Commercial Shipping joins Largest International Naval Exercise

This year’s International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) was more than just the clearing and disposing of inert mines, it also featured Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

MSO are critical to the free flow of trade and keeping the sea lanes open and free of dangers. To be proficient at MSO, as in all aspect of life, practice makes perfect. The MSO portion of IMCMEX includes drills to protect commercial merchant ships transiting dangerous corridors. International navies work with commercial shipping representatives to coordinate naval escorts through high-risk shipping lanes. Escort ships (including coastal patrol ships), embarked security personnel, and visit, board, search and seizure teams form the core of these operations.

ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 9, 2014) USS Mitscher (DDG-57) and ships participating in the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) escort a merchant ship during a training evolution to protect commercial shipping. With a quarter of the world's navies participating, including 6,500 Sailors from every region, IMCMEX is the largest international naval exercise promoting maritime security and the free-flow of trade through mine countermeasure operations, maritime security operations, and maritime infrastructure protection in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and throughout the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/Released)

ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 9, 2014) USS Mitscher (DDG-57) and ships participating in the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) escort a merchant ship during a training evolution to protect commercial shipping. With a quarter of the world’s navies participating, including 6,500 Sailors from every region, IMCMEX is the largest international naval exercise promoting maritime security and the free-flow of trade through mine countermeasure operations, maritime security operations, and maritime infrastructure protection in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and throughout the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/Released)

The protection of commercial shipping and safe transit operations are a critical shared interest that transcends typical geopolitics, which is reflected by the participation of more than 30 merchant vessels from more than ten major civilian shipping companies in this year’s MSO maneuvers.

Shipping industry representative, Alex Walker, shared how important a practiced, well-oiled working relationship between militaries and the shipping industry is to worldwide commerce.

“The shipping industry is pleased to participate with the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and coalition forces for this important exercise. It is vital to all our industry members that we participate in these maneuvers that allow us to practice with participating navies in order to help ensure the safety of our mariners and to keep sea lanes open.”

This year’s IMCMEX has included a broader and deeper level of participation from the merchant shipping industry, including individual shippers as well as larger shipping companies. Walker believes that this is due to the fact that both military and civilian mariners recognize the importance of mutual cooperation and training opportunities to enhance security of sea lanes.

“Working in tandem with our military partners provides the industry a rather unique opportunity to gain knowledge and learn from the participating navies’ expertise. Many new shipping representatives have chosen to take part in this year’s exercise because they are eager to avail themselves of this technical expertise,” said Walker.

This marks the second time in which representatives from the merchant and civilian shipping industry participated in IMCMEX maneuvers. The first time shipping industry representatives were active members of MSO exercises was during IMCMEX 13, where only a handful of civilian shipping personnel took part. This year, the number increased to 500 civilian mariners, and 50 shore-based staff.

In addition to the 30 ships from ten different companies, seven distinct flag states (including Bahamas, Greece, Hong Kong, Isle of Man/UK, Liberia, Marshall Islands, and United States) were represented in the exercises. These merchant companies and the military navies participating in the maneuvers also had the benefit of four “Company Emergency Support Centers” located in Bahrain, Dubai, Norfolk, and London to lend operational support. Walker also said that he felt these additions added depth and realism to the military exercise for all participants.

MANAMA, Bahrain (Nov. 3, 2014) British Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Richard Greenacre, safety of navigation information coordinator, presents a plan of action to the Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping Support (NCAGS) group. NCAGS is deployed to Bahrain in support of the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). With a quarter of the world's navies participating, including 6,500 Sailors from every region, IMCMEX is the largest international naval exercise promoting maritime security and the free-flow of trade through mine countermeasure operations, maritime security operations, and maritime infrastructure protection in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and throughout the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Mui/Released)

MANAMA, Bahrain (Nov. 3, 2014) British Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Richard Greenacre, safety of navigation information coordinator, presents a plan of action to the Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping Support (NCAGS) group. NCAGS is deployed to Bahrain in support of the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). With a quarter of the world’s navies participating, including 6,500 Sailors from every region, IMCMEX is the largest international naval exercise promoting maritime security and the free-flow of trade through mine countermeasure operations, maritime security operations, and maritime infrastructure protection in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and throughout the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Mui/Released)

“Overall, merchant shipping representatives believe exercises like this year’s IMCMEX offer a low cost, high impact opportunity for truly strengthening relationships between mariners, military and civilian alike,” said Walker. “IMCMEX allows navies to work aboard industry ships, while civilian merchants are allowed to practice [MSO] maneuvers they would not normally have an opportunity to perform.”

