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Shadowhawks return from carrier deployment

MC2 Tucker Yates
Four EA-6B Prowlers attached to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141, the “Shadowhawks”, perform a fly over upon their return to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, April 16, following a seven-month deployment aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141 returned from a seven-month deployment aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), April 16.

Over the course of the deployment, which began in September, the 200 Shadowhawks of VAQ-141 aided in the conducting of 550 sorties, of which 220, totaling 1,300 flight hours, were combat sorties in support of ground forces in Afghanistan.  The squadron’s four EA-6B Prowler aircraft and flight crews maintained a mission accomplishment rate of approximately 97 percent.

“(The combatant commanders) were pleased with our level of support. The jets we were able to fly into country all had good systems and provided exactly what they needed on the ground, when they needed it,” said Cmdr. David Bryson, VAQ-141 commanding officer.

The squadronís successes during the deployment were also contributing factors to their receipt of the Adm. Arthur W. Radford Award for excellence in Naval Aviation and the Naval Air Forces Atlantic Battle “E” for 2008.

“Those are big command-level awards that show not just how well we complete our mission, but just the quality of Sailors, how good they are at the job and working on the jets,” said Bryson.

Command Master Chief David Sligh said the Shadowhawks showed great talent on this deployment.

“They’re unique; for whatever reason we can get a box of tinker toy airplane parts and within a matter of days they somehow create “Frankenprowler.” These guys can accomplish anything any day and its been a pleasure serving with them,” he said.

Ninety Sailors from VAQ-141 earned qualifications as enlisted surface warfare specialists and enlisted aviation warfare specialists over the seven months.

“We went seven-and-a-half months ago with a lot of men and women who were young (and inexperienced); we knocked out a lot of qualifications,” said Sligh. “When you get immersed in the environment full-time, you become a part of it.”

Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class (AW/SW) Daniel Goff was one of the Shadowhawk to earn both warfare pins on his first deployment.

“I just wanted to learn as much as I could about our jets and the carrier,” said Goff. “(Now that its done) I feel great and a sense of relief. I feel I accomplished everything I needed to out there, it was long and hard, but I feel good about it.”

This return marks the final deployment on which the Shadowhawks will use the Prowler, as they will become the second operational squadron and first carrier-based squadron to transition to the EA-18G Growler.

“In some ways it’s a little bittersweet; the Prowler’s been a part of my career for the last 15 years. It’s been a great aircraft, I have thoroughly enjoyed flying it,” said Bryson. “Today, for the last ten minutes of my flight coming in, I realized this is my last ten minutes in a Prowler. It was one of those things where you kind of catch yourself, but as much as I enjoyed flying the Prowler and as sad as I am to see it go, I am just as excited about moving into the Growler.”

VAQ-141 leadership has been preparing their air and maintenance crews for the past year to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running as they begin the transition in June.

“The biggest thing for people to accept change is communication and we let them know what’s going on. They’re into it, they’re excited; the future of the Navy and this community is the aircraft coming up,” said Sligh.

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