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Commander of California fighter squadron fired after F-18 retirement event

The commander of Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 was relieved of command Jan. 24 following “concerns of poor judgement” the Marine Corps confirmed Thursday.

Lt. Col. Ralph Featherstone was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer in 1999 and took over VMFA-225 in April 19, 2019, according to his official Marine Corps biography on the unit’s site.

The all-weather fighter squadron is currently making the transition from the F-18 Hornet to using the Marine Corps’ new vertical-takeoff fighter, the F-35B Lightning II.

On Jan. 23, the unit held a retirement ceremony marking the squadron’s final official flight for the two-seat F/A-18D it has flown since it was re-established in 1991.

The Marine Corps initially published material from the event on DVIDS, but has since taken down its coverage.

“The relief came as a surprise from an otherwise exceptionally performing commander with a long and distinguished career,” Marine Corps spokesman 1st Lt. Fredrick Walker told Marine Corps Times in a Thursday email.

“It is a necessity to enforce standards and is vital that 3rd MAW provides strong and effective leadership to promote operational excellence, trust, and combat readiness," he said.

Walker said an officer-in-charge has been assigned to complete some of the remaining “sundown” tasks for the squadron. He did not say who the officer-in-charge is.

One source with knowledge of the incident said on background that while the F/A-18D was making its final flight at a public event, the plane, allegedly with the commander in the rear seat, flew lower and faster than was approved in the flight plan.

Featherstone’s awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korean Defense Medal, the Outstanding Volunteer Medal, and seven Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

“The outgoing commander’s relief should not detract from his accomplishments and outstanding performance in both the operational and supporting establishments,” Walker said in the statement.

This is a breaking story and will be updated as Marine Corps Times learns mores about the situation.

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