VAQ-129 CO sweetens February’s ANA meeting

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Craig, right, VAQ-129’s commanding officer, talks with audience members following his Feb. 14 presentation at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Officers’ Club. Melanie Hammons/Whidbey Crosswind

Association of Naval Aviation Whidbey Island Squadron 40 members and guests enjoyed a quick course in the role naval aircraft have played in the Middle Eastern theater at Tuesday’s meeting at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Officers’ Club.

The presentation, given by Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Craig, commanding officer of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, proved a great follow-up to January’s meeting, which featured none other than Craig’s dad, a B-52 pilot in Vietnam, retired Air Force Col. Reed Craig.

Member Dave Weisbrod delivered the intelligence briefing, a regular feature of ANA meetings.

“For a number of months now, not only the United States, but the world at large, has been focused on concerns about Iran,” said Weisbrod, showing a powerpoint timeline of events in that region.

Weisbrod said that just this month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described a “strong likelihood” of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear capabilities in April, May or June.

Following the intel briefing, Scott Hornung, ANA’s president, introduced Cmdr. Craig.

“This has been a unique opportunity to gain a father-son perspective,” said Hornung, alluding to Col. Craig’s January presentation.

“Scott told me to make sure that I wished the ladies here today a happy Valentine’s Day,” said Craig. “Hopefully, the gentlemen will make sure to remember the day with roses, or in some other special way.”

Craig described the operational objectives of VAQ-129’s mission. He also related his experiences while with VAQ-132 during several operations in the Middle East, including New Dawn, Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector.

As both a participant and eyewitness to the Navy’s transition from the EA-6B Prowler aircraft to the EA-18G Growler,  Cmdr. Craig next gave a rundown on the differences in the operational capabilities of the two. (For a more in-depth discussion of his perspective, please refer to next week’s issue of the Whidbey Crosswind.)

It’s no surprise that for many who attend ANA meetings, aviation is more than just an interest, it’s a passion. Such is the case with retired Navy Capt. Bill Young, who helped form the A-3 Skywarrior Whidbey Memorial Foundation, which seeks to place a restored A-3 on permanent display at the Ault Field Road entrance of NAS Whidbey.

Young commented that the fundraising, work and efforts toward that goal are ongoing.

“It continues on,” said Young. “We’re still planning on an October, 2012 time frame as far as moving the plane to its permanent site.

“We’re even optimistic that it could end up there a little sooner,” he said, cautioning that there is still a lot of work to be done on the plane in the meantime.

The next meeting of the ANA will be at 11:30 on March 13 at NAS Whidbey Island’s Officers club.