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'Black Ravens' Patrol the Skies Over Iraq

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050808-07
Release Date: 8/8/2005 9:33:00 AM

By Journalist 2nd Class Kris Allen, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

USS NIMITZ, At Sea (NNS) -- Four officers from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 had the distinction of being the first air crew from the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Strike Group to fly over Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

CVW-11 Deputy Commander Capt. David Woods, Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Middleton; Lt. Nathan Schneider and Lt. Doug White, all from Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 135, crewed an EA-6B Prowler from the “Black Ravens” during the first mission over Iraq July 14.

Nimitz is in the region conducting maritime security operations (MSO), as well as providing direct support to U.S. and coalition ground forces in Iraq.

MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

For Schneider, the pilot of the aircraft, this was his first combat mission and first time flying over Iraq.

“After four-and-a-half years training, it’s good to get out and do a mission,” he said. “It’s awesome supporting the guys on the ground. Hopefully, we’re making a difference and saving some lives.”

The “Black Ravens” have been flying missions since Nimitz departed San Diego, but this flight was different from the usual 90-minute trips they made before the ship entered the Persian Gulf.

“It felt like we’d finally arrived and started doing what we’d been training for,” said White.

According to White, VAQ-135’s mission will be direct support of troops that are on the ground. White said during missions, they’re looking at the ground to see if there are any tracers or explosions.

The officers who flew the first mission aren’t the only ones who are proud of the squadron’s accomplishment. Maintainers back on Nimitz’ deck also realize the importance of the squadron’s missions while in the Gulf and are glad to be doing their part to keep the aircraft mission ready at all times.

“I’ve watched this war since before I joined the Navy,” said Aviation Machinist’s Mate Airman Christian Faulkner, a VAQ-135 plane captain. “Now I’m here launching jets that are taking part in it, and its great!”

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