The increase in participation from the shipping industry has been a welcome development this year for Cmdr. Clement Wong, officer in charge, Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) here in Bahrain.

During the exercise, NCAGS acts as the link between the international naval forces and commercial shipping. NCAGS maintains support of the maritime environment by helping to resolve any potential conflicts between Navy operations and merchant shipping.

“NCAGS serves as an important bridge between naval forces and the shipping industry,” said Wong. “Ensuring safety of shipping lanes and freedom of navigation is at the center of what we do. We are so pleased that an increased number of commercial ships have chosen to participate in this year’s exercises, as it reflects the importance the industry has placed on maritime security.”

Eighty Sailors from 40 U.S. Navy Reserve units are in Bahrain to support this year’s IMCMEX, many of whom belong to one of six NCAGS units.

MSO, when performed in conjunction with Maritime Infrastructure Protection (MIP) and Mine Countermeasures (MCM) operations, comprises the concept of “port-to-port” protection of shipping and commerce from its origin point to its destination. Separately, each of these mission areas are potentially susceptible to failure as their required area of expertise is high, but limited in capacity and scope. However, when joined together these components form a formidable defensive capability, devised of a variety of international forces and capable of protecting shipping from violent extremist threats.

With a quarter of the world’s navies participating including 6,500 Sailors from every region, IMCMEX is the largest international naval exercise promoting maritime security and the free-flow of trade through mine countermeasure operations, maritime security operations, and maritime infrastructure protection in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and throughout the world.

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Over 30 Merchant Ships Participate in Naval Mine Countermeasure Exercise

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130521-N-PV215-078 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (May 21, 2013) – Combined Task Force 521 conducts convoy escort operations with a large natural gas tanker during International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 (IMCMEX). With a quarter of the world’s navies participating including 6,500 Sailors from every region, IMCMEX is the largest international naval exercise promoting maritime security and the free-flow of trade through mine countermeasure operations, maritime security operations, and maritime infrastructure protection in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and throughout the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bryan Blair/Released)

Greetings, Readers. In addition to the clearing and disposing of inert mines, this year’s International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) incorporates Maritime Security Operations (MSO), which includes drills to protect commercial merchant ships transiting dangerous corridors. International navies are working with commercial shipping representatives to coordinate naval escorts through high-risk shipping lanes. Escort ships (including coastal patrol ships), embarked security personnel, and visit, board, search and seizure teams form the core of these operations.

The protection of commercial shipping and safe transit operations are a critical shared interest that transcends typical geopolitics, which is reflected by the participation of more than 30 merchant vessels from over five major civilian shipping companies in this year’s MSO maneuvers.

A key component of MSO are the Reserve Component Sailors from the Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS), who coordinate these important military-civilian maneuvers here in the NAVCENT Area of Responsibility. During the exercise, NCAGS acts as the link between the international naval forces and commercial shipping. NCAGS maintains support of the maritime environment by helping to resolve any potential conflicts between Navy operations and merchant shipping. It is also unique because it is manned solely by reserve Sailors.

The number of commercial merchant ships participating in this year’s maneuvers has quadrupled from last year’s MSO exercises during IMCMEX. This increase in participation from the shipping industry has been a welcome development for Cmdr. Clement Wong, the officer in charge of NCAGS here in Bahrain during this year’s IMCMEX.

“NCAGS serves as an important bridge between naval forces and the shipping industry,” said Wong. “Ensuring safety of shipping lanes and freedom of navigation is at the center of what we do. We are so pleased that an increased number of commercial ships have chosen to participate in this year’s exercises, as it reflects the importance the industry has placed on maritime security. ”

Eighty Sailors from 40 U.S. Navy reserve units are on-hand in Bahrain to support this year’s IMCMEX, many of whom belong to one of six NCAGS units.

MSO, when performed in conjunction with Maritime Infrastructure Protection (MIP) and Mine Countermeasures (MCM) operations, comprises the concept of “port to port” protection of shipping and commerce from its origin point to its destination. Separately, each of these mission areas is potentially susceptible to failure as their required area of expertise is high, but limited in capacity and scope. However, when joined together these components form a formidable defensive capability – devised of a variety of international forces–capable of protecting shipping from violent extremist threats.

