Kilgore native earns Navy's Meritorious Service Medal for work with F-35 fighters

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After more than a decade with the United States Navy, Lt. Commander Dustin A. Packer has resigned from the service to pursue his MBA at Harvard – he leaves the service with a Meritorious Service Medal awarded by the president.

According to the citation for the medal, Packer laid the groundwork for the future tactical success of F-35 fighter jets. The citation is signed by Vice Admiral DeWolfe, commander of Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“With peerless tactical expertise, unrivaled foresight, and strict adherence to the highest personal standards of excellence,” Miller wrote of Packer, “he individually set the course for the future success of the command, the F-35C community and Naval Aviation.

“Lieutenant Commander Packer’s exceptional professional, personal initiative and loyal devotion to duty reflect great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

The 34-year-old, a Kilgore resident most of his early years, graduated from Trinity School of Texas in Longview in 2002. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 2006 with a degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Packer could not be reached for comment on the other, but his mother, Teresa Packer, confirmed the veteran is now pursuing his career outside the military: after resigning from the Navy, he’s now embarked on continuing his education at Harvard.

“I am thrilled for him. He has worked so very hard to achieve not only his degree through the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, but also his naval career as a fighter pilot and instructor,” Teresa Packer said. “Further on, through his life, he’s been directed to go ahead and continue his education and placed at Harvard.”

A Kilgore native, Packer’s medal is for “outstanding meritorious service” as Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor from April 2016 to July 2018 at Strike Fighter Squadron One Zero One (VFA-101.

“As a representative for the Navy fighter weapons school, he quickly became an F-35C subject matter expert, making invaluable contributions to the development of both joint and Navy tactics, techniques, and procedures required for F-35C initial operating capability,” Miller wrote. “He spearheaded recurring tactics exploration detachments to Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, solving numerous unique operational and logistical challenges. He provided crucial, tactically relevant input to F-35C requirement discussions to ensure superiority at and beyond initial operating capability.

“He discovered and quantified critical aircraft control law errors that, if left uncorrected, dramatically inhibit the F-35C’s lethality.”

At Navy fighter weapons school, Miller continued, Packer created the framework for ongoing F-35C air combat training.

“At numerous training and readiness conferences, and during flag-level discussions, he brilliantly advanced the controversial concept that F-35C pilots specialize in advanced mission sets.”

Theresa Packer’s grateful for the encouragement Kilgore residents have shown her son from his youth through his Naval service.

“He has gotten a lot of support from the community. I still have people approach me and ask me about his career, where he is now,” she said. “I think part of his success is the support of family and community.”

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