'Cougars' return to Whidbey from combat in Operation Enduring Freedom

Electronic Attack Squadron 139 “Cougars” are returning home to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station next week after a five-month combat deployment aboard USS Ronald Reagan.

Four EA-6B Prowlers and 16 aviators arrive Tuesday, followed by two airlifts the next day with about 180 maintenance and support personnel.

The squadron left for deployment in late May in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, providing electronic attack support for Carrier Air Wing 14 and allied troops on the ground.

Checking into 5th Fleet on July 6, 2009, VAQ-139 completed over 40 days of straight combat operations. The maintenance department is credited for their hard work in ensuring full-mission-capable Improved Capability III EA-6B aircraft resulting in a 100 percent combat sorties completion rate. Overall, the squadron flew over 1,350 hours of which 850 were combat hours.

En route to the Gulf of Oman and after a large force strike exercise with USS George Washington, the Cougars had a three-day port call in Singapore, and later port calls to Jebel Ali and Phuket, Thailand.

During an exchange program with their sister squadron VAQ-134 “Garudas,” who are deployed in theater, VAQ-139 junior aircrew experienced the expeditionary lifestyle of this land-based squadron. More senior aircrew aided in electronic warfare coordination at the Combined Air Operations Center in Qatar, helping streamline electronic warfare coordination to joint and coalition ground forces.

Before arriving home, USS Reagan pulled into Pearl Harbor to pick up 800 “Tigers” for a six-day Tiger Cruise back to its homeport of San Diego. A Tiger Cruise is a way for friends and family of ship and aviation squadron personnel to see how an aircraft carrier works on a day-to-day basis.

In addition, 21 members of the Sea Operational Detachment from Fleet Readiness Center Northwest that provides technical support to keep the jets in top condition will return as well.

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