Whidbey Prowlers leave carrier for Afghanistan

By Lt. j.g. Victor Dymond

Public Affairs Officer Electronic Attack Squadron 137

Special to the Whidbey News-Times

BAGRAM, AFGHANISTAN — This holiday season marks a first in the history of the EA-6B Prowler community; this year the Rooks of VAQ-137 are forward deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Rooks are flying multiple sorties a day in support of troops conducting combat operations on the ground in Afghanistan.

Currently, the squadron has a majority of its airplanes and crews, and a fourth of the squadron’s manpower deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, working nearly 18 hours a day to support tasked requirements. While the rest of the squadron is relaxing in port, the “Bagram Rooks” are busy conducting combat ops.

The Rooks were notified during their last port call in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that a detachment from the squadron was needed in Bagram and the squadron was given little time to prepare. Less than 48 hours after official notification arrived, the squadron offloaded and transported approximately 17,000 pounds of cargo and more than 30 people to Bagram, and set up spaces to catch the inbound aircraft from the ship.

“I am extremely proud. Both the mission we are conducting and the style with which we are operating is a new way of doing business for us,” said Commanding Officer Jeff Ruth. “The men and women of this squadron have done a great job pulling together and making it happen.”

VAQ-137 normally conducts combat operations from the deck of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65), and the maintenance department is accustomed to having ready access to all the necessary parts and supplies to service the venerable Prowler. However, in its current location maintenance is learning new ways to keep the jets up and running. Parts and logistics support, items normally taken for granted, are enormous obstacles the squadron is learning to overcome. “We’re meeting these challenges with great success. We strive to be prepared and keep as many spare parts on hand, because we never know when or what we are going to need,” said Maintenance Master Chief Petty Officer Bussard.

Life on Bagram Air Base itself is quite a change of pace from life aboard a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. The air base was originally erected in 1976 and was controlled by the Soviet military forces during their occupation of Afghanistan. Coalition Forces have since moved into the abandoned base and made it their own, erecting several tent cities to accommodate the hundreds of troops who temporarily call Bagram home. Everything is covered in dust, with no running potable water or guaranteed hot showers.

“It’s cold, but it’s a nice change of pace from the ship,” said Lt. Paul Tully who was one of the first Rooks in Bagram. The Rooks have quickly found themselves trading their racks and heated spaces aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) for cots, sleeping bags and tents. The climate in Bagram is quite harsh in comparison to the ship, with temperatures ranging from 50 degrees F during the day, to 20 degrees F at night, with sailors having to get dressed in coats and hats to go out and use the shower.

Despite the long hours, there have been several opportunities for entertainment. While in Bagram, the troops have been visited by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, and several celebrities touring with the USO to include comedian Robin Williams, Olympic gold medalist and wrestler Kurt Angle, NASCAR driver Mike Wallace and Fox Sports host Leeann Tweeden.

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