With a quarter of the world’s navies participating including 6,500 Sailors from every region, IMCMEX is the largest international naval exercise promoting maritime security and the free-flow of trade through mine countermeasure operations, maritime security operations, and maritime infrastructure protection in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and throughout the world.

Navy Marine Mammal Program participates in IMCMEX

Greetings Readers. A new and exciting component for this year’s International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) has been the addition of specially trained marine mammals as an innovative mine hunting and maritime security force. These well cared for animals introduce a unique and effective program for the protection of ships and harbors. Sea lions from this program recently displayed their capabilities during tours provided to distinguished visitors including U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander, U.S. Central Command, and Vice Admiral John W. Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, and dozens of international news media representatives during IMCMEX’s media day.

“Part of our comprehensive approach to IMCMEX this year is the inclusion of Marine Mammal Systems – with their abilities to operate in highly-cluttered environments and deep depths in support of discovery, marking, and recovery of persons or objects of interest,” said Miller.

ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 04, 2014) Jabba, a Navy Marine Mammal Program California sea lion, waits for his handler to give the command to conduct training aboard USS Ponce (LPD 15) as part of the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). IMCMEX includes navies from 44 countries whose focus is to promote security through mine countermeasure operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and throughout the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Alex Cornell du Houx/Released)

ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 04, 2014) Jabba, a Navy Marine Mammal Program California sea lion, waits for his handler to give the command to conduct training aboard USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) as part of the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). IMCMEX includes navies from 44 countries whose focus is to promote security through mine countermeasure operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and throughout the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Alex Cornell du Houx/Released)

A part of the Navy for over 50 years, this special program based in San Diego is known as the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP). It incorporates bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions to detect and defend against mines and enemy swimmers. This once highly secret program only became declassified in the 1990s.

NMMP conducts training in the San Diego Bay plus off the coast of the Pacific Ocean and provides constant swimmer interdiction security at the Trident Submarine Bases in Kings Bay, Ga., and Bangor, Wash. There are a total of five marine mammal teams with each team trained for a specific type of mission. For IMCMEX, NMMP is demonstrating its marine mammal expeditionary swimmer interdiction system (Team MK6) and mine recovery system (Team MK5). Most NMMP teams can be deployed with 72 hours notice by ship, aircraft, helicopter, or land vehicle operations around the world.

Relevant History

Examples of operational NMMP animals in action include mine-clearance dolphins deployed to the Arabian Gulf during the Iraq War in 2003. As part of the Navy Special Clearance ONE, these dolphins, along with divers and unmanned underwater vehicles, helped clear the port of Umm Qasr of mines so that Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Galahad (L3005) could dock and provide humanitarian aid supplies.

MK6 uses both dolphins and sea lions as patrols to protect harbor installations and ships against unauthorized seaborne intruders. MK6 was first operationally deployed with dolphins during the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1975, in Bahrain from 1986 to 1988, and again from 2003 through 2005. When an enemy diver or seaborne intruder is detected by a sea lion such as Jabba (pictured), the animal attaches a cuff to one of the enemy’s limbs, usually a leg. This device is attached to a line leading to a Navy patrol boat that can then reel in the diver for apprehension. This procedure was a particularly exciting demonstration as part of this year’s IMCMEX. While the animals depend on their superior underwater senses and swimming ability to defend against counterattacks, the explicit intent of this procedure is to avoid attacking the intruder versus capturing them via human intervention. The animals are trained to detect all swimmers in an area of concern and to report back to their human handlers.

NMMP is one of several new technologies and programs on display for this year’s IMCMEX. Based on the positive responses from observers and participants, utilization of these animals will garner continued attention and interest.

Meet Forward Presence’s Freshest Face: Coastal Patrol

We needed a fresh face here in the office and asked our Collateral Duty Public Affairs Officer (CDPAO) from the USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) to write on something in the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility. Lt. j. g. Marycate Walsh witnessed the arrival of two more PCs here in Bahrain and I tasked her to write on it. So needless to say, with my leadership and guidance, this is a great blog.

-THE Lt.


 

This week two Cyclone- class patrol ships, the USS Monsoon (PC 4) and USS Hurricane (PC 3), arrived pier side in Bahrain, completing the Naval Station’s 10-ship fleet. The vessels traveled from Little Creek, VA, on a heavy lift vessel.

