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VAQ-135 | Homebrew / Black Ravens 1969-1984

 

VAQ-135 was established at NAS Alameda, CA on 15 May 1969 as the seventh Tactical Electronic Warfare (VAQ) Squadron in the Navy. The new unit’s core came from VAQ-130 det 43 with the first deployment being made to South East Asia during the spring of 1969 with five EKA/KA-3B Skywarriors as a member of CVW-15 in USS Coral Sea (CVA-43)

Initially called the “Homebrew”, from their radio call-sign, VAQ-135 was subsequently configured to provide three to five aircraft detachments, making ten deployments to both 6th and 7th Fleets through January 1974, when they moved to NAS Whidbey Island for transition to the EA-6B.

By now calling themselves the “Black Ravens”, VAQ-135 began its first Prowler deployment with four Standards in January 1976 as a member of CVW-2 in the USS Ranger (CV-61). 
The “Ravens” became the first unit to receive the new Improved Capability (ICAP) EA-6Bs in 1977 and moved to CVW-8 and USS Nimitz (CVN-68) for their second Prowler deployment, this time to the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean.

They moved again in late 1978, now to the CVW-15 USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) team, with which they made two more trips to the Western pacific.  On 1979 the squadron lost its Commanding Officer, CDR. Pete Rodrick, along with his crew when their EA-6B went missing in the Pacific Ocean.  This event and the impact it would have on the Rodrick family would later lead to the writing of the book The Magical Stranger, by his son Stephen, in a work that also deals with the squadron in 2008-2009.

1982 featured a Med deployment onboard the USS America (CV-66) with CVW-1. Fleet demands for Prowlers led to an exceptionally short turn-around as the Black Ravens spent less than a month in Whidbey Island before joining Nimitz and CVW-8 for another six-month deployment. 

They returned to America in late 1981 and made another trip to the Med with CVW-1 the following year.

On New Year’s Eve 1986 the squadron made a rapid deployment to the Med to join CVW-13 onboard the USS Coral Sea (CV-43), which was deployed to the Med without EA-6Bs assigned. The air wing subsequently supported strikes into Libya with the Ravens proving a critical part of Operation El Dorado Canyon.

Returning to the U.S. the “Black Ravens” moved on to Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN, beginning an association that would last for over 20 years as they would make their next 12 deployments with that organization on five different carriers. These cruises would be highlighted by combat over Iraq and Afghanistan.

The following deployment, with CVW-11 was in USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and was punctuated by electronic support for Operation Praying Mantis, which involved strikes against units of the Iranian Navy, which had been attacking shipping in the Arabian Gulf.  The “Raven’s” jamming efforts included use of the newly installed ASQ-191 interim communications jammer against Iranian forces.

Following two deployments in Enterprise the squadron moved with its Air Wing to the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), where they made three extended deployments to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

They returned to the Kitty Hawk in 1996 for another trip to West Pac and then moved again with the wing to USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) for two deployments, both of which included combat operations over Iraq and Afghanistan under Operations Desert Fox and Enduring Freedom. In 2000 the “Ravens” also made a three month expeditionary deployment to Incirlik Turkey, where they conducted combat flights as part of Operation Northern Watch.

The squadron made its last five Prowler deployments back with Nimitz, still as a member of CVW-11 with which they continued combat operations as part of the “Global War on Terror”.

VAQ-135 completed its final EA-6B deployment in March 2010 and returned to Whidbey Island for transition to the EA-18G Growler.

Major Prowler Deployments: VAQ-135

1-9/76Ranger       WP      CVW-15
11/77-7/78NimitzMed    CVW-8
5/79-2/80  Kitty HawkWP      CVW-15
4-11/81      Kitty HawkWP      CVW-15
8-10/82      America     Med    CVW-1 
11/82-5/83NimitzIO       CVW-8 
4-11/84      America     IO       CVW-1 
1-5/86Coral Sea  Med    CVW-13    El Dorado Canyon
1-7/88Enterprise  WP/IOCVW-11    Praying Mantis
9/89-3/90  Enterprise  WP/IO/LANT   CVW-11
5-11/91      Lincoln      WP/IOCVW-11
6-12/93      Lincoln      WP/IO/PG CVW-11    Southern Watch
4-10/95      Lincoln      WP/IO/PG CVW-11    Southern Watch
10/96-4/97Kitty HawkWP/IO/PG CVW-11    Southern Watch
11/98-5/99Carl VinsonWP/IO/PG CVW-11    Southern Watch, Desert Fox
5-8/00-----     Incirlik TU ----       Northern Watch  
7/01-1/02  Carl VinsonWP/IO/PG CVW-11    Enduring Freedom
3-11/03      NimitzWP/IOCVW-11    Iraqi Freedom
5-11/05      NimitzWP/IOCVW-11    Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom  
4-9/07NimitzWP/IOCVW-11    Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom  
1-6/08NimitzWP      CVW-11    
7/09-3/10  NimitzWP/IOCVW-11    Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom

WP: Western Pacific, IO: Indian Ocean, PG: Persian Gulf, LANT: Atlantic, MED: Mediterranean Sea

Commanding Officers

CDR Tom. MaxwellJul 1973 - transition to EA-6B
CDR R.T. GundermannOct 1974
CDR F.E. WilmotJan 1977
CDR M. Oetinger     Apr 1978
CDR Pete Rodrick   Jul 1979
CDR ‘Zeke’ Zardeskas  Nov 1979
CDR Denny Bird     Mar 1981
CDR Rusty Dewar   Mar 1982
CDR Rock Penfold Jul 1983
CDR Bernie HedgerAug 1984
CDR Denny Major  Feb 1986
CDR Jim Hollenbach     May 1987
CDR Jeff Harris       Aug 1988
CDR Mark Caron                    Nov 1989
CDR Al Miller           Mar 1991
CDR “Fast Eddy” Hafner Feb 1994 
CDR Vic Cerne        May 1994
CDR Clay Pinson                    Nov 1995
CDR Jerry McWithey    Feb 1997
CDR Mike “Opie” StahlApr 1998
CDR JD “Sarge” AlexanderJul 1999
CDR Steve “Kerbs: Kirby   Oct 2000
CDR Brian “Hinks” HinkleyFeb 2002
CDR “Bobo” SchneiderMay 2003
CDR Pat Walsh        Sept 2004
CDR Scott Hogan   Dec 2005
CDR TD ‘Hoolie” Reynolds Mar 2007
CDR Brent BreiningApr 2008
CDR JH ‘Tupper’ Ware Jul 2009

Insignias
The Black Ravens have used at least three insignias during their Prowler years. Approved by CNO 7 Nov. 1969.

The first one, which was adopted during their A-3 years, features a Raven with a full hook-nose profile.

Number two, introduced in 1977, softened the bird's nose features.

Number three included a feathered wing and first appeared in 1981.  It was formally approved by CNO on 20 Nov 1984.

RJM Oct 2016