimitz.

"These are extremely talented aviators (in the Sun Downers) down here and they are very tactically relevant and up to speed," Peasley said. "What makes this the best job in the Navy is just getting to fly wonderful fighter jets, but flying them with some of the best pilots in the world."

Peasley has served with more than half a dozen squadrons since graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1997. He is married to Stephanie, his wife of 10 years, and they have a 4-year-old son.

His call sign, "B.B.," stands for the figure skater Brian Boitano. Calls signs are given to pilots by their comrades. They don't pick their own. Typically, the more a pilot hates his call sign the better the odds it will stick with him or her for life.

When asked if he wanted to elaborate on how he received that call sign, Peasley was reluctant.

"I'd rather not," he said, laughing.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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