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Strike Fighter Squadron 204
VFA-204 Insignia
Active July 1, 1970 - present
Country United States
Branch USN
Part of Tactical Support Wing
Garrison/HQ Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans
Nickname "River Rattlers"
Colors Blue and Orange
CDR Mark Crowe
Aircraft flown
Fighter F/A-18A+ Hornet

Strike Fighter Squadron 204 (VFA-204), also known as the "River Rattlers", is a U.S. Navy Reserve strike fighter squadron flying the F/A-18A+. The squadron is based out of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans and is part of the United States Navy Reserve's Tactical Support Wing. Their radio callsign is River and their tail code is AF.[1]

Squadron insignia and nickname[edit]

The squadron’s insignia and nickname River Rattlers were approved by Chief of Naval Operations on 31 August 1970.


Strike Fighter Squadron 204 was originally commissioned as Attack Squadron 204 flying A-4C Skyhawks at NAS Memphis, Tennessee on July 1, 1970. Shortly after transitioning to the A-4E Skyhawk in 1971, the squadron deployed for two weeks with Carrier Air Wing Reserve 20 embarked on the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), a Naval Reserve first.


Rattler A-4s aboard Coral Sea.

The squadron was established as Attack Squadron TWO HUNDRED FOUR (VA-204) on 1 July 1970 at NAS Memphis, flying the A-4C and A-4L Skyhawk as part of a reorganization intended to increase the combat readiness of the Naval Air Reserve Force. The squadron was assigned to Carrier Air Wing (Reserve) TWENTY (CVWR-20).

VFA-204 began its long list of tactical accomplishments by winning back to back CVWR-20 Bombing Derbies in 1971 and 1972. In May 1972, the squadron participated in exercise Exotic Dancer V, designed to test multiservice operations under a unified command organization. VA-204 received the CNO annual Safety Award for 1973. The award represented over 5,000 hours of accident free flying for the year. In 1975, the River Rattlers won the F. Trubee Davison Award as the "Best Tailhook Squadron in the Naval Reserve"

The squadron was directed to cease flight operations in December 1977 and transfer all A-4 aircraft in custody. In complying with that directive, VA-204 closed the final chapter in the United States Navy's single seat Skyhawk attack aviation era. In March 1978, the squadron moved from NAS Memphis to NAS New Orleans and began receiving A-7B aircraft. With transition and relocation complete, VA-204 began establishing enviable records of operational readiness and safety. In 1979 the squadron deployed to MCAS Yuma, Arizona, NAS Fallon, Nevada, and embarked on USS Independence (CV-62).


VA-204 A-7E launches from Ike in 1986.

The pace increased in 1980 with numerous deployments ranging from Exercise Safe Passage, a combined NATO forces exercise conducted near NAS Bermuda in the Western Atlantic, to deachments at NAS Fallon. VA-204 again was selected as the winner of the CNO Safety Award for 1980.

The squadron earned the CNO Safety Award again in 1982 and 1983, and was nominated for the Noel Davis (Battle "E") in 1983. The tradition of excellence continued in 1984 by winning the CVWR-20 Golden Wrench Award and the Battle "E".

With transition from the A-7B to the A-7E completed in 1986, the next four years saw the River Rattlers establish a high level of tactics and excellence in the Corsair II. During this period, the squadron completed seven weapons detachments, three carrier qualification evolutions, air wing active duty to NAS Fallon and embarkation the USS Forrestal (CV-59) and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).


VFA-204 FA-18A.

VA-204 transitioned to the FA-18A Hornet in April 1991 and was redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron TWO HUNDRED FOUR (VFA-204) on 1 May 1991.

In 1992, the squadron conducted numerous detachments to NAS Cecil Field, Florida; NAS Fallon, Nevada; and NAS Key West, Florida. In June the same year, the River Rattlers led an air wing mine warfare exercise. In November the squadron qualified 16 pilots aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).

The squadron officially completed its transition to the F/A-18 Hornet in March 1993, and the next month began initial adversary training at NAS Oceana, VA. In October the squadron became the first Reserve Strike Fighter Squadron to provide adversary support to the active duty fleet during a one week detachment to NAS Key West. In 1993, VFA-204 received its sixth CNO Safety Award, completing 13 years and 50,000 Class-A mishap free flight hours.

In December 1994, the squadron conducted carrier qualification aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and ended the year by winning its second Battle "E". In addition, the squadron received their second F. Trubee Davison Award as 'Best Tailhook Squadron in the Naval Reserve'.

The Navy and Marine Corps Meritorious Unit Commendation was awarded to the squadron in 1995 for its successful transition from the A-7E to the F/A-18. In a February detachment to NAS Fallon, VFA-204 expended a record 302 tons of ordnance, smashing the squadron's old record of 128 tons delivered at Fallon in 1993.

During the summer of 1996, the squadron embarked in then what was the Navy's newest carrier, USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). This highly successful detachment included the first ever night cyclic operations for the River Rattlers and another live fire missile exercise in the Virginia operations area.


With the disestanblishment of CVWR-20, VFA-204 continues to provide Fleet services as part of the Tactical Support Wing.

In Popular Culture[edit]

VFA-204 made several appearances in the 2003 film Tears of the Sun starring Bruce Willis. In the film, the squadron flies several F/A-18A Hornets from the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) alongside several SH-60B Seahawk helicopters from HSL-37 stationed in Hawaii. The weapons seen being fired during the film were also done with special effects and pyrotechnics, not actual AGM-84E SLAM Standoff Land Attack Missiles.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]