USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The "Black Eagles" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, a part of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14, provided invaluable command and control from their E-2C Hawkeye aircraft while participating in Exercise Valiant Shield 2006 in the Guam operating area June 19-23.
Valiant Shield 2006 involved more than 20,000 Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. The exercise utilized 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.
The three-carrier exercise was designed to ensure that joint forces can quickly respond to any regional contingency.
The squadron is currently embarked aboard Ronald Reagan, the Navy's newest Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and has been an important element of the ship's maiden deployment in support of the global war on terrorism and maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf and Western Pacific Ocean.
"We're a command and control platform - we integrate all the flight information, make decisions about it, and direct the aircraft to go where they need to go," said Cmdr. John Ring, VAW-113's commanding officer. "During this exercise, we did the same thing we do every day."
According to Ring, with the large amount of participating aircraft and ships, Valiant Shield 2006 was an "exercise in organization" for the squadron.
"From the coordination perspective, it was more challenging because it was on a larger scale," said Ring. "We had three carriers with assets to take care of, plus assets from other branches of the armed forces."
Ring added that with the challenges of compiling the data from so many assets, some valuable lessons were learned by the squadron.
"Every time multiple units get together, there are obstacles. We've overcome many obstacles over the years," said Ring. "The beautiful thing about the Navy is that we're dynamic, and we're very adept at finding and fixing problems."
Ring said that U.S. military operations on a scale this large are not an everyday occurrence, and the experience was an important one for the Black Eagles.
"I'm glad my crew was exposed to a multi-carrier environment," said Ring. "It was an incredible opportunity. We've had all of deployment to hone our skills. This is the perfect capstone event for us. This exercise gave our guys a unique experience that will serve them well. This is the way we fight."
The Black Eagles were commissioned April 29, 1967. Since their inception, the squadron has flown missions in the Vietnam War, as well as operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Desert Strike, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. During the squadron's current 2006 Persian Gulf deployment, the Black Eagles provided critical communication relay support to coalition forces on the ground in Iraq.
Operating in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, 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.
To learn more about Valiant Shield, visit the Web site at www.pacom.mil.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.