USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, currently embarked on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), claimed three victories out of a possible six Navywide in the Commander, Naval Air Forces Achievement Awards for 2003.
Additionally, two naval aviators from CVW-3 received top honors for their respective fields in the Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet Aviation-Related Personal Awards. Messages detailing the awards were released April 16.
For being the best F/A-18 Hornet squadron in the attack category, the Gunslingers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105 received the Rear Adm. C. Wade McClusky Award.
Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130 won the Adm. Arthur W. Radford Award for being the best electronic attack squadron. The Rear Adm. Frank Akers Award for the best early warning squadron went to the Seahawks of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 126.
"This is a huge morale booster for everyone involved," said CVW-3 Commander, Capt. Mark "Cyrus" Vance. "These are well deserved awards, because these guys dropped the most ordnance and flew more sorties than their counterparts."
According to Vance, the selection process starts as a list of the prospective type wing candidates submitted to the commodore on the East and West coasts for the respective fleets. The commodore's staff takes the input from the squadrons and compares their achievements for the 2003 calendar year against the criteria, and forwards their recommendations to Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic and Pacific. Once a winner for each coast is named, Naval Air Forces Commander, Vice Adm. Michael Malone, makes the selection for the overall winner.
Criteria for the awards include safety, operational hours, number of sorties, ordnance dropped, administrative and maintenance inspections, as well as retention and promotion rates.
"The thing that put the squadrons over the top was the involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Vance. "The support from the ship was very important, also. We can't win these awards from the beach. We've done so many innovative things that we couldn't have without total cooperation. We certainly appreciate the great relationship we have with the ship."
In addition to the squadron awards, Lt. Cmdr. Damien "Satan" Christopher has received the distinguished honor of being named Landing Signals Officer of the Year.
A member of CVW-8 during 2003, Christopher talks to the pilots approaching the aircraft carrier to "make sure they stay on the glide scope and centerline."
"It's a real honor to win this award, especially when I knew I was up against some tough competition," said Christopher. "I have to hand it to the junior LSOs though, too, because with their skill level, they make my job easy."
Christopher is serious about his job, and the integral part he plays in bringing his fellow pilots and friends in safely.
"It's a job I cherish because I'm always involved, and it's not something that everyone can say they've done," said Christopher.
As for Lt. Cmdr. Kyle "Banjo" Higgins, this year's Naval Flight Officer of the Year, his award came as a bit of a surprise.
"I'm excited and a little shocked. I really didn't expect it," said Higgins of VAQ-130. "I think belonging to this squadron and this air wing played a very big part in this award."
Higgins serves as an Electronic Counter-Measures Officer for the Zappers, dropping bombs to provide electronic support to other strike aircraft, so they can concentrate on their targets.
"It's a lot of work, but it's a fantastic job," said Higgins.
In addition to his duties in the air, Higgins is also the maintenance officer for the squadron and is extremely proud of not just the maintenance people, but the entire squadron as a whole.
"It's an honor to be part of a squadron with the quality of people we have. They've been taking really good care of our planes, and I give them a lot of credit for this award, too," said Higgins.
With the awards for 2003 behind them, Higgins, Christopher and the squadrons continue to work hard and focus on the job at hand, which right now is doing their jobs and training for possible actions that could make them winners again for 2004.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.