In recent years the number of Arleigh-Burke class guided missile Destroyers (DDG) deploying to the Arabian Gulf has decreased, making way for their compact, 179ft brothers. PCs are highly maneuverable and can reach speeds of over 35 knots. In the tight, densely trafficked waters of the Arabian Gulf, they simply make more sense than a DDG. Now, with the addition of Monsoon and Hurricane, 10 of 13 PCs are home ported in Bahrain. The remaining three are in Mayport, FL, where they are used primarily for drug interdiction operations in the 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

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A Brief History

PCs were originally designed for Naval Special Warfare Command in the late 80’s. They are fast, reliable, and excel in low intensity environments. They were intended for use as SEAL insertion platforms, but it was soon realized that they were slightly too large to serve that purpose.

For several years the Navy loaned PCs to the Coast Guard, who used them to conduct search and rescue and maritime security operations. In 2011 the Coast Guard returned its on-loan PCs, and today the small fighting ships have emerged as the smartest platform that the Navy has in commission to operate in the Arabian Gulf

Mission and Capabilities-

PCs conduct maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf, and may travel as far as the Gulf of Oman. Their shallow draft allows them to venture further into littorals. They ensure the flow of commerce on international trade routes remain uninterrupted, and conduct search and rescue and drug interdiction operations.

One of the missions of PCs is to enhance international cooperation and strengthen relationships with our foreign partners. DDGs are hulking, massive vessels compared to the ships operated by our partners in the Arabian Gulf. Their size can, at times, be intimidating. PCs, a quarter the size of a DDG, are comparable in stature and capability to those of our partners in theater. This makes them the ideal platform for multi-national exercises critical to the United State’s friendships in the region.

PC’s are more than capable of defending themselves and the ships they escort. In the words of William Shakespeare “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” They are outfitted with 25mm auto cannons, grenade launchers, and .50 caliber machine guns. Most recently, Raytheon’s AGM-176 Griffin missile system has been added to the Cyclone-class patrol ship, extending it’s reach to more than three nautical miles.

(Below is a link to Griffin Missile Demonstration Video)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HC9p7_JAXMA

131007-N-QL471-106Crew Life-

Officers and Sailors with orders to a PC can expect that their time aboard will be unlike any of their other sea tours. With a crew of only 24 enlisted and four officers, all hands wear multiple hats. PC Sailors are billeted to the ship to fulfill a specific position, but will undoubtedly be involved in all aspects of shipboard life. The Operations Officer, for instance, is also the Navigator, and Culinary Specialists work hand in hand with Boatswain Mates, painting and tending to the ship’s anchor.

PCs now have permanent crews, whereas in the past crews rotated every six months. The permanent status allows those sailors stationed on a platform in Bahrain to be accompanied by their families. Because of the many ways the Navy utilizes PCs, the operational tempo is very high. PCs do not deploy for six to nine months like other naval ships, but they are underway for short stints an estimated 60 percent of the time.

Aboard a PC there is a great opportunity for Sailors to attain qualifications that would be nearly impossible on another platform. It is not uncommon for a Second or Third Class Petty Officer to conn the ship, and a First Class could have the chance to qualify as Officer of the Deck, a position of high trust and respect normally reserved for junior officers.

Patrol Craft are the perfect platform for the Arabian Gulf, assimilating seamlessly in theater thanks to their small size, high speed and maneuverability, and fire power. They are the new and exciting direction for naval forward presence.

 

Get To Know Your Fleet… CTF 56

There’s a little bit of a difference in what Commander, Task Force (CTF) 56 does compared to some of the other CTFs that are here in 5th Fleet. Normally commanders during the execution of operations are concerned about a single threat factor, such as a surface threat or air threat.

The difference for CTF 56 is that they have to look at all threat factors in an area which can include air, surface, subsurface and even cyber. That’s a lot for a single task force. To accomplish this, CTF 56 has 1300 personnel made up of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Navy divers, coastal riverine forces, Seabees, expeditionary intelligence personnel, embarked security and intelligence teams, which are the point defense for USNS ships from counter-piracy. One of its main missions though is protecting the littorals (as a broad term its anywhere ships are restricted in their ability to maneuver) and the blue water. To do this, it employs four main mission objectives. Clear, support, build and protect. First an area is cleared of explosive and physical hazards by using coastal riverine forces and EOD divers. Then it is secured for use by the United States Navy or to reinforce partner nations. Next they build battle space domain awareness. This means they’ll utilize special intelligence capabilities, counter IED exploitation capabilities, etc. to understand the threat to that area and build awareness of what those threats are. Finally they’ll protect that port or area until told to hand it over or pass it back to partner nations.

