Strike Fighter Squadron NINE SEVEN [VFA-97]
The Warhawks of VA 97 were commissioned on June 1, 1967 and assigned to Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW 14). On May 28, 1968, they departed San Diego embarked on the USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) for the squadron's first WESTPAC deployment. Beginning in June 1968, Warhawk pilots proved themselves in combat while flying the A-7 Corsair in strikes against targets in Vietnam.
In January 1970, the Warhawks airlifted to Norfolk, Virginia and a meeting with the USS ENTERPRISE (CV 65), their new home, for her transit around the world to Alameda, California. The squadron's third deployment began in June 1971, embarked in USS ENTERPRISE. After returning to Alameda, and a short turn-around period, the Warhawks once again returned to WESTPAC in September 1972. During this deployment they were on hand off the coast of Vietnam to witness the signing of the Vietnam Peace Accords.
The squadron's fifth deployment began in September 1974. This time USS ENTERPRISE carried the men of VA 97 into the Indian Ocean and then back again to the familiar waters near Vietnam, where their mission was to protect Americans and others fleeing South Vietnam.
In March of 1976, the "Triple Crown" of Naval Aviation fell to Attack Squadron 97, consisting of the following awards: The Admiral Clarence Wade McCluskey Award as the U.S. Navy's top Attack Squadron, the CNO Aviation Safety Award and the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E". The Warhawks began their sixth deployment in July 1976 once again embarked on the USS ENTERPRISE with CVW 14. The squadron's return to NAS Lemoore in May 1977, marked the completion of five years and over 25,000 hours of accident-free flying in the A-7, making VA 97 the first squadron to achieve that mark.
The seventh deployment began in April 1978. In May of that year, the Warhawks once again embarked on the USS ENTERPRISE, logged six years and over 30,000 hours of accident-free flying.
In November 1979, the Warhawks began their eighth deployment, embarked on the USS CORAL SEA (CV 43). They spent most of this deployment on "Gonzo Station" off the southern coast of Iran before returning home in June of 1980.
Long deployments had become almost routine for the Warhawks as they boarded the USS CORAL SEA for their ninth deployment in August 1981. In March 1983, they sailed with the USS CORAL SEA around the world for their tenth deployment.
The Warhawks returned to NAS Lemoore and after completing the usual turn-around and work-ups prepared for what would be their eleventh deployment. This time the squadron departed Alameda in October 1984, embarked on the USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70), the U.S. Navy's newest carrier. The Warhawks participated with CVW 15 in FLEETEX 85, involving five carrier battle groups and sixty-five ships from various countries.
The twelfth deployment began in August 1986 and added a number of new achievements to the long list. The Warhawks operated with the USS CARL VINSON above the Aleutian Island Chain, in the Bering Sea, both on the way to WESTPAC and on the return trip. The squadron returned for another homecoming celebration in February 1987.
The thirteenth deployment began in June 1988 and included support of EARNEST WILL convoys in the Gulf of Oman and the Straits of Hormuz. The year ended with the Warhawks winning the Battle Efficiency Award. The 1989 LTJG Bruce Carrier Memorial Award for Maintenance Excellence and the CNO Aviation Safety "S" were awarded to the Warhawks following their fourteenth cruise.
1990 was a notable year in Warhawk history as they completed their fifteenth and last WESTPAC deployment in the A-7 Corsair. Departing Alameda in February, the CARL VINSON/CVW 15 team participated in "Team Spirit 90" over and around Korea. The Warhawks set new records for aircraft availability and performance returning the Corsairs to Lemoore for the last time in July 1990.
1991 was a transition year for the Warhawks involving F/A-18 Hornet training for all pilots and maintenance personnel with Strike Fighter Squadron 125. That summer, the squadron flew to Norfolk, VA with Carrier Air Wing 15 and brought the USS KITTY HAWK "Around the Horn" after its SLEP, Service Life Extension Program. During the mini cruise, exercises were flown with the Venezuelan and Argentine Air Force.
As 1992 arrived, the Warhawks found themselves heavily immersed in workups for their fall WESTPAC deployment. During the cruise, the squadron supported UNITED NATION FORCES by participating in operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Iraq as well as operation RESTORE HOPE in Somalia. The Warhawks arrived back in Lemoore in May of 1993 and after only one month off began preparations for the 1994 WESTPAC deployment. In June 1994, the Warhawks began their second Hornet cruise and seventeenth overall. This was their last cruise as a member of CVW 15.
In October 1995 the Warhawks joined Carrier Air Wing 11. The squadron departed Lemoore on October 11, 1996 for WESTPAC '96-'97. During cruise the squadron was awarded the 1996 COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E", the 1996 LTjg Bruce Carrier Award for maintenance excellence, and the 1996 Scott Kirby Award for ordnance excellence, as well as the Carrier Air Wing 11 "Top Hook" award.
In January 1998 the Warhawks began work-ups for WESTPAC '98-'99. Following two training detachments to NAS Fallon and three at-sea periods including RIMPAC 1998, the Warhawks departed on November 9, 1998 for WESTPAC. The cruise took them to the Persian Gulf where they participated in Operation Desert Fox and supported the United Nations sanctions against Iraq by patrolling the No Fly Zone.
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