Marine Aviator Fired for Flying Too Low and Too Fast During Ceremony

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Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Featherstone.
Lt. Col. Ralph Featherstone. (U.S. Marine Corps)

A California-based Marine commander was removed from his job over "poor judgment" displayed during a recent flyover, Military.com has confirmed.

Lt. Col. Ralph Featherstone was removed from his job as commanding officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225. The decision was made by Maj. Gen. Kevin Iiams, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, who determined Featherstone flew too fast and too low during a recent event, a Marine official familiar with the situation said.

Featherstone's relief "came as a surprise from an otherwise exceptionally performing commander with a long and distinguished career," according to a Marine Corps statement announcing the relief. The lieutenant colonel could not immediately be reached for comment.

"The outgoing commander's relief should not detract from his accomplishments and outstanding performance in both the operational and supporting establishments," the statement about his relief adds.

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VMFA-225 held a flyover last week during a sundown ceremony for the F/A-18 Hornet at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, according to service photos from the event. The photos have since been removed from a Defense Department website.

During the ceremony, Featherstone was flying in the rear seat of an F/A-18D during its final flight, Marine Corps Times reported.

The official with knowledge of the relief said Iiams is "making an example" of Featherstone to promote safe aviation procedures.

The squadron is transitioning from flying Hornets to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet.

"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," the Marine Corps' statement on the relief says.

Another officer has been temporarily assigned to the squadron to complete ongoing tasks tied to the Hornets' sundown, the release states. The name of that officer was not immediately provided.

Featherstone, a Naval Academy and Naval Postgraduate School alum, completed flight training and was assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 in 2003.

He deployed in support of the Iraq War and completed multiple tours in the Asia-Pacific region.

Featherstone had led VMFA-225 since April 2019. His awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Korean Defense Medal, an Outstanding Volunteer Medal, and seven Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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