Electronic Attack Squadron 138 [VAQ-138]
Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron One Thirty Eight plank owners gathered to form an operational squadron in 1976. The first Commanding Officer, Commander E. A. O'Neal, was an alumnus of the Georgia Institute of technology. Georgia Tech was founded to bring technological development to the ruins of the South directly after the Civil War. In a like manner, VAQ-138 was brought about to give the U.S. Navy the technological edge in Electronic Warfare.
The "Yellow Jacket" mascot of Georgia Tech was adopted as the squadron insignia in honor of CDR O'Neal's alma mater. The squadron insignia has come to symbolize the ferocity, speed and precision the EA-6B "Prowler" employs in responding to today's global threats. Employing the complex ALQ-99 tactical jamming system and the High speed Anti Radiation Missile (HARM), the EA-6B "Prowler" is capable of a quick and deadly response to enemy radar. The "Yellow Jackets" have become synonymous worldwide with tactical and technological development, and are recognized as the innovative leaders in the realm of Electronic Warfare.
The Yellow Jackets of VAQ-138 were established as an operational squadron in February 1976 and made their first deployment aboard USS SARATOGA (CV 60) to the Mediterranean Sea. Performing at a level of excellence soon to be recognized as their trademark, the squadron distinguished itself as a leader in aviation safety and was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for that period.
The squadron completed three more deployments to the Mediterranean Sea aboard USS EISENHOWER (CVN 69) and USS KENNEDY (CV 67) during the late 1970's and early 1980's. Following an "around the world" deployment in 1982 aboard USS KENNEDY (CV 67), the squadron joined USS RANGER (CV 61) for a deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean in 1983. and 1996 Since 1984, the Yellow Jackets have made eight deployments aboard USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) participating in Central American operations in 1985, the Libyan counter-terrorist operation in 1986, Operations DESERT STORM and PROVIDE COMFORT in 1991, and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in 1993.
In 1987 the Yellow Jackets transitioned to the upgraded ICAP-2 (Improved Capability-Version 2) aircraft which expanded the Prowler's effectiveness in suppressing enemy air defenses. With the addition of the HARM weapon system in 1988 and the USQ-113 communications jamming system in 1995, the Prowler provides an extremely lethal and valuable asset to the carrier air wing. After the 1993 deployment, the Yellow Jackets were presented with all four major awards for Prowler squadrons: the "1993 Prowler Maintenance Squadron of the Year", the "1993 Prowler Safety Squadron of the Year", the "1993 Battle E" and the "1994 Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award".
In preparation for the 1996 deployment to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, the Yellow Jackets completed a year of high tempo flying involving exercises with U.S. Air Force and multi-national squadrons as well as operations aboard USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) with Carrier Air Wing NINE. Detachments included the Air Force's Red Flag Exercise in Nevada, the Navy's Roving Sands Exercise in New Mexico, and the Canadian Forces' Maple Flag Exercise in Alberta. During that time VAQ-138 developed new tactics and demonstrated outstanding capabilities versus the world's most sophisticated surface to air missile systems. In 1995 the Yellow Jackets compiled over 1,800 hours of flight time and over 700 carrier landings.
While deployed to the Arabian Gulf from January to March 1996 in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, the Yellow Jackets flew combat missions over Iraq enforcing the "No-Fly Zone" below the 32nd parallel in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Armed with their tactical jamming system and HARM missiles, they provided critical support to heavily armed reconnaissance and strike packages, protecting them from Iraqi surface to air missiles. While in the Arabian Gulf, the squadron operated with Air Force, Marine Corps, British and French units as well as Carrier Air Wing NINE (CVW-9) aircraft. A highlight for the Yellow Jackets occurred in February 1996 when the squadron achieved a safety milestone of fourteen consecutive years mishap free. Over that time VAQ-138 flew over 14,000 sorties compiling over 26,000 flight hours without an accident. The squadron attained this milestone through the dedication and professional expertise of not only the Yellow Jacket aircrew, but of the maintenance technicians who consistently provided them with top-notch aircraft to fly.
After leaving the Gulf, the Yellow Jackets monitored Chinese military exercises near Taiwan with USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) and USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) battle groups. The squadron logged over 500 sorties for over 1,000 hours of flight time and completed over 550 arrested landings during their 1995-96 deployment aboard USS NIMITZ (CVN 68).
After returning from WestPac in May 1996, the Yellow Jackets continued to set the standard of excellence in electronic attack through their participation in several Air Force exercises including Coronet Sentry in Utah, ASCIET in Florida and Red Flag in Nevada. When the call went out for a squadron to respond on short notice to cover the U. S. Air Force EF-111 role in the Korean Peninsula Operational Plan, the Yellow Jackets deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakune, Japan as part of Marine Air Group TWELVE. Another deployment successfully completed, the Yellow Jackets came home for a brief ten days and headed back to sea as they began a new set of work-ups onboard USS NIMITZ (CVN 68). During that six-month period, the Yellow Jackets developed new tactics and demonstrated outstanding capabilities versus the world's most sophisticated surface-yo-air missile systems. In 1997 the Yellow Jackets compiled almost 1,900 hours of flight time and over 725 carrier landings.
While deployed to the Arabian Gulf from October 1997 to February 1998, in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, the Yellow Jackets flew more than 200 combat missions over Iraq enforcing the "No-Fly Zone" below the 33rd parallel. Armed with their tactical jamming system and HARM issiles, they provided critical support to heavily armed reconnaissance and strike packages, protecting them from Iraqi surface-to-air missiles. While in the Arabian Gulf, the squadron operated with Air Force, Marine Corps, British and French units, Carrier Air Wing ONE, attached to USS George Washington (CVN-73), as well as Carrier Air Wing NINE aircraft. The squadron logged over 500 sorties for over 1,000 hours of flight time and completed over 500 arrested landings during their 1997-98 deployment aboard USS NIMITZ (CVN-68).
A highlight for the Yellow Jackets occurred in February 1998 when the squadron achieved a safety milestone of sixteen consecutive years mishap-free. During that time, VAQ-138 flew more than 16,000 sorties compiling over 29,300 flight hours without an accident.
The last year of the millenium proved to be one of the busiest years in the history of Elecronic Attack Squadron 138. The Yellow Jackets were challenged by expected exercises in preperation for deployment, as well as combat action in the skies over Yugoslavia in support of Operation ALLIES FORCE. Deployed in early 1999 to support Operation Allied Force, as Electronic Attack Wing, Aviano, VAQs 209, 138 and 140 developed a maintenance effort to maintain 14 Prowlers to meet an around-the-clock flight schedule. Together, they achieved a 100-percent mission completion rate flying over 640 sorties throughout the conflict. These three squadrons were part of the more than one-third of the EA-6B inventory dedicated to the operation.
The Yellow Jackets spent most of the 1999 away from home. The turn of the milliennium found the Yellow Jackets on deployment with Carrier Air Wing NINE on board the USS John C. Stennis headed to points west. As is the case with most deployments, the majority of time was spent on station in the Persain Gulf, flying missions in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The 2 1/2 months spent on this mission gave the Yellow Jackets the chance to impart a great deak of their knowledge of Joint Operations learned in Italy.
The Jackets returned to Whidbey Island in July 2000. Both Airecrew and the Maintance crew began training for a det with the Wizards of VAQ-133 in Novemember 2000 to Nellis AFB in support of Operation RED FLAG.
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