Electronic Attack Squadron [VAQ-139]
The Cougars of VAQ-139 became operational on 1 July 1983 under the command of CDR Richard A. Clark. The Cougars, home based at NAS Whidbey Island, WA, participated in numerous exercises their first year of operation. They celebrated their first anniversary by winning the 1984 Battle Readiness Competition (BRC), which evaluates each squadron's combat readiness.
In 1985, the Cougars concluded two years of mishap free operations and began their inaugural deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean in USS CONSTELLATION (CVN 64) as an integral part of Carrier Air Wing FOURTEEN (CVW-14).
1986 proved to be an outstanding year for the young squadron as the Cougars won the "triple crown" of the Prowler Community by winning the 1985 CNO Safety "S", first place in the 1986 BRC, and the 1985-1986 Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet, Battle "E" Award.
During 1987, the Cougars completed four years and 6,000 hours of mishap free operations. During their second WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment, the Cougars played an important part in the successful execution of convoy escort operations through the Straits of Hormuz, actively jamming potentially hostile radars for the first time since the 1986 Libyan strikes. The Cougars extended their standards of excellence by earning a second CNO Safety "S", a Navy Unit Commendation and placed second in the VAQ BRC.
1988 saw the Cougars transition to the ICAP II Prowler with its expanded capabilities and the ability to employ the AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). The Cougars demonstrated their standards of excellence by being presented the Meritorious Unit Commendation, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Battle "E", and Safety "S" awards. The Battle "E" was the squadron's second consecutive award, making the Cougars the second squadron in the history of the VAQ community to achieve this difficult goal. 1988 concluded with the Cougars beginning their third WESTPAC/Indian Ocean cruise since commissioning.
The Cougars participated in PACEX 1989, the largest naval exercise since WWII, which took place in Adak Bay, Alaska. During the exercise, they completed more sorties than any other CVW-14 squadron, and were tasked with numerous tests and evaluations that made significant contributions to the Prowler weapon system. In late 1989, the squadron made a transition to the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62).
The Cougars started 1990 with a highly successful RIMPAC exercise. In June they deployed on their fourth WESTPAC/Indian Ocean cruise as an integral part of CVW-14 operations during Operation DESERT SHIELD, as an essential part of the first US forces responding to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The Cougars led numerous missions deep into the Persian Gulf and contributed significantly to contingency planning in anticipation of Operation DESERT STORM. The squadron regularly carried the ASQ-191 communications jammer and live AGM-88 HARM missiles on missions in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD.
The Cougars were home in 1991, maintaining a heightened level of readiness and carrier qualification in anticipation of a recall to Operation DESERT STORM. In September, they were involved in the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) / USS MIDWAY (CV 41) swap-out in Hawaii, and retirement of the USS MIDWAY (CV 41) in San Diego.
In May of 1992, the squadron participated in Roving Sands, a joint Navy/Air Force/Army exercise in Roswell, New Mexico, involving jamming against the Patriot missile. In September the Cougars traveled to Cold Lake, Alberta, to train with Canada as they prepared for William Tell '92.
In 1993 the Cougars made a transition to the USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70), and began the long work up cycle. In April, the squadron participated in Green Flag at Nellis AFB, NV, as the resident experts on HARM missile employment.
In February of 1994 the Cougars went to sea for their fifth WESTPAC/Indian Ocean cruise. They flew 139 SEAD sorties over Southern Iraq in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and maintained a perfect 100% sortie completion rate, tops in Carrier Air Wing FOURTEEN. The Cougars took the "Top Hook Award" for the cruise as a result of maintaining the highest carrier landing grades for the Air Wing.
The Cougars started 1995 with their first successful firing of a High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). They participated in Red Flag '95 at Nellis AFB, Roving Sands '95 in Roswell, NM, and the Medium Attack Advanced Readiness Program (MAARP) in Fallon, NV. The Cougars were awarded the Prowler Tactical Excellence Award for superior performance throughout 1994 at the '95 Prowler Ball. The squadron traveled to Hawaii during the "Pineapple Cruise," participating in the 50th anniversary commemorating the end of WW II and victory over Japan. For their participation, VAQ-139 received the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
In May of 1996 the Cougars began their 6th WESTPAC cruise. A Prowler escort was required for all Navy flights over Iraq enabling the squadron to complete 177 sorties over southern Iraq and actively participate in Operations SOUTHERN WATCH, DESERT STRIKE and RUGGED NAUTILUS. Operation RUGGED NAUTILUS was a joint exercise aimed at discouraging terrorism through a show of force in the Arabian Gulf while the 1996 Olympics were underway in Atlanta, GA. The Cougars earned the coveted "triple crown" for the second time by receiving the Pacific Fleet Battle "E", CNO Safety "S", and Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award for the best Prowler squadron in the U.S. Navy. They also earned the CVW-14 "Top Hook" award for the last line period of cruise.
1997 brought another carrier transition for the Cougars, this time to the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72). February took the squadron to Nellis AFB for Green Flag '97, and to Roving Sands in Roswell, NM, during April. In August, the Cougars participated in the Seattle SEAFAIR conducting flight operations in Elliot Bay under the skyline of Seattle, WA. October brought the first set of workups in preparation for WESTPAC '98 with a Carrier Air Wing FOURTEEN weapons detachment to NAS Fallon.
The Cougars deployed on their seventh Western Pacific deployment to the Arabian Gulf in June of 1998 to support OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH. While deployed on USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72), the Cougars flew 227 missions in support of OPERATION DESERT STORM with a 100 percent mission completion rate. The Cougars won their third CVW-14 "Top Hook" award durring the last line period of the WESPAC 98 deployment. Shortly after their return to homeport, the Cougars were awarded the COMVAQWINGPAC Safety "S" for the second half of 1998.
31 December 2000 marked the end of the Cougars' stay in the Arabian Gulf. The squadron's Millennium WESTPAC deployment included four months in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch (OSW). The squadron flew hard, surpassing the 2,000-hour mark for the calendar year and achieving a 100 percent sortie completion rate in support of OSW. The Cougars of VAQ-139 returned to NAS Whidbey Island with a fly-in on 07 February 2001, and the remainder of the squadron returned home via airlift the following day.
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