VFA-113 begins Combat Deployment
On 6 October 2017, the Stingers of Strike Fighter Squadron ONE ONE THREE embarked on the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT on a regularly scheduled deployment. Immediately after departing from San Diego, the squadron completed Carrier Qualifications (CQ) to renew the Stinger pilots’ day and night landing currency. Following CQ, the THEODORE ROOSEVELT Battle Group turned west toward the operating areas around Hawaii. Off the coast of Hawaii, the Stingers participated in day and night joint Close Air Support exercises with Marine and Air Force controllers on the ground to further hone their Air-to-Ground skills. All the while, Stingtown maintenance professionals worked amazingly hard in the harsh tropical humidity, often performing herculean efforts both in the shops and on the flight deck to keep the squadron’s aircraft in the air. All told, the Stingers completed the first two weeks with a near perfect sortie completion rate, a source of immense pride.
The Stingers continued to exemplify skill and professionalism as the squadron earned the Golden Hook Award for attaining the best overall landing grades in the Air Wing from April-August with a GPA of 3.7 and a boarding rate of 95 percent. The Golden Hook plaque is proudly displayed in the Ready Room, ideally its permanent home as the team strives to make a clean sweep of all remaining line periods throughout deployment. This was an overall squadron award and without the fantastic machines that the amazing maintenance professionals provided day in and day out, winning the Hook would not have been possible.
Toward the end of October, the THEODORE ROOSEVELT Strike Group crossed the International Dateline with no more fanfare than a call on the 1MC announcing that the clocks would roll forward 24 hours. This event also enabled those who had not yet sailed the Western Pacific to claim membership in the Domain of the Golden Dragon, a nautical tradition stemming from the perils of traversing the Pacific Ocean to the Far East.
Shortly thereafter, the Stingers, along with the rest of Carrier Air Wing SEVENTEEN (CVW-17), participated in a photo exercise over the tiny atoll of Wake Island. Although the desolate coral reef is small, the history is significant. It was home to a small US outpost that suffered a surprise Japanese attack on December 8, 1941. The Japanese operation was intended to coincide with the attack on Pearl Harbor several hundred miles to the east, but due to the same oddities of time that robbed the THEODORE ROOSEVELT Strike Group of a day on this deployment, the dates did not align with the Japanese Navy’s timing. However, on this specific day in 2017, it was a historical and reflective moment for all the Stinger team to have the rare opportunity to look upon the island and pay respects to those Americans who fell there almost 76 years ago. Moreover, that week Skipper Jope had the privilege to recognize some of the command’s outstanding Sailors. Specifically, the 4th Quarter Awardees and Sailors of the Year: Blue Jacket of the Quarter PRAN Perez, Junior Sailor of the Quarter AME3 Mathis, Sailor of the Quarter AO2 Gonzalez, Senior Sailor of the Quarter AO1 Christensen, Blue Jacket of the Year Airman Lang, Junior Sailor of the Year AO3 McClure, Sailor of the Year YN2 Gaxiola, and Senior Sailor of the Year AME1 Barrett.
Following this eventful transit, the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT pulled into Guam for its first port call of deployment, where the squadron joined the rest of the Air Wing in a much needed break from the toil and grind of life at sea. This coral island brought a welcome respite and everyone took full advantage of what Guam had to offer; from local eateries and canteens, to world-class dining, fishing, and golfing. After what many considered too short a rest, the needs of the nation called the Stingers back aboard and out to sea, headed toward their next objective.
The strike group left the humidity behind as they headed north for operations in the much colder waters of the Sea of Japan. There, the THEODORE ROOSEVELT and CVW-17 joined up with the USS RONALD REAGAN and USS NIMITZ Carrier Strike Groups (CSG), for unprecedented tri-carrier operations. Teamed up with two additional CSG Air Wings, CVW-5 and CVW-11, the three Carrier Air Wings participated in multiple Joint Large Force exercises, demonstrating the immense power and lethal capability of Naval Strike Warfare. In true Stinger fashion, the entire VFA-113 team rose to the occasion and performed valiantly throughout the exercise.
The Stingers departed the Sea of Japan in early November as they transited toward their ultimate objective in the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility. Upon arrival in 5th Fleet in early December, the Stingers flew their first combat missions in more than two years as they announced their presence with authority in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE.