Two marines shake hands after a change of command ceremony in front of a podium with the PMA-274 seal

Col. Alex Ramthun (right), the eighth program manager of the Presidential Helicopters Program Office (PMA-274), relieved Col. Eric Ropella (left) during the Sept. 28 change of command ceremony. (ceremony photo by Todd Frantom)

Presidential Helicopters Program Office changes command

The Presidential Helicopters Program Office (PMA-274) welcomed their eighth program manager during a change of command ceremony on Sept. 28.

Col. Alex Ramthun took over command from Col. Eric Ropella. The ceremony, in keeping with tradition, honored both outgoing and incoming leadership while the guest of honor, Assistant Deputy Commandant for Information Maj. Gen. Greg Masiello, provided the ceremony’s official remarks.

“There is a history of this fleet, this squadron [HMX-1]. This [presidential helicopters program] is the one no-fail mission for the U.S. Marine Corps,” said Masiello. “Thanks to all who work this program.”

Mr. Gary Kurtz, program executive officer, Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault, and Special Mission Programs, and designated officiant of the change of command, addressed the audience inside the presidential helicopter hangar flanked by all three type-model presidential helicopters, VH-3D, VH-60N, and VH-92A.

“Every time I enter this facility and see these aircraft with that presidential seal, I am in awe of the mission of PMA-274,” said Kurtz. “The enormity, the criticality, the weight and accountability to lead, oversee and serve this mission and this organization is at times unimaginable to me.”

He also recognized Col. Ropella’s stellar program management, sharing with the audience, “The Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition recently identified your VH-92 program as one of the Top Performing programs to Congress.”

Ropella spent seven years with PMA-274. He served as program manager for over five years and prior to that, spent nearly two years as the VH-92A integrated program team lead. Throughout the past seven years with PMA-274, he led the program and the impressive VH-92A Patriot aircraft from Milestone C through initial operational capability, and to White House Military Office deployment authorizations. Ropella simultaneously managed the fielding of the VH-92A, all while sustaining the legacy presidential helicopter fleet of VH-3D Sea Kings and VH-60N Night Hawks.  As program manager, he witnessed 17 of the 23 aircraft deliveries and guided his team to begin legacy aircraft retirements.

“I stand before you all humbled and honored for this true once in a lifetime privilege, experience, and opportunity that was afforded to me as the presidential helicopters program manager” said Ropella.

Ropella graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in May 1993 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He was designated a Naval Aviator in April 1996. Ropella will officially retire in May 2024 with 31 years of service.

Col. Ramthun, a Wisconsin native, earned a Bachelor of Science degree via the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) at the University of Kansas. He was commissioned a Marine officer in 2000 and designated a naval aviator in 2004. After several land and sea tours, Ramthun reported to NAVAIR’s AV-8B Harrier Joint Program Office (PMA-257) in 2016.

Ramthun was designated as a Marine Corps Aviation Acquisition Officer (Military Occupational Specialty 8059) in 2018 and began a new role with PMA-257 as the F402 Propulsion and Power Integrated Product Team Lead.  During this same period, he was a Fellow at the Pentagon while participating in the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN RDA) SIGMA junior acquisition executive leadership development program.

In 2019, Ramthun completed Top Level School professional military education (PME) via the Secretary of Defense Executive Fellowship (SDEF) Program working at Shell Oil in Houston, Texas, as the Program Director for Sanctions and Financial Crime Transformation within Global Business Excellence.

In 2020, Ramthun returned to NAVAIR as the Director of Marine Corps Programs at the Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems Program (PMA-266).  He was then assigned as the Military Assistant for ASN(RDA) in 2022.  Prior to joining PMA-274 as program manager, he completed Joint PME II via National Defense University’s Joint and Combined Warfighting School (JCWS) in Norfolk, Va.

In his remarks, Ramthun stated, “I will continue to lead with a bold vision, winning attitude, and a deep focus on developing our tremendous talented workforce.”

“I will be laser focused on executing the program manager duties at PMA-274. I will lead in the spirit of the outstanding organization culture Col. Ropella spent years cultivating; we will be customer focused, we will constantly innovate our work, and we will always work towards being best in class in everything we do,” said Ramthun.

Presidential Helicopters Program Office (PMA-274) expeditiously provides safe, reliable, secure, affordable aircraft and support to Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1).


Two marines walk away from one another with a large flag in the background after officially changing command

Col. Alex Ramthun (left) walks to the stage as the new program manager of the Presidential Helicopters Program Office (PMA-274) during the change of command ceremony Sept. 28. (ceremony photo by Todd Frantom)

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