By Lt. Eric Holler, VAQ-138
Amid changes with the national budget, Electronic Attack Squadron 138 (VAQ-138) maintained their readiness for deployment to go at a moment’s notice. That notice came at the end of April and the Yellow Jackets were in place by the first of May; expeditiously moving a squadron of 166 personnel, five aircraft and support equipment.
The overseas deployment site provides VAQ-138 a regionally advantageous location, allowing them to integrate seamlessly with operations already in progress and provide the essential coverage that can only be brought by the EA-18G Growler.
Without the range to make the trip on their own, the VAQ-138 jets were escorted by Air Force KC-135 refueling tankers. The Growlers had to plug into the tankers multiple times during each leg to ensure they would have enough fuel to reach a safe landing area in the event of an emergency. Despite the inherent risk of the operation, the transit across the Atlantic was executed without any problems. (Continued … )
Along with the KC-135’s and VAQ-138 Growlers, a C-17 from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska made the trip to Southwest Asia. The C-17 was used to follow the Yellow Jacket jets to each stopover point; carrying spare parts, maintainers, and additional aircrew.
During the trip Yellow Jacket personnel had the opportunity to visit some of the local sites in Washington D.C., Portugal and Sicily during one to two day stopovers. Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 3rd Class Ryan Grillier, currently on his first deployment, said that he was impressed by the old architecture in the city of Catania; a city in Sicily that he had the opportunity to visit on one stopover.
While a small portion of the squadron was moving five jets around the world, the rest were busy getting things set at the new site. Coordinating office and maintenance spaces, living quarters, security clearances, computer networks and transportation became their daily life. Thanks to the efforts of the Yellow Jackets already in place, the arrival of the squadron’s aircraft at the new deployment site didn’t feel much different than returning from a flight out of Whidbey Island.
After a week of separation it was a warm welcome seeing squadron mates. Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class John Pampaloni spoke about getting to the deployment site ahead of the jets.
I’m usually on the [C-17] and when you show up its go, go, go immediately, said Pampaloni. “This time it was nice to have a few days to set everything up.”
After a brief period of base and local area familiarization, VAQ-138 is 100 percent dug in and ready to operate. Now, figuratively on the doorstep, the Yellow Jackets remain ready to execute wherever and whenever called upon.