Squadron returns to Whidbey after adventurous deployment

Whidbey Island Air Station welcomes home the Electronic Attack Squadron 139 “Cougars” this afternoon.

Three major worldwide operations kept the VAQ-139 “Cougars” in the forefront of news since their departure in February 2011, according to a Navy news release. Finally, after seven months aboard aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), the EA-6B Prowler squadron of about 200 personnel is returning to NAS Whidbey Island.

In March when the devastating tsunami hit Japan after a 9.0 earthquake of the Japanese coast, the aircraft carrier responded as part of Operation Tomodachi. VAQ-139 sailors created watch schedules that brought shipments of humanitarian aid from the USS Reagan to relief sites along Japan’s devastated coast.

The squadron was constantly unloading helicopters and C-2 aircraft for the moving of supplies to support the humanitarian relief effort. Crews on the flight deck and hangar bay worked tirelessly to unload new cargo, organize, stage and load new shipments of food, water and medical supplies. Squadron aircrew maintained a constant watch in the Carrier Intelligence Center, coordinating helicopter deliveries of food, water and medical equipment. The carrier’s efforts were recognized by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos and many Japanese diplomats.

VAQ-139 also supported Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom, flying 125 and 430 combat hours, respectively. Squadron Electronic Countermeasures Officers joined with Marine Tactical Electronic Attack Squadron 4 in Afghanistan to fly combat missions as both squadrons operate the Improved Capability III (ICAP) Block 4 in the EA-6B.

Surprisingly, there was time for the Cougars to relax with liberty port visits to Sasebo, Japan; Phuket, Thailand; Manama, Bahrain; Hong Kong, China; Naval Base Marianas, Guam; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

This was VAQ-139’s last deployment in the EA-6B ICAP III as they will start transition to the EA-18G Growler with VAQ-129, Fleet Replacement Squadron, shortly.

Returning with the squadron are 18 members of the Sea Operational Detachment from Fleet Readiness Center Northwest that provide technical support to keep the jets in top condition.

The fly-in of jets is set to occur today about 4 p.m., while the airlift of maintenance and support personnel will take place early Thursday afternoon.


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