These mission objectives provide CTF 56 with the tools to get the job done as well as excel in a difficult environment. Some of the new tools that are giving CTF 56 a farther reach are the Coastal Command Boat (CCB) and the upgraded version Mark VI. These platforms provide endurance and legs to get out to areas that may not be easily accessed right now. It allows access to go farther out to sea, independent steaming types of operations to get to the areas where there is a need to clear, secure, build, and protect, and also allows more fire power. These vessels are bigger than the ones currently employed which are largely in the 30-60 ft range where the new ships are 80-90 ft in length.

What’s the best part of the CCB though? Besides being able to handle up to 12 ft seas as well as replenish and refuel at sea it’s just really cool. Check out the CCB video below!

CTF-56 will continue to ensure free access to trade routes in this area of the world.

 

– The Producer

Reservists at 5th fleet, keep them coming!

Reservists contribute an incredible amount to the readiness of our Navy. They have to put their normal lives on hold and go into an active duty setting and contribute right from the get-go. Now imagine stopping your day job, leaving your family, flying halfway across the world and entering a foreign country and experiencing the worst case of jet lag ever. That is what our reservists do each time they come out for 2-3 weeks when they come to Bahrain. I asked one of our enlisted Mass Communication Specialists to describe their experience on the first day. Enjoy!

-THE Lt.


 

BahrainLong before it’s here, it makes its presence known.

The laundry list of required training, Government Travel Credit Card activation, computer access requests, and orders submissions with fingers crossed until time-sensitive security clearances are approved.

Oh yes. It’s time for Reserve Annual Training (AT).

As a Commander once told me, on AT you could do one of two things: “You could catch up on your TV shows or you could catch up on your career.”

Motivated yet? I sure am.

 

So, for those unfamiliar with the annual training requirements for a weekend warrior gained to Naval Support Activity Bahrain, the first day looks a little something like this:

0500: Await patiently at the local airport as my Leading Petty Officer arrives bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to greet me — his new two-week addition, who conveniently arrived on his duty day.

0700: With a new set of rental car keys in hand and no idea how to navigate this foreign land, it’s time to head to the hotel just long enough to check-in to my new home (eh.. hotel) for two weeks.

0800: Now it’s time to check in with the Operational Support Office. Surely, I will not be easily identified as a Reservist, wearing my flawless Type II uniform, affectionately nicknamed “blueberries” and mirror-shiny black boots. There’s no way…Right?

Check in usually consists of handing over a copy of my orders to get stamped by the OSO, along with a copy of the travel itinerary and a Certificate of Non Availability (very important when it comes to travel claim time).

(Tip: The sooner you come to the realization that you will NOT be paid until after the END of your orders, the better. Excess spending will be contained.)

If a Reservist arrives on a Sunday, an indoctrination class, courtesy of the OSO, will be held to make assimilation no so tough.

The rest of the day is learning the ins-and-outs of the base and office workflow. If you’re lucky, you get a good grasp of your shop’s mission early on and take the initiative to become a major player in supporting it.

As Reservists, we are fortunate enough to have not one but two careers worth of knowledge to pull from. Believe it or not, a lot can be accomplished in what seems to be a short time. You’re able to brush up on your rate and learn new things, from instruction to execution about the job that you might not have learned without being on orders.

Checking out after orders is pretty much as simple as checking in: orders are stamped again, receipts with a zero balance are handed to the OSO and all borrowed property is returned.

So here I am on my last day of AT; clutching, for dear life, to a copy of my stamped orders, hotel and transportation receipts, as I prepare for a long journey back home.

The only thing I look forward to more than my own bed is a successful Defense Travel System claims submission and a good night’s rest following a zero balance on my GTCC.

No worries, Bahrain, the Reservists will return. The weekends will only suffice for so long until the time of year rolls around to suit up and make up for lost times.NAVCENTPANO

EA-6B PROWLER’s FINAL PROWL

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.

-THE Lt.

 


 

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.140617-EY632-N-061 (1)

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.

George H. W. Bush is on a scheduled deployment supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.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)