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Middletown native to command Air Test and Evaluation Squadron of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division

Posted 11/6/19

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

When Mark R. Amspacher was in eighth grade, he announced to his father that he was going to become a fighter pilot, and that he would be going to …

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Middletown native to command Air Test and Evaluation Squadron of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division

Posted

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

When Mark R. Amspacher was in eighth grade, he announced to his father that he was going to become a fighter pilot, and that he would be going to either the Air Force or Naval academy.

Amspacher has realized that dream, and continues soaring above it.

A Middletown native, Amspacher on Oct. 11 became the new commanding officer of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, Maryland.

The lieutenant colonel with 20 years’ service in the Marine Corps did it in style, accepting command in an airborne ceremony while flying hundreds of feet above the squadron hangars.

“Know that I dedicate all that I am and all that I have to enable us to accomplish what VX-23 (the squadron) does so well for the Navy and Marine Corps,” Amspacher was quoted as saying during the ceremony. “I believe in unity, humility, integrity and excellence. Let’s roll.”

Amspacher was born in Middletown in 1975 but his family moved to Mount Joy in 1980. He graduated from Donegal High School, said Mark’s father, Rich Amspacher.

Rich was born and raised in Middletown, and lived in the area for 30 years before moving to Mount Joy. He now lives in Duncannon.

Mark Amspacher grew up in a military home. Rich Amspacher was in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1966 to 1972, serving as a small arms repairman. In 1976 he joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and stayed in until 1993 when he retired.

Mark’s grandfather Ray Amspacher served in the Army Air Corps in World War II. He was shot down over Germany and became a prisoner of war. He was released after the war ended and came home.

Mark began his military service in the USMC commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in May 1999. He earned a bachelor of science degree in Aerospace Engineering.

His service includes three combat deployments to Iraq. Amspacher was the first Marine pilot to land an EA-6B Prowler on Iraqi soil, his father pointed out.

He has flown more than 25 types of aircraft and  amassed more than 2,400 total flight hours — including more than 1,700 hours in the Prowler, of which more than 1,000 were in combat, according to Amspacher’s biography posted on the squadron website.

He went on to earn a master of science in Engineering Science (Aerospace Engineering) from the Naval Postgraduate School, and has received numerous military honors and decorations.

As squadron commander, Amspacher is now in charge of the largest flight test organization in the Naval Air Systems Command. He will be leading a workforce of more than 2,000 military and civilian testers, scientists, pilots, and other professionals.

The squadron provides a full spectrum of flight testing and evaluation for fleet aircraft including the F/A-18A-D Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, T-45A/C Goshawk aircraft, and F-35B/C Lightning.