Electronic Attack Squadron [VAQ-137]
The Rooks of VAQ-137 fly EA-6B Prowlers and are stationed at NAS Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, WA. Their mission is to exploit and suppress the enemy's electromagnetic systems in support of theater operations. Since their original commissioning on December 14, 1973, the "ROOKS" of VAQ-137 have flown two versions of the EA-6B Prowler aboard five different aircraft carriers in every major theater. They've earned four Navy Unit Commendations, three Meritorious Unit Commendations, five Battle "E's", three Navy Expeditionary Medals, two Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, one Humanitarian Service Medal and three Safety "S" awards. In 1988, the squadron was awarded the Prowler Excellence Award. Twice the "ROOKS" were selected "Prowler Squadron of the Year", and three times they've been awarded the prestigious Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award for highest achievement in electronic warfare among all VAQ/VMAQ squadrons.
VAQ 137 first deployed in 1974 with CVW-14 for a WESTPAC cruise aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), flying EXCAP Prowlers. In April 1975, on station in the South China Sea, Rooks operated non-stop to provide essential electronic surveillance for OPERATION "FREQUENT WIND", the evacuation of Americans from Saigon. Between 1976 and 1978, the ROOKS made two Med cruises with CVW-6 aboard USS AMERICA (CV 66). In April 1976, the squadron provided standoff ECM support for the evacuation of Americans from civil-war-torn Beirut, Lebanon. During the two cruises, the ROOKS obtained emitter data and the first Navy photos of the USSR's Kiev class aircraft carrier and their newest Kara class cruiser. Between 1979 and 1982, VAQ-137 made three WESTPAC cruises with CVW-2 aboard the USS RANGER (CV 61). In January 1981, the ROOKS were on station in the North Arabian Sea when the Iranians released 52 American hostages held since November 1979. In March, USS RANGER (CV 61) received the Humanitarian Service Medal for the rescue of 138 Vietnamese "boat people" after they were sighted by a VAQ-137 crew. In 1983, the ROOKS joined CVW-3 for an action-packed Med cruise aboard USS KENNEDY (CV 67). In November, they participated in a coordinated French/US air strike against an Iranian training camp at Baalbek, Lebanon. In December, they participated in a strike against SAM/AAA sites east of Beirut, providing essential radar jamming.
In February 1984, the ROOKS flew support missions while multi-national peacekeeping forces pulled out of Lebanon. In 1984, the ROOKS were the first EA-6B squadron to transition to ICAP II. Between 1985 and 1987, the squadron made two Med cruises with CVW 17 aboard USS SARATOGA (CV 60). After the Italian cruiseliner, ACHILLE LAURO, was hijacked in October 1985, CVW-17 aircraft intercepted the hijackers' plane and forced them to land at a NATO airfield. In March 1986, VAQ-137 co-authored and participated in the successful air strike against an SA-5 site at Sirte, Libya.
In 1989, the ROOKS joined CVW-1 for a Med and Indian Ocean cruise aboard USS AMERICA (CV 66). During nine months at sea, VAQ-137 participated in nine major exercises in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. They sailed from the Arctic Circle to the Equator via the Suez Canal. In August, when Lieutenant Colonel Higgens, USMC, was brutally executed in Lebanon, USS AMERICA (CV 66) emergency sortied from Singapore to be on station in the North Arabian Sea. The ROOKS provided critical electronic surveillance for contingency operations. When the United States evacuated the Beirut Embassy in September, the ROOKS were airborne within hours of entering the Mediterranean providing EW support to the operation.
In December 1990, the ROOKS deployed aboard USS AMERICA (CV 66) with five ICAP 2 Prowlers in support of OPERATION DESERT STORM. During 212 combat sorties, the Rooks provided ECM coverage and fired 30 HARM missiles in support of the United Nations Coalition Forces. VAQ-137 was the only EA-6B squadron to fight the war from both the Red Sea and the North Arabian Gulf. Following the cease-fire, the ROOKS completed the Desert Storm deployment with a successful five aircraft TransMed and TransLant flyoff enroute to Whidbey Island. After only four months, VAQ-137 returned to USS AMERICA (CV 66) in August 1991, and deployed to the North Atlantic for operations in the Norwegian Fjords during NORTHSTAR '91. In December 1991, the ROOKS deployed aboard USS AMERICA (CV 66) for MED 2-91. After three months of Mediterranean operations the USS AMERICA (CV 66) sortied again for the North Arabian Gulf in March 1992. The ROOKS were the first EA-6B squadron who had fought in DESERT STORM to return to the area arriving on station a mere 12 months after the war.
VAQ-137's last deployment ended in February 1994. During that deployment, the ROOKS participated in Operation Continue Hope over Somalia, southern watch over Iraq and Deny Flight over Bosnia. The ROOKS were formally disestablished at 1330, 26 May 1994.
In 1995, Program Budget Decisions 752 and 753 detailed the commissioning of 5 EA-6B squadrons to replace the USAF EF-111A Raven in fulfilling the Joint Electronic Attack role. VAQ-137 is the third of those five squadrons to be commissioned. VAQ-137 was re-established at 1300, 3 October 1996 onboard Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, Washington. Upon reaching full operational capability, the ROOKS were assigned to carrier Air Wing One and deployed in 1996 aboard the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73).
After the CVN-73 deployment, the ROOKS and CVW-1 led the shakedown cruise of USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75). This led into the workup cycle for the current CVW-1 carrier, USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67). In early 1999 the Rooks of VAQ-137 departed from NAS Whidbey Island to NAS Fallon for their Air Wing Fallon detachment. This detachment to NAS Fallon marked the beginning of workups which ultimately led to their Fall 1999 deployment aboard the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY. The ROOKS deployed in September 1999 for the Arabian Gulf once again, this time to spend the millennium in the Persian Gulf.
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