VFA-151

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Strike Fighter Squadron 151
VFA-151Logo.png
VFA-151 Insignia
Active August 6, 1948
Country  United States of America
Branch United States Navy Seal United States Navy
Type Fighter/Attack
Role Close air support
Air interdiction
Aerial reconnaissance
Part of Carrier Air Wing 9
Garrison/HQ NAS Lemoore
Nickname "Vigilantes"
Motto "Go Ugly Early"
Colors Black and Yellow
Mascot "Old Ugly"
Engagements Korean War
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom
Commanders
Current
commander
CDR Kurt "Taco" Bohlken
Aircraft flown
Fighter F/A-18E Super Hornet

The Strike Fighter Squadron One Five One Vigilantes (VFA-151) are a United States Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore. They are a part of Carrier Air Wing 9 and are attached to the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). Their tail code is NG and their radio callsign is "Switch".

Squadron Insignia and Nickname[edit]

The squadron's first insignia.

The squadron’s first insignia was approved by CNO on 9 August 1949, and consisted of a blue helmeted knight and a white shield. The squadron also adopted the nickname "Flashers" in 1949. The current insignia was approved on 26 May 1955. The squadron changed its nickname to "Vigilantes" in 1959, symbolizing the unit's "around-the-clock" vigil of readiness. [1]

History[edit]

Four distinct U.S. Navy squadrons have been designated VF-151. The first was established, and then disestablished, in 1945. The second was established at VF-153 in 1945 and eventually became VFA-192. The third was originally established as VF-65 in 1951. This squadron was eventually disestablished as VA-23 in 1970. The fourth squadron to be designated VF-151 was established as VF-23 in 1948, eventually became VFA-151, and is the main subject of this article.

1940s[edit]

squadron F4U-5 Corsair on the deck of Wright (CVL 49)

Strike Fighter Squadron 151 (VFA-151) was originally established as Fighter Squadron 23 (VF-23) at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia on August 6, 1948. The squadron was attached to Air Group Two aboard the USS Midway (CV-41) and flew the F4U-5 Corsair and F6F-5P Hellcat. By April 1949, the squadron flew the F4U-4 Corsair exclusively, embarking with that aircraft for a Mediterranean Sea deployment from May-Dec 1949.

1950s[edit]

A VF-23 F9F-2 barricades aboard Boxer.

In August 1950, the squadron moved to NAS Alameda, California, and then deployed for the first of three cruises in support of the Korean War. On 15 Sep 1950, the squadron flew combat missions from USS Boxer (CV-21) in support of the amphibious landings at Inchon, Korea. Upon their return to the States, the squadron relocated to NAS Moffett Field in Nov 1950. The squadron transitioned to the jet age in Jan 1951, flying the straight-wing F9F-2 Panther on their second Korea deployment from USS Princeton (CV-37). During the third Korean War deployment, while flying from USS Essex (CV-9) in Aug 1952, squadron aircraft participated in joint operations with the U.S. Air Force, striking targets in Pyongyang and the surrounding area.

The squadron transitioned to the F2H-3 Banshee in March 1953 and adopted a new role as an all-weather fighter squadron. In Mar 1954, the squadron was deployed to the western Pacific aboard Essex when the carrier was ordered to operate off the coast of Vietnam during the Viet Minh’s assault against the French at Dien Bien Phu.

In Dec 1956, VF-23 transitioned to the F4D-1 Skyray, and in Aug and Sep 1958, the squadron flew sorties from USS Hancock (CV-19) in the Taiwan Straits after the Chinese Communists bombarded Quemoy Island.

A F3H-2 of VF-151 on the USS Coral Sea (CV-43)

VF-23 deployed to the WestPac aboard USS Hancock (CV-19) in 1958 and again 1959. The squadron, now known as the Vigilantes, transitioned to the F3H-2 Demon in Jan 1959. A month later, the squadron was redesignated Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED FIFTY ONE (VF-151) on 23 February 1959 and assigned to Carrier Air Group 15.

