Captain Stearns was designated a Naval Flight Officer in March 1993 and received orders to the “Grim Reapers” of VF-101 at Naval Air Station Oceana for F-14 Tomcat training. His first fleet assignment was with the “Ghostriders” of VF-142 aboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73). There he deployed in support of operations DENY FLIGHT and SOUTHERN WATCH over Bosnia and Iraq from Apr-Nov 1994. In 1995, after the decommissioning of VF-142, he reported to the “Pukin’ Dogs” of VF-143 aboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73) and deployed again in support of Operations DENY FLIGHT and SOUTHERN WATCH from Jan-July 1996.
In July 1997 he was selected to attend the Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) in Fallon, Nevada. Upon graduation from “Topgun”, Commander Stearns reported to the Strike Fighter Weapons School, Atlantic as a Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI).
In March 2000 he reported to the “Jolly Rogers” of VF-103 as the Training Officer and deployed aboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in support of Operations JOINT GUARDIAN and SOUTHERN WATCH over Kosovo and Iraq. During this tour he was awarded the 2000 Navy/Marine Association Leadership Award for F-14 Community Lieutenant of the Year.
In Sept 2001, he reported to the Naval Personnel Command (NPC), in Millington, TN as the VF/VFA aviation detailer.
In December 2002 Captain Stearns reported to the “Swordsmen” of VF-32 as a Department Head and served as both Operations Officer and Maintenance Officer. He deployed twice aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM in 2003, and again in 2004-2005. During this tour he was awarded the 2004 AIRLANT NFO of the Year.
In June 2005 he reported to NATO Headquarters, Supreme Allied Commander, Transformation (SACT) for his Joint Tour.
In November 2008, Captain Stearns reported as Executive Officer to the “Red Rippers” of VFA-11 He assumed command in March 2010, and deployed aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM in January 2011.
In May 2011, he reported to Commander Naval Air Forces, Atlantic as the Airwing Training and Readiness (N40) Assistant Chief of Staff.
Captain Stearns has accumulated over 3800 flight hours and 850 arrested landings. His personal decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, 2 Meritorious Service Medals, 9 Air Medals (2 Individual with Combat “V”), 6 Navy Commendation Medals (2 individual with Combat “V”), 1 Navy Achievement Medal, and numerous campaign and unit awards.