By Clark Pierce
Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19 "Big Red" held a commissioning and change of command ceremony Oct. 28 at NAS Jacksonville Hangar 117. Cmdr. Benjamin Stinespring assumed command of the squadron from Cmdr. Shannon Clark, who was part of the team that stood up VUP-19 on Oct. 1, 2013, and where he served as officer in charge for the next three years.
Clark welcomed guests and said that only one word describes the day - historic.
"As Cmdr. Stinespring becomes the first commanding officer of VUP-19 today, it also marks the momentous occasion as Big Red is commissioned and officially becomes the first unmanned patrol squadron in the Navy - and joins the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family."
The mission of VUP-19 is to operate the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) continuously from fixed land bases around the world to support operational and exercise requirements of combatant commanders.
The MQ-4C Triton UAS is operated by crews consisting of Navy P-8A pilots, naval flight officers and aviation warfare operators. VUP-19 provides the organizational framework for mission control, mission planning and data analysis from its headquarters at NAS Jacksonville.
Stinespring is a native of Huntington, West Virginia. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in ocean engineering. He followed that in 2000 with a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Naval Postgraduate School.
He was designated a naval aviator in 2001 and completed Fleet Replacement Squadron training in 2002, followed by an operational assignment at VQ-1 at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington until 2005. Upon completion of shore duty, Stinespring transferred to Okinawa, Japan, where he served as flag aide to Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7 until 2010, where he completed his qualifications as Underway Officer of the Deck aboard USS Denver (LPD-9).
He returned to NAS Whidbey Island as a department head with VQ-2, where he led multiple departments and served as officer in charge of detachments to Curacao; Incirlik, Turkey; and Sigonella, Italy.
Following the disestablishment of VQ-2, Stinespring served at Navy Personnel Command. Then, he subsequently completed joint duty assignments to U.S. Cyber Command as the operations and communications chief for Interagency Partnership Program. Stinespring has logged 3,600 flight hours in Navy aircraft.
Clark is a Nashville, Tennessee native who enlisted in Nuclear Power School in April 1992. He accepted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in marine engineering.
He earned his "Wings of Gold" at VT-31 in 1999 and was specially selected to remain as an instructor pilot in the T-44 Advanced Maritime Training Aircraft.
Clark next reported to Fleet Replacement Squadron VP-30 as a replacement pilot with follow-on orders to the VP-16 "War Eagles." After completing his first fleet tour, Clark served as catapult and arresting gear officer on board USS Dwight D. Eisenhower until December 2006.
Clark then attended Naval War College where he earned his master's degree in National Security and Strategic Studies.
He rejoined the VP-16 War Eagles at NAS Jacksonville for his department head tour until July 2010. While attached, Clark completed a 7th Fleet deployment to Okinawa, Japan.
From July 2010 to September 2013 he was the assistant officer in charge of the MQ-4C Triton UAS Fleet Introduction Team - to provide guidance and training in support of the orderly and economic introduction of the Triton.
Clark reported as the first officer in charge of the Navy's first unmanned patrol unit, VUP-19, on Oct. 1, 2013.