1960s[edit]

In Jul 1961, the squadron moved homeports to NAS Miramar and made the first of three WestPac deployments aboard USS Coral Sea (CV-43). In Jan 1964, the squadron transitioned to the two-seat F-4B Phantom and deployed for its first Vietnam War cruise on 7 Dec 1964. During the eleven month combat deployment, the squadron flew nearly 1500 combat sorties, including support of the 1965 Operation Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against military targets in North Vietnam. The Vigilantes returned to Southeast Asia on their second Vietnam deployment in December 1966 aboard USS Constellation (CV-64).

VF-151 F-4B landing on the USS Coral Sea. This aircraft was lost on 29 Dec 1967.

The squadron made its third deployment of the war aboard USS Coral Sea from July 1967 to April 1968. On October 24, 1967 the squadron's commanding officer, CDR C.R. Gillespie, and his RIO, LTJG R.C. Clark, were shot down by a surface-to-air missile over North Vietnam. CDR Gillespie became a POW and was not released until May 1973. LTJG Clark died in captivity.[2] In Mar 1968, Coral Sea, with VF-151 embarked, operated on station off the coast of Korea following the capture of USS Pueblo (AGER-2) by North Korea. The squadron deployed again in Sep 1968 with Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) aboard Coral Sea again following a short turn-around period. The squadron made its fifth combat deployment of the war in September 1969 aboard Coral Sea and flew more than 2100 combat sorties, more than any other Navy squadron in FY1970.

1970s[edit]

The squadron deployed on its sixth combat cruise of the war in April 1971 with Carrier Air Wing 5 (CVW-5) aboard Midway, flying 1012 combat sorties. In April 1972, the squadron deployed on its seventh and final deployment of the Vietnam War. During this deployment, the squadron spent 205 continuous days in combat flight operations, including support of Operation Linebacker I, the bombing campaign designed to disrupt supplies to the North Vietnamese. The squadron's 205 days of continuous combat flight operations was the longest period of combat flight operations in the history of the Vietnam War. From 1965 to 1973, the Vigilantes participated in every major operation of the Vietnam War. The Vigilantes made more combat deployments (7) and spent more time on the line (927 days) than any other carrier based unit - including the longest deployment of the Vietnam War (331 days on USS Coral Sea) and the longest line period of the Vietnam War (208 days on USS Midway). [3]

The Vigilantes returned to San Francisco, California from Vietnam in March 1973 and transitioned to the F-4N variant of the Phantom. On 11 September 1973, USS Midway with VF-151 aboard, departed the US for the last time for many years to come. The ship arrived at its new port of United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan and the squadron at its new home of NAF Atsugi, Japan on 5 October. The ship was met by a group of Japanese demonstrators, railing against the home porting of a US “Man-of-War” in Japanese waters.

On 1 April 1975, the squadron departed Atsugi and headed for Yankee Station for what would ultimately be called Operation Frequent Wind or the evacuation of Saigon as the country fell to the communists. The ship took aboard Marine helicopters as it passed Okinawa and offloaded them when in the vicinity of Cubi Point in the Philippines. The ship then headed for the coast of Vietnam and the squadrons flew Combat Air Patrols in support of “Buffalo Hunter” missions as the North Vietnamese moved quickly South through South Vietnam.

In Aug–Sept 1976, the squadron conducted flight operations near the Korean Peninsula following the murder of U.S. military personnel in the Korean DMZ by North Koreans.

In Aug 1977, the squadron transitioned to the F-4J variant of the Phantom. In 1978 the squadron was named the top TACAIR squadron in CVW-5 and received the Chief of Naval Operations Safety "S" award. The squadron made three Indian Ocean deployments between 1979 and 1980. During the 1979 Midway, with VF-151 embarked, deployed to the Gulf of Aden following the outbreak of fighting between North and South Yemen and the fall of the Shah of Iran. During the 1980 deployment following the Iranian seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran, Midway, with VF- 151 embarked, proceeded to the Gulf of Oman and remained on station until relieved in early February 1980.

1980s[edit]

An F-4B intercepts a Soviet TU-95 Bear.

In Dec 1980, the Vigies transitioned to the F-4S variant of the Phantom.

