Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron [VAW-124]
Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron VAW-124 Bear Aces was commissioned on 1 September 1967 and nicknamed the "Bullseye Hummers." The Bear Aces have taken part in virtually every major operation the Navy has been involved in, including U.N. Operation Provide Promise in the former Yugoslavia, Operation Deny Flight in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Operation Deliberate Force against Bosnian Serbs.
In 1968, the squadron was assigned to Attack Carrier Air Wing SEVEN (CVW 7) and deployed aboard USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA 62). In April 1970, VAW-124 deployed with CVW 9 aboard USS AMERICA (CVA 66) to Southeast Asia. In June 1972, VAW-124 embarked again aboard USS AMERICA for an extended Western Pacific deployment. Seven line periods and 147 combat days later, VAW-124 was present in the Gulf of Tonkin when the Vietnam Agreement was signed on 28 January 1973.
VAW-124 deployed with CVW 6 aboard USS AMERICA in the summer of 1976 and again in October 1977. The squadron was awarded the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle Efficiency Award and the Command Retention Silver Anchor Award in recognition of accomplishments during the year.
In December 1980, the squadron received immediate deployment orders to Keflavik, iceland. As a result of numerous VAW-124 directed intercepts of Soviet "Bear" reconnaissance aircraft, the squadron acquired the new nickname "Bear Aces."
On 19 August 1981, USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) captured world attention while operating in the Gulf of Sidra. In response to an unprovoked attack, F-14 Tomcats under the control of a VAW-124 Hawkeye, intercepted and shot down two Libyan SU-22 "fitter" fighter planes. This demonstrated the deadly effectiveness of the "Hawkeye-Tomcat" team. In June 1985, VAW-124 provided tracking of hijacked TWA flight 847 as it criss-crossed the Mediterranean. The Bear Aces were awarded their second COMNAVAIRLANT Battle Efficiency Award at the conclusion of 1987 and completed over sixteen years and 32,000 hours of accident free flying.
On 21 January 1991, CVW 8 launched its first major strike of "Desert Storm" with the Bear Aces providing critical AEW, command and control, and SAR coordination. When the cease fire went into effect on 28 February, the Bear Aces had flown a total of 331 combat sorties, over 1150 combat hours in support of 1220 strikes against 531 targets in the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO), the most combat hours and combat sorties of any E-2C squadron.
Remarkably, over 750 of the combat hours were flown in a single thirty day period. After transiting the Suez Canal on 20 April, USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) assumed station northeast of Cyprus between Turkey and Syria to lead the multi-national operation Provide Comfort. The transit home ended a highly successful and unforgettable combat cruise for the Bear Aces. On 26 June, the Bear Aces returned home to a hero's welcome.
In August, VAW-124 was awarded the 1991 AEW EXCELLENCE AWARD by VADM Less, Commander, U.S. Naval air Force Atlantic Fleet. This award is given annually to the finest E-2C squadron in the Navy.
In April 1999, VAW-124 departed Norfolk for what became an unprecedented combat deployment aboard the CVN 71. The Bear Aces flew combat missions during Operation Allied Force against targets in Kosovo. Transiting to the Arabian Gulf, the Bear Aces completed the deployment enforcing the no-fly zone in Iraq in Operation Southern Watch. In addition, VAW-124 visited ports in Antalya, Turkey; Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Cannes, France; Manama, Bahrain; and Rhodes, Greece. This cruise demonstrated the powerful projection ashore that the US Navy carrier force provides and, for the Hawkeye community, proved what an invaluable asset the E-2C is for combat and peacetime operations.
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