The first time I was underway on an aircraft carrier, I was amazed at all of the different aircraft in its arsenal. One aircraft inparticular caught my eye. This one had iridescent glass around the cockpit that changed with each angle, a round nose and a long pointy refueling probe right on the nose of the plane. The plane looks like it came straight out of a Vietnam movie. The EA-6B Prowler is on its final deployment and like other aircraft before it, will be replaced with a more advanced model. I reached out to Carrier Airwing Eight commander, Capt. Dan “Undra” Cheever to get his thoughts on what this aircraft has meant to the USS George H. W. Bush Strike Group and also the Navy.
Sailors from Electronic Attack Squadron 134 (VAQ-134) are currently participating in the final carrier deployment for the Navy EA-6B Prowler, and VAQ-134 is performing above and beyond expectations during this historic combat cruise. The “Garudas” have a storied history beginning in 1969 during the Vietnam Conflict. They began flying the EA-6B Prowler in 1972.
The EA-6B Prowler has kept the Navy in the forefront of electronic attack for the last 43 years. The “Garudas” were the third squadron to receive the EA-6B and they have been leading the charge ever since. The capability of this platform has denied the enemy the use of the electromagnetic spectrum and made a difference in survivability for our Navy and Joint/Allied Forces.
The Timberwolf/Factory Team (USS George H.W. Bush and Carrier Air Wing 8) are proud to have the “Garudas” on board and are thrilled that we can actively participate as the last Prowler Air Wing to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. As part of Carrier Strike Group Two we are here to fully support the Fifth Fleet.
VAQ-134 upgraded to ICAP I (Improved Capabilities) in 1977 and to their current ICAP II in 1989 and have been employing it effectively for the last 25 years. This is a testament to the squadron, the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Electronic Attack Wing and Commander, Naval Air Force’s ability to get the most out of this asset. The EA-6B is just as relevant today as it was in 1972! This squadron has deployed on the USS Constellation (CV 64), USS Forrestal (CV 59), USS Enterprise (CVN 65), USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and now on the Nation’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). They are part of an incredible piece of Naval Aviation history.
The “Garudas” were also an expeditionary squadron from 1997 to 2009. They deployed around the world for various detachments and conflicts, to include multiple deployments to Afghanistan. The squadron has been successful thanks to the magnificent, hard-working “Garuda” Sailors, past and present, who maintain it. They are amazing and their commitment to the Navy’s mission is unmatched.
A few shining examples of the caliber of Sailor in VAQ-134 are Aircrew Survival Equiptmentman Airman Dylan Conliffe – selected as the “Avenger” of the day (named after the aircraft that President George H.W. Bush flew in WWII), Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Matt Rodriguez – a long time “Garuda” and professional maintainer, Maintenance Master Chief Dennis Sionson, who leads the current group of professional maintainers, and Lt. Chad Walker and Lt. Cmdr. David Elias who represent the remarkably talented aircrew.
June 9 was the squadron’s Change of Command whereupon Cmdr. Aaron Buckles was relieved by Cmdr. Chris Jason. Cmdr. Jason and new Executive Officer Cmdr. Christofferson will oversee the aircraft transition of the squadron to the EA-18G Growler and will undoubtedly continue the “Garuda” track record of excellence!
-Capt. Dan “Undra” Cheever, Carrier Airwing Eight Commander on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77)