Nearly seven months after leaving the Pacific Northwest on deployment, the final eight sailors from Electronic Attack Squadron 138 arrived at Seatac International Airport on Oct. 25.
This marked the completion of the squadron’s six-month deployment to the Pacific Command Area of Responsibility, or PACOM AOR. As a Naval Expeditionary Airborne Electronic Attack Squadron, the Yellow Jackets served as a deterrent to potential adversaries in the 7th Fleet Theater, reassuring allies and partner nations of the United States’ commitment to their defense.
Primarily operating out of Misawa Air Base in Japan, VAQ-138 was able to relocate at a moment’s notice, participating in exercises and detachments around the PACOM AOR.
Deployment began March 28 as the Yellow Jackets flew their EA-18G aircraft to Japan, making stops in Hawaii and Wake Island. The squadron quickly got acquainted with Japan as they hit the ground running and flew as many as eight sorties a day.
In April, VAQ-138 relocated to Kunsan Air Base in the Republic of Korea to participate in Exercise Max Thunder, which was declared a success for the United States and Republic of Korea’s militaries. The exercise allowed for two full weeks of integration of tactics, briefing and flying.
Exercise Max Thunder not only improved proficiency but also showed the squadrons’ ability and willingness to integrate with allies successfully, according to a Navy press release Monday.
In May, the Yellow Jackets returned to Misawa. The time in Japan was spent integrating with the 13th Fighter Squadron; a United States Air Force F-16 squadron based there.
In June, VAQ-138 headed to the Philippines, marking the first time an EA-18G Growler squadron had detached to this location and tested the prospect of operating out of this part of the globe. The detachment was meant to establish a presence in the region and provide bilateral training to the Philippine Air Force.
The Yellow Jackets learned valuable lessons that will greatly contribute to the Growler and Super Hornet communities in the future, according to the Navy press release.
VAQ-138 saw more movement in July as they returned to Misawa before airfield construction sent them to Guam. Tropical storms complicated both of these movements but the squadron was successful in relocating without incident. A month on the small island was interrupted by a return to Japan before returning to Guam for exercise Valiant Shield.
Exercise Valiant Shield incorporated all aspects of the United States Navy and Air Force, giving VAQ-138 an opportunity to integrate and learn crucial lessons that enhance their ability to project power and defend U.S. interests abroad.
As September came to an end, the Yellow Jackets returned one last time to Misawa to pack and conclude the deployment, transferring the responsibilities of the PACOM AOR to VAQ-135.
Tropical storms complicated the return of VAQ-138, but the squadron returned to the United States in Anchorage, Alaska, followed by one more leg down to Whidbey Island, concluding VAQ-138’s PACOM AOR deployment.