First Responders

Tempe native commands U.S. Navy fleet

Posted 6/17/22

Cmdr. Robert Ralston, a native of Tempe, assumes command of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61, known as ‘The Islanders.’

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First Responders

Tempe native commands U.S. Navy fleet


Cmdr. Robert Ralston, a native of Tempe, assumes command of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61, known as ‘The Islanders.’

Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61’s mission is to provide worldwide, around-the-clock, transport of passengers and cargo in support of all U.S. armed forces.

“I am absolutely honored to have the opportunity to command in the greatest Navy on God’s green Earth,” said Ralston in a prepared statement. “I am proud to continue the tradition of military service honorably and courageously displayed by both the Messer and Altman sides of my family. A special thanks to my grandmother Nancy Messer and my mother Barbara Ralston who instilled the values of faith, hard work and service. You are my heroes.”

Ralston joined the Navy and departed for boot camp at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois, on January 1, 1997. After graduating boot camp and being meritoriously promoted to seaman apprentice, Ralston transferred to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, for Naval Air Crew Candidate School and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator “A” School. He finished both schools as the Honor Candidate and received an accelerated advancement to seaman.

Next, he transferred to Patrol Squadron 30 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, for P-3 Observer School and finally onto Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, as an accelerated aviation anti-submarine warfare operator petty officer third class at Patrol Squadron 10 Red Lancers.

Soon after arriving, he was selected to attend Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training in Newport, Rhode Island. Upon completing BOOST in the summer of 1999, he enrolled at the University of Arizona on a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2003.

Ralston was selected for pilot training at Training Squadron 3 and Training Squadron 31. Ralston was designated a Naval Aviator and ‘winged’ in September 2005.

Ralston’s operational tours began as one of two naval aviators to report directly to C-40A Clippers after finishing flight school. His first assignment was in February 2006 to the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 58 “Sunseekers” in Jacksonville, Florida.

While serving at Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 58, Ralston was assigned the duties of Schedules Officer, Line Division Officer and Order Writing/RESPAY Officer.

In 2009, he reported to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, for a tour at Commander Fleet Logistics Support Wing where he served as the Training Officer and Assistant Operations Officer.

Next, he transferred across the street to the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 59 “Lone Star Express” for his Department Head tour, as the Admin Officer. He was also designated as a C-40A Instructor Pilot and completed a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Florida.

In April of 2014, Ralston left active duty and moved to Richland, Washington, where he started a new career as a Mechanical Department Foreman at BNSF Railways and also affiliated as a Selected Reservist at Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61 in Whidbey Island, Washington.

As an “Islander”, Ralston served as an Assistant Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization Instructor Pilot, Admin and Operations Officer. Ralston has served as Officer-in-Charge of all three Fleet Logistics Support Squadron detachment sites, Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Naval Air Station Sigonella, and Naval Air Station Atsugi in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Inherent Resolve and numerous other operations.

During his 22-year Navy career, Ralston has accumulated over 3,800 flight hours in the C-40A. He is authorized to wear the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Medal, and various other awards.

Tempe, Arizona, U.S. Navy, first responders


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