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VAQ-138 Yellowjackets

 

Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron-138 was established at NAS Whidbey Island, WA on 27 February 1976 as the ninth fleet EA-6B unit.  Initially equipped with Standard-version aircraft, it would be another seven years before another squadron was formed in the Prowler community.

The new organization was christened the “Yellowjackets”, in deference to the Alma Mater of their first Commanding Officer, a Georgia Tech grad.

Although initially assigned to CVW-8 with Standards Prowlers, VAQ-138 would make its first deployment as a member of the USS Saratoga/CVW-3 team with the EXCAPversion of the EA-6B.  Typical of this period in EA-6B history, the squadron would change Air Wings after almost every deployment, joining six different CVWs over its first eight years.

By mid-1982 the “Yellowjackets” had completed four major deployments to the Mediterranean onboard the “Sara”, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). Late that year they transferred to the Pacific Fleet as a member of CVW-2 and the USS Ranger (CV-61) team. Their first trip to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean ended in February 1984 and they moved back to an east coast wing, now with CVW-8 and the USS Nimitz (CVN-68).

The ‘Jackets made their next six carrier deployments in Nimitz; one to the Med and then an “around-the-world” cruise as the vessel was transferred to the Pacific Fleet. Transfer to CVW-9 followed, as did four more trips to the Western Pacific/Indian Ocean region.

Their 1991 visit to the Persian Gulf included combat operations in the post-Desert Storm Kuwaiti theater of operations.

In April 1999 they spent three months in Iwakuni, Japan under Marine Aircraft Group-TWELVE, spelling a Marine Prowler unit as part of their Unit Deployment Program (UDP).

Another visit to WestPac followed, again in Nimitz with CVW-9, with a March 1998 return to Whidbey Island.  April 1999 saw the start of an unexpected three month visit to Aviano, Italy where they participated in combat operations over Bosnia as part of Operation Allied Force.

VAQ-138 went back to sea in January 2000, still with Air Wing NINE but now onboard the new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). A second cruise with that team led to heavy combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).  Following this deployment they moved with the wing to USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) for two deployments to WestPac and Indian Ocean areas.  As with all other squadrons at that time the “Yellowjackets” were heavily engaged in providing Electronic Warfare support for combat operations over Iraq and Afghanistan. Highlights during this period included a seven week detachment to Bagram AB in Afghanistan and three weeks on the ground at Al Asad AB in Iraq.

The squadron returned to the Stennis in 2006 and made two more deployments in that vessel.
Their July 2009 return home marked the end of VAQ-138’s EA-6B era as they soon started transition to the new Boeing EA-18G Growler.  Between 1976 and 2009 the “Yellowjackets” flew every version of the EA-6B from Standard through ICAP III. They continue as leaders in the Electronic Warfare field, now flying as a land-based expeditionary unit in support of U.S. Combatant Commanders worldwide.

Major EA-6B Deployments


Jul-Dec 1977

Saratoga

CVW-3

Med

Jan-Jul 1979

Eisenhower

CVW-7

Med

Aug ’80-Mar ‘81

Kennedy

CVW-1

Med

Jan-Jul 1982

Kennedy

CVW-3

Med

Jul ’83-Feb ‘84

Ranger

CVW-2

WP/IO

Mar-Sep ‘85

Nimitz

CVW-8

Med

Dec ’86-Jun ‘87

Nimitz

CVW-8

World

Sep ’88-Mar ‘89

Nimitz

CVW-9

WP/IO

Feb-Aug 1991

Nimitz

CVW-9

WP/IO

Feb-Jul 1993

Nimitz

CVW-9

WP/IO

Nov ’95-May ‘96

Nimitz

CVW-9

WP/IO

Nov ’96-Jan ‘97

Iwakuni JA

MAG-12

UDP

Sep ’97-Mar ‘98

Nimitz

CVW-9

WP/IO

Apr-Jun 1999

Aviano IT

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OAF

Jan-Jul 2000

J.C. Stennis

CVW-9

WP/IO

Nov ’01-May ‘02

J.C. Stennis

CVW-9

WP/IO

Jan-Sep 2003

Carl Vinson

CVW-9

WP

Jan-Jul 2005

Carl Vinson

CVW-9

World

Jan-Aug 2007

J.C. Stennis

CVW-9

WP/IO

Jan-Jul 2009

J.C. Stennis

CVW-9

WP/IO

COMMANDING OFFICERS


CDR E.A. O’Neal

Jan 1976

CDR R.L. Newman

May 1977

CDR J.R. Shepard

Jul 1978

CDR C.H. Smith

Nov 1979

CDR Denny Krieger

Jan 1981

CDR Larry Hawk

Apr 1982

CDR Larry Kaiser

Oct 1983

CDR Will Pear

Apr 1985

CDR Barney O’Connell

Apr 1987

CDR Darryl Jones

Aug 1988

CDR Walt Donovan

Feb 1990

CDR Chuck Kennard

Sep 1991

CDR Doug Swoish

Jan 1993

CDR Chauncey Mitchell

May 1994

CDR Jim Seagle

Aug 1995

CDR Steve Black

Nov 1996

CDR Todd “Zeke” Zecchin

Mar 1998

CDR “Rocky” Lee

May 1999

CDR Doug Otte

Aug 2000

CDR Richard Postera

Jan 2002

CDR Steve Beckvonpeccoz

May 2003

CDR Bill Jensen

May 2004

CDR J.K. Holden

Aug 2005

CDR “JJ” Thompson

Nov 2006

CDR Kyle “Banjo” Higgins

May 2008

CDR K.R. Campbell

May 2009