FIT and ready

The highly-trained members of the EA-18G Growler Fleet Introduction Team are the Renaissance Men and Women of the involved process that will ultimately bring ten squadrons of the impressive new aircraft to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Known as the "FIT", the group of top brass is the arm of the Navy tasked with integrating the new aircraft into ongoing fleet operations.

"We're sort of 'jacks-of-all-trades,'" said Cmdr. Paul Jennings, the former EA-18G Fleet Introduction Team Officer. Cmdr. Derek Leney has since taken over the post.

Communication is vital to the FIT, as omnipresence and omnipotence are two attributes the team members do not possess.

"There is so much going on at NAS Whidbey," Jennings said. "We basically ensure readiness."

"Readiness" on one hand, entails constant interaction and coordination with VAQ-129, the training squadron that has the honor of being the first “Growler” squadron while continuing to support Prowler training. Aircraft testing is also ongoing, which translates to ongoing checkups for the FIT.

"We have to make sure everyone is ready at the weapons school," Jennings said. "We check on the hangar and flight line renovation projects. In business terms, we would be called ‘change facilitators’."

Now approximately three years old, the FIT comprises 15 specialized individuals ranging from lieutenants flying the F/A-18F Super Hornets, the plane from which the Growler design was derived; to a maintenance team with members almost eerily learned in their specific area.

"We've got all the different flavors of expertise," Jennings said. "Every base is covered. The community here at Whidbey is ready for this aircraft.”

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