The Navy and Marine Corps’ Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office (PMA-261) welcomed a new leader May 29 during a change of command ceremony here in the Rear Adm. William A. Moffett Building.
PMA-261 Program Manager U.S. Marine Corps Col. Robert Pridgen turned over command to Col. Henry Vanderborght, former Light/Attack Helicopters (PMA-276) platform team lead for UH-1Y production and UH-1N sundown, and Foreign Military Sales lead.
Pridgen will remain with the Program Executive Office for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Mission Programs (PEO(A)), which manages PMA-261, and the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). His next assignment will be program manager for the Presidential Helicopters Program (PMA-274) in July.
Rear Adm. CJ Jaynes, who leads PEO(A), praised Pridgen’s inspirational leadership style and accomplishments during his tenure in the program office, and presented him with a Legion of Merit award at the ceremony.
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, newly confirmed U.S. Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation (DCA) and guest speaker at the ceremony, said the visit to Naval Air Station Patuxent River was important to him personally, and also his first trip in his leadership role.
Citing the CH-53K King Stallion helicopter as “what is probably one of the most critical aviation programs in U.S. Marine Corps history,” Davis focused his remarks on the importance of the aircraft’s capabilities to the Marine Corps’ mission, as well as Pridgen’s leadership in keeping the program on solid ground.
He also recognized Vanderborght as a former John Glenn Test Pilot of the Year and a “CH-53 world-class star athlete,” welcoming him to the helm to help deliver the CH-53K to the Marines.
Vanderborght, no stranger to the H-53 heavy lift helicopter community at NAVAIR, said he was eager and excited to rejoin PMA-261. The pilot brings a wealth of heavy-lift helicopter experience to the program. His acquisition experience spans the entire life cycle of a major weapons system and since designated a naval aviator in April 1995, he has spent the majority of his career either flying or maintaining the CH-53E in real-world operations.
Vanderborght attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and was the CH-53 lead test pilot at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21, after which he joined PMA-261, first as the CH-53K helicopter lead systems engineer, then as the program manager during the design and initial test period.
NAVAIR’s PMA-261 manages the cradle to grave procurement, development, support, fielding and disposal of the entire family of H-53 helicopters.
Not only did May 29 mark a new beginning for Marine Corps Col. Henry Vanderborght as the new program manager for NAVAIR’s Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office (PMA-261), but he was also promoted to the rank of colonel that morning during a ceremony on Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.’s flight line in front of a CH-53E helicopter by retired Marine Corps Col. Paul Croisetiere in front of the PMA-261 team. U.S. Navy photo
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