USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Utilizing some of the latest technology available, the "Cougars" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139 will be flying some of the most important missions during Valiant Shield 2006, June 19-23.
The squadron, which flies EA-6B Prowler aircraft equipped with Improved Capability (ICAP) Version III technology, is part of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14, and is currently assigned to the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. Ronald Reagan is one of three carrier strike groups that will be taking part in Valiant Shield 2006.
Valiant Shield 2006 takes place off the coast of Guam, and will involve more than 20,000 Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. The exercise will also utilize more than 300 aircraft and 28 ships from the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Groups, as well as the Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.
"Our main role in Valiant Shield is to work on force protection issues, and then to test the coordination capabilities of the command to work with three different carriers simultaneously," said Cmdr. Chuck Luttrell, commanding officer of VAQ-139.
"We initially received ICAP III at the beginning of workups, and we have been continuing to build upon our experience and come up with new ways to employ it," said Luttrell. "It gives us a lot more capabilities than what we had before."
According to Luttrell, coordinating with the strike groups will not change VAQ-139's mission, but will be an opportunity to gain experience, especially for new personnel assigned to the squadron.
"It will be important for the first-tour guys in the squadron to learn to be the liaison, to walk out of the [intelligence] spaces and into other spaces and also continue to work with other units that aren't co-located with us," said Luttrell.
The biggest challenge of this exercise will be the coordination of the three carrier strike groups, according to Cmdr. Anthony Calandra, executive officer of VAQ-139, particularly for the anti-ship missile defense scenarios.
Calandra said that those participating in the Valiant Shield exercise will be gaining vital experience as a united team for future operations.
"The ability to work with multiple carriers in one location is an important tool and something that we have to practice for to have that ability in our toolbox for future use," said Calandra. "It's not as easy as it seems to park three aircraft carriers right next to each other and start operating. There is a lot of de-confliction and significant, detailed communication that has to happen for that to be effective and safe."
VAQ-139 is especially prepared to take on the action for Valiant Shield 2006 not only as itself, but as part of the Ronald Reagan team, according to Luttrell.
"We do what it takes to get the job done as a unit rather than letting each individual command or ship try and work it through," said Luttrell. "The strike group will go to any means necessary to accomplish the mission. We saw that happen time and time again during dual side operations at Al Asad. We were having difficulty with parts and operations, and everyone just came together. We launched a plane the morning we were supposed to pull into port to get it into Al Asad, so we will go to any extreme to accomplish the mission safely as a unit."
Ronald Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and departed San Diego Jan. 4 with CVW-14 on her maiden deployment in support of the global war on terrorism and maritime security operations.
Operating in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, the U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with approximately 50 ships, 120 aircraft and 20,000 Sailors and Marines assigned at any given time.
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