On March 24, 1986, the squadron flew off USS Midway for the last time as VF-151. This event also marked the end of an era, as it was the last flight of the F-4 Phantom II from the deck of an aircraft carrier. The squadron reported to NAS Lemoore, California for transition to the new F/A-18 Hornet. VF-151 was one of only two F-4 fighter squadrons to transition to the F/A-18 and be redesignated a strike fighter squadron. The squadron was re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron 151 (VFA-151) on June 1, 1986. In November of that year, the squadron returned to USS Midway and NAF Atsugi.

In Sept 1988 during the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, the squadron was embarked on Midway and operating in the Sea of Japan to demonstrate U.S. support for a peaceful Olympics. In Dec 1989, Midway, with VFA-151 embarked, maintained station off the coast of the Philippines during an attempted coup in that country.

1990s[edit]

The Vigilantes deployed aboard Midway in October 1990 in support of Operation Desert Shield. Hostilities escalated in Iraq, and on January 17, 1991 the squadron participated in the initial air strikes of Operation Desert Storm. During the campaign, the squadron dropped more than 817,000 pounds of ordnance on key targets in Iraq, Kuwait, and the Northern Persian Gulf.

In August 1991, the squadron left Japan aboard USS Midway bound for NS Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the MIDWAY's last underway period. The Vigilantes then transferred to CVW-2, and moved to NAS Lemoore, California. In February 1993 the squadron transitioned to upgraded F/A-18C Hornet Lot XV aircraft. In May 1993, the Vigilantes embarked on USS Constellation (CV-64) and brought her from the East Coast around Cape Horn South America to her new homeport in San Diego, California.

The squadron contributed to the enforcement of "no-fly" zones over southern Iraq during combat-zone WestPac deployments in support of Operation Southern Watch in 1994-1995. Additional WESTPAC deployments in support of Operation Southern Watch continued on-board Constellation in 1997 and 1999.

2000s[edit]

Vigilante F/A-18 over Northern Persian Gulf (WESTPAC 2001)

The squadron was the recipient of Strike Fighter Wing Pacific's Battle "E" award for CY2000 and deployed on Conny" again in 2001.

The squadron deployed for its final deployment aboard Constellation in November 2002. Following a successful combat deployment, Constellation was decommissioned in San Diego, California August 7, 2003. The Vigilantes, along with CVW-2, moved to the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). In October 2004, the squadron deployed on its first WESTPAC/Surge in support of the US Navy's new Fleet Response Plan. While deployed, the Vigilantes participated in Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian relief effort to assist survivors of the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004.

Between 24–31 March 2006, during Foal Eagle 2006 exercises, strike squadrons VFA-2, VFA-34, VFA-137, and VFA-151 from Carrier Air Wing Two teamed with U.S. Air Force aircraft from the 18th Wing based at Kadena Air Base to provide combat air patrols and coordinated bombing runs via the exercise’s Combined Air Operations Center.[1]

In 2008 they deployed again on board the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in the fifth fleet AOR which upon returning they again received the Battle "E" for the year of 2008.

2010s[edit]

The squadron deployed again aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom in the fifth fleet AOR from October 2010 to March 2011. Combat employments included 5 x GBU-54, 5 x GBU-12, and 9 strafe runs of 1,467 rounds of 20mm. The squadron was awarded the Battle "E" for the year of 2010 as well as the Michael J. Estocin award.

Aircraft 300 traps aboard USS Abraham Lincoln in 2012

In December 2011 the Vigilantes were sent out again in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the fifth fleet AOR for a five month "surge" deployment. After extending twice and employing four precision guided bombs and 9 strafing runs totaling 1,718 rounds, the squadron returned home in August 2012. After five months flying the F/A-18C post-deployment, VFA-151 began transitioning to LOT 35/36 F/A-18E Super Hornets in February of 2013. With the transition, the Vigilantes left CVW-2 and moved to CVW-9 attached to the USS John C. Stennis on the 1st of June 2013.

Awards[edit]

Included among the many achievements in VFA-151's proud history are the receipt of the Presidential Unit Citation, eight Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, four Battle “E” awards, six Safety S's, six Navy Unit Commendations, the Michael J. Estocin award and seven Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citations.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class (AW) M. Jeremie Yoder, USN (March 27, 2006). "Lincoln Wraps Up Successful Exercise, Heads for Port". NNS060406-15. Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 

See also[edit]