ON BOARD USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71) (NNS) -- Personnel from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141 ,along with two of its EA-6B Prowlers, departed USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Sept. 24 while in the Mediterranean Sea, to enhance the mission capability of Marine Electronic Attack Squadron (VMAQ) 1, based out of Al Asad, Iraq.
VAQ-141 led the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group's (TRCSG) first combat flights in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
"The previous carrier completed its mission here, so we went ahead of the TR battle group so there wouldn't be any loss of aerial support for the Marine Corps ground forces," said Cmdr. Paul Mckeon, commanding officer, VAQ-141.
The Prowlers are used for their unique electronic warfare capabilities to support coalition ground forces in Iraq. To help facilitate this mission, the aircraft were outfitted with additional equipment which enhanced their mission effectiveness. VAQ-141 technicians were trained how to maintain and troubleshoot this new equipment.
For some VAQ-141 personnel this was a unique experience in that it was their first time performing their jobs in a combat zone, on the ground.
"I never thought I would go into Iraq, so I was pretty pumped up about this," said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Joseph Conrad, of Augusta, Maine. "It was definitely a unique experience for me. I could be in the Navy for 20 years and probably never have the opportunity to do something like this again."
Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Thomas Ortello of St. Paul, Minn., said this experience will benefit him and other Sailors he works with during his time in the Navy.
"It gave me a better perspective of my job and its importance," Ortello said. "Having been in that environment will help me to pass along to other Sailors the importance of our work." Ortello said.
The personnel from VAQ-141, 13 officers and 50 enlisted members in all, returned to TR Oct. 6, where they joined the rest of the squadron and CVW- 8. By mission's end, VAQ-141 had conducted 37 combat sorties with a total of 165 hours of flight time.
"It was a team effort," said Mckeon. "Because of the small size of our detachment, everyone had to help in areas that were not their normal expertise. We were all proud to be a part of OIF and lead the charge for the TRCSG. Everyone pulled together to complete the mission."
The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Maritime Security Operations, which set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations.
Maritime Security Operations deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other material.
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