Jets return to Whidbey from Afghanistan today

The Electronic Attack Squadron 134 “Garudas” are returning home to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station today from Afghanistan after six months of combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Maintenance and support personnel began arriving last week. The squadron’s four EA-6B Prowler jets and 16 aviators arrive today. The land-based expeditionary squadron includes U.S. Air Force aircrews assigned from the 388th Electronic Combat Squadron assigned to Whidbey.

This was the squadron’s fifth deployment to Afghanistan. For many of its personnel, it was their third deployment in three years. Since arriving in country last May, VAQ-134 flew 636 combat missions, and logged 2,700 combat hours.

“The Garudas’ hard work, dedication and innovation have been a pleasure to witness and work with,” said Air Force Col. Patrick McKenzie, 455th Expeditionary Operational Group Commander, in a news release. “They have set the standard high and brought nothing less than excellence to the table, paving the way for future electronic warfare in Operation Enduring Freedom.”

McKenzie credited much of the success to the maintenance personnel who worked 24 hours a day in 12-hour shifts, recording over 35,200 maintenance hours under sometimes extreme summer heat to keep the Prowlers airborne. The Garudas provided critical electronic support, day and night, to ground forces engaged in direct combat with enemy forces throughout the full breadth of the country.

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