Command Biographies
VMM-261 Commanding Officer
Lieutenant Colonel J. Travis Stephenson

Lieutenant Colonel Stephenson is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He also holds a Master of Science in Business Administration from Boston University.

Captain Stephenson first served under Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 26 with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 264 where he deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) for contingency operations in the Sixth Fleet and Fifth Fleet areas of operation. He then remained for the squadron’s transition to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 264, subsequently deploying twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Throughout his time with the squadron, he held numerous billets in the support, operations, safety, and maintenance departments before his selection for test pilot training.

As a V-22 test pilot, Major Stephenson directed and flew several high-risk flight test projects to include CVN gross weight expansion, Bonded Blade Tab hover performance, Omega Tanker envelope expansion, and multiple flight control improvements. As the V-22 Department Head at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21, he was responsible for all V-22 developmental flight test planning, execution, and reporting. He became a published Member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, DAWIA Level III Certified in Test & Evaluation, and was recognized as the HX-21 Test Pilot of the Year.

Following his tour in flight test, Major Stephenson returned to MAG-26 where he served as VMM-365’s Aircraft Maintenance Officer for Exercise Trident Juncture and a 26th MEU deployment in support of NORTHCOM Disaster Relief and Fifth Fleet contingency operations. On this latter deployment, he also served as the Officer in Charge for the 26th MEU’s shore-based personnel recovery task force that supported operations in the AFRICOM and CENTCOM areas of responsibility. He finally served as the squadron’s Executive Officer during its return to home station before selection to command VMM-261.

Lieutenant Colonel Stephenson has flown over 2,000 mishap-free flight hours in over 25 different type/model/series of fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. He is a graduate of the Aviation Safety Officer’s Course, Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, and U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. His awards include the Single Mission Air Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal with numeral seven, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and various campaign, unit, and service awards including the Marine Corps Aviation Association’s Marine Aviator of the Year.