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Three "Blackjacks" receive Test Wing awards

NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. - Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL) recognized the accomplishments of three Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 personnel during an awards ceremony at Naval Air Station Patuxent River on February 12.

Col. Richard E. Marigliano, commander of NTWL, presided over the ceremony at which Maj. Joshua Foxton received NTWL's Test Pilot of the Year award, Lt. Brandon Merchant received the Maintenance Officer of the Year award, and Chief Aviation Electrician’s Mate (Aviation Warfare) Sergio Reyes received the Maintenance Chief Petty Officer of the Year award.

The annual ceremony recognizes the Wing’s highest performing military and civilian personnel across its four test and evaluation squadrons and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS). In accordance with the Navy's strict health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year NTWL is convening a series of smaller ceremonies at the awardees' own squadrons rather than holding a single wing-wide event. HX-21 live-streamed the brief ceremony on its public Facebook page.

As a developmental test pilot for the CH-53K King Stallion, Maj. Foxton served as the project officer for the aircraft's first shipboard detachment to the USS Wasp (LHD 1). He successfully directed an intensive series of tests that were designed to establish the helicopter’s performance envelope for day and night launches and recoveries at a wide range of wind speeds, among many other test points. Over the course of the 14-day detachment, Foxton's team accomplished 364 landings, of which 74 were conducted using night vision devices.

Col. Richard E. Marigliano, commander of Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL), left, presents Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 maintenance officer Lt. Brandon Merchant with NTWL's Maintenance Officer of the Year award for 2020 during a ceremony on February 12 2021.

Lt. Merchant was cited for his high quality maintenance oversight and contributions to the improvement of maintenance processes, both of which resulted in high levels of contract adherence over the preceding year. His citation praised his superior leadership skills and uniquely energetic devotion to the squadron's mission. His innovative leadership style was cited as a bedrock of HX-21's success during the past year.

Col. Richard E. Marigliano, commander of Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL), left, presents Chief Aviation Electrician’s Mate (Aviation Warfare) Sergio Reyes of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 with NTWL's Maintenance Chief Petty Officer of the Year award for 2020 during a ceremony on February 12 2021.

As HX-21's Aviation Program Team Leading Chief Petty Officer, Chief Reyes led his Sailors in the successful completion of an aviation maintenance inspection that earned zero discrepancies, a squadron first. His efforts were instrumental in the completion of 21,884 mishap-free maintenance hours and 3,114 ground and flight test hours.

Retired Rear Adm. Donald Boecker, former commander of the then-Naval Air Test Center Patuxent River and later vice commander of Naval Air Systems Command, presented Foxton with the Tommy Tomlinson Award, including an engraved watch and a copy of Captain Daniel W. "Tommy" Tomlinson’s autobiography, "The Sky’s the Limit." As guest of honor, Boecker represented the Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association — better known as the Golden Eagles — which has sponsored the Tomlinson Award since 1969.

On behalf of retired Lt. Cmdr. Harry Errington, a career maintainer and founder of the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, Col. Marigliano presented Lt. Merchant and Chief Aviation Electrician’s Mate Reyes with engraved watches and inscribed copies of USNTPS graduate Vice Adm. Bill Lawrence's autobiography "Tennessee Patriot." Since 2002, the Errington Award has recognized maintenance officers and maintenance chief petty officers who have exemplified leadership and professionalism through initiatives to improve or develop procedures and personnel.

Col. Marigliano also awarded each of the three recipients with the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for their accomplishments.

Nicknamed the “Blackjacks,” HX-21 provides developmental flight test and evaluation of rotary-wing and tilt-rotor aircraft and their associated airborne systems in support of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps training, combat, and combat support missions. The squadron can trace its roots at NAS Patuxent River back to 1949, when the then-Naval Air Test Center first established a rotary-wing test division. Today, HX-21 teams are engaged in testing six families of aircraft, including the CH- 53K King Stallion, the MV-22 and CMV-22 Osprey, and the Presidential helicopter fleet.

Naval Test Wing Atlantic, a component of Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) serves as fleet advocate supporting test and evaluation of the Navy’s principal aviation systems ranging from unmanned to rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft.

NAWCAD advances capability and operational readiness for naval aviation and our warfighters. The warfare center is where naval aviation takes flight through research, development, test, evaluation, and sustainment of both fielded and not-yet fielded naval platforms and technologies that ensure America’s Sailors and Marines always go into conflict with significant advantage. With sites in Patuxent River, Maryland, Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Orlando, Florida, the command is the Navy’s largest warfare center with a diverse force of military, civilians, and contractors building the Navy of today, the Navy of tomorrow, and the Navy after next.

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