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'Tophatters' Tip Their Hats to 90 Years of Success

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS090626-01
Release Date: 6/26/2009 4:59:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew C. Haws, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The "Tophatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 will celebrate their 90th anniversary June 27 as the oldest squadron in the Navy.

Established in 1919 as Fighter Plane Squadron 1, the Navy's first squadron, the "Tophatters" have participated in every major Naval conflict, earning them the slogan, "The oldest and the boldest."

The squadron has deployed with 20 different aircraft carriers and flown 23 different types of aircraft, including the original Navy biplane fighter, the TS-1, and the more recent F/A-18E Super Hornet.

The "Tophatters" began carrier operations in 1926 on board the Navy's first aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV1) and are currently assigned to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and Carrier Air Wing Eleven (CVW) 11.

"We have been involved and tested in every major event in history since 1919," said Cmdr. Dave Koss, VFA-14's commanding officer. "Our success lies in our quality of people and the commitment to consistency in our performance."

Their success can be traced back through time. When the squadron participated in the invasion of North Africa during World War II, they took out 16 enemy aircraft in only four days.

During the Vietnam War, the "Tophatters" earned the respect of troops on the ground as they racked up 1,688 flying hours in air strikes against North Vietnamese military targets.

Lt. Cmdr. Tommy Locke said their significance in Naval history is a testament to their professionalism and superior performance.

"In my opinion, we are the best squadron on the West Coast," said Lock. "We have awesome jets and maintainers that make it easy for us as pilots to set our goals."

Locke said the squadron's pilots are very driven to succeed and many are excepted into special programs such as Test Pilot School and Navy Strike Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN).

The passion to do well as a "Tophatter" comes from the leadership of the squadron.

Aviation Structural Mechanic (Equipment) 1st Class (AW) Mark Rummel said he wants to instill a standard of excellence and feeling of pride in all of the new Sailors that join the squadron.

"I am definitely proud to be a part of a squadron that has existed for so many years," said Rummel. "I feel everyone who joins this squadron feels that sense of pride and achievement, and it is important to support that."

VFA-14 plans to keep becoming stronger as the squadron prepares to convert into a Joint Strike Fighter Squadron and take on the new F-35 Lightning II.

"We are proud of our past and focused on our future," said Locke.

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG), commanded by Rear Adm. John W. Miller, is comprised of Commander, CSG 11; the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68); Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11; embarked Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23; guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin (CG 65); guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson (DDG 102), USS Pinkney (DDG 91) and USS Higgins (DDG 76); the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46).

CAW 11's squadrons include the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41, "Warhawks" of VFA-97, "Sidewinders" of VFA-86, "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 6, "Black Ravens" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 135, "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 and "Wallbangers" of Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 117.

For more news from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), visit

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