Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 78 (VAW-78)
The Fighting Escargots
The "Fighting Escargots" (a reference to the blazingly fast top speed of the E-2C Hawkeye) of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron SEVEN EIGHT, (VAW-78), was commissioned in July 1970 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia as a component of Anti-Submarine Group Reserve SEVENTY. The squadron initially operated the E-1B "TRACER" aircraft.
In September of 1975, VAW-78 became a component of Carrier Air Wing Reserve TWENTY. Two years later, the squadron transitioned to the E-2B "Hawkeye" aircraft. During March 1983, the first E-2C "Hawkeye" was introduced to the squadron and remains in use today. This milestone marked the first current tactical fleet aircraft to be utilized in the Naval Air Reserve.
The squadron has four aircraft and consists of 12 pilots, 18 Naval Flight Officers, four ground Maintenance Officers, one Intelligence Officer, and 165 Enlisted personnel. The majority of personnel are Selected Reservists who drill periodically to maintain their proficiency. A small cadre of permanent officer and enlisted personnel are on duty full time to train and administer the Selected Reservists.
Over the years, VAW-78 has maintained crisis response readiness in order to fulfill its primary mission: wartime mobilization of reserve forces. The men and women of VAW-78 keep their skills honed in much the same way as their active duty Navy counterparts. The squadron has maintained carrier qualified pilots since 1971 when the first pilots qualified onboard the USS LEXINGTON (CVT-16). Since then, pilots have re-qualified annually on many carriers including USS FORRESTAL (CV-59), USS EISENHOWER (CVN-69), USS AMERICA (CV-66), USS SARATOGA (CV-60), USS NIMITZ (CVN-68), USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65), and USS STENNIS (CVN-74). Carrier qualifications makes up only a small piece of the training matrix. The squadron has been called upon to support dozens of various Naval exercises. This tasking not only provides invaluable training to the squadron's Naval Flight Officers but also provides additional flexibility to many commanders requiring airborne early warning (AEW) support for a particular exercise.
Since the squadrons inception, the "Fighting Escargots" have not limited themselves to just Naval operations. Each year, the "Slugs" have participated in many joint exercises with each of the U.S. uniformed services. From "Operation Crossbow" in 1983 with the U.S. Marine Corps to "Lion-CAT Exercise 88" in 1988 with the U.S. Air Force to the most recent joint exercises "Roving Sands 97" and "ASCIET" in 1997 involving Army, Air Force and Marine Corps forces, VAW-78 has proved its combat readiness across the spectrum.
VAW-78 has also provided AEW support for several NATO operations as well as many South American militaries during the annual operation "UNITAS". Among the most important missions performed by the squadron are counter-narcotics operations. The "Slugs" have been deployed throughout the Caribbean working closely with the DEA, Coast Guard and Customs agencies to detect, track and interdict suspicious aircraft and ships used by narcotic traffickers. VAW-78 has been credited with millions of dollars worth of confiscated narcotics.
VAW-78 was set to be disestablished March 31, 2005.
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