Sea Control Squadron TWENTY TWO [VS-22]
The squadron traces its roots to VA-22, the first east coast carrier based ASW squadron. VS-22 was established on May 18, 1960 at Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, concurrently with the establishment of Carrier Antisubmarine Air Group FIFTY-FOUR. From 1960 until 1974, VS-22 flew the venerable Grumman S-2 "Tracker" best known as the "Stoof." The squadron now flies the sophisticated S-3B "Viking" aircraft built by Lockheed California Company.
The "Checkmates" have set the VS community standards since the squadron's inception. The highlight of 1961 was the recovery of America's first astronaut, Alan B. Shepard, after his pioneering space flight on May 5 of that year. In August 1965, VS-22 embarked in USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN for another space capsule recovery, this time Gemini 5 with astronauts Gordon Cooper and "Pete" Conrad. Returning to USS ESSEX, VS-22 participated in the recovery of Apollo 7 with astronauts Shirra, Eisele, and Cunningham.
On April 1, 1973, VS-22 joined Air Antisubmarine Wing ONE, the precursor of Sea Control Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. On November 8, 1973, with the subsequent closure of NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island, VS-22 transferred to NAS Cecil Field, Florida.
Jet transitions started in the summer of 1974 with pilots training in T-2's and A-4's at NAS Meridian, Mississippi. On January 6, 1976, after 22 years of flying the S-2 Tracker, VS-22 sailed from NAS Mayport, Florida to the Mediterranean Sea onboard USS SARATOGA as the first deployed S-3A Viking squadron. In August of 1990, due to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the "JFK" responded with a No-Notice deployment to the Red Sea. "Checkmate" aircrews flew the first ever Commander, Battle Force Red Sea Iraqi Border surveillance and signals collection flights.
Operation DESERT STORM commenced the liberation of Kuwait on January 17, 1991. "Checkmates" flew over 1100 combat hours and 324 combat sorties in direct support of coalition forces. Target information gleaned by VS-22 aircraft played a major role in the suppression of enemy air defenses during the first days of DESERT STORM. From January 22, 1991 until the ceasefire on February 28, 1991, the "Checkmates" flew in every CVW-3 strike against Iraq.
VS-22 tactical innovation did not end with the war. Only weeks after their return, "Checkmate" aircrews honed valuable ASW skills in the first of three detachments to NAS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. VS-22 achieved 100% TORPEX and MINEX qualifications. VS-22's support of CJTF-4 Counter Narcotics Operations during the last part of 1991 through the first part of 1992 earned the "Checkmates" the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for identifying over 1500 contacts, confirming 50 as suspected offenders
After a long pre-deployment work-up schedule, VS-22 deployed on MED 1-93 embarked in USS JOHN F. KENNEDY in October 1992. Concentrating on multi-national Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea exercises during the first half of deployment, VS-22 provided initial inflight refueling training for Egyptian Mirage 2000 pilots and practice ASUW skills while leading over 40 multi-national, integrated and air wing exercise strikes against NATO ships.
Operations PROVIDE COMFORT and PROVIDE PROMISE brought a shift in VS-22's role as, once again, the S-3B Viking's electronic support systems became the Battle Group Commander's eyes and ears in another potentially hostile environment. While conducting air wing proficiency operations during PROVIDE PROMISE, the "Checkmates" provided invaluable radar locating and Command and Control information while U.S. Air Force assets dropped relief supplies throughout a fluid electronic warfare environment. Additionally, VS-22 contributed to the U.S. Navy's evolving focus on "From the Sea..." with near land ESM, ISAR, and CCC missions.
In February of 1994, VS-22 began in earnest with Carrier Air Wing Three and the crew of USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. It was at this time that Congress passed laws permitting the embarkation of women in combat units. VS-22 had the distinction of being the first S-3B command to be assigned female Sailors. On April 16, 1995, VS-22 returned from their Mediterranean deployment onboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER.
The VS-22 Checkmates departed the Arabian Gulf on 27 April 2001, aboard USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN 75), after four months of flying in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Operating in FIFTH FLEET'S Area of Responsibility, VS-22 conducted Electronic Surveillance missions, Maritime Interdiction Operations, and Armed Reconnaissance in support of Operation Southern Watch. They also participated in Exercise Beacon Flash with the Omani Air Force, and completed all day-to-day mission requirements with alarming success.
The Checkmates' achievements are exemplified in the proficiency and efficiency in which the squadron conducted daily operations aboard the fleet's newest aircraft carrier. The maiden voyage of USS HARRY S TRUMAN, with Carrier Air Wing THREE, embarked on November 28, 2000. After carrier qualifications, passage across the Atlantic Ocean and operations in the Mediterranean Sea, the Checkmates transited the Suez Canal on the 27th of December, effectively becoming FIFTH FLEET'S greatest asset. In the first week of January, the TRUMAN team became the most formidable force in the Arabian Gulf, and began flight operations immediately in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH (OSW). TRUMAN and Carrier Air Wing THREE maintained a continuous presence in the Arabian Gulf for over four months. During this time, the Checkmates set the new standard for excellence aboard TRUMAN.
Many of the Checkmates accomplishments are apparent in the numbers and statistics resulting from the previous 5 months. Others can only be recognized by the high morale and sense of accomplishment that the Vidars can proudly call their own. In approximately 120 days of deployment in the Arabian Gulf, the Checkmates flew over 2100 hours, logged over 1000 arrested landings, and completed their commitment in the Gulf with an astonishing 96.2% sortie completion rate. These numbers alone cannot do justice to the excellent job the Checkmates have done in their support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, but they do indicate how high the Vidars have set the bar. In addition to the collective efforts of the squadron, LT Eric Meier won his way into the much-coveted award of Top Five Nuggets for the third line period, while LTs Blackmer and Slocum placed in the Top 10 Pilot ranks, chosen from all cruise-seasoned pilots in the Air Wing.
The Checkmates of VS-22 have completed the largest portion of their journey, and done so with amazing success. Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, FIFTH FLEET, and the TRUMAN/Carrier Air Wing THREE team benefited greatly from the exemplary manner in which the Vidars conducted their day to day responsibilities and even more so by the level of excellence proven in their outstanding achievements. In the coming month, VS-22 will continue its transit through the Arabian Sea, past the Red Sea to the Suez Canal, and into the Mediterranean Sea. After two brief, but well-deserved port visits, USS HARRY S TRUMAN and CVW-3 will exit the Strait of Gibraltar, and begin the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on their way back home.
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