POINT MUGU, Calif. (NNS) -- The "Wallbangers" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117 returned home to Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif., Dec. 10 following an extended deployment aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
The squadron's homecoming follows an extended deployment with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 to the U.S. 5th, 6th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility aboard the Everett, Wash.,-based aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
VAW-117 flew missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) as a part of CVW-11.
During the course of the deployment, VAW-117 flew more than 500 missions, culminating in 1,900 mishap-free flight hours.
While underway, the Wallbangers had the opportunity to visit ports in South Korea, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Italy. While in South Korea, members of the squadron visited an orphanage and built a wall that will help protect the orphanage facility during strong storms. In Thailand, several Wallbangers helped repaint a school, install a new security fence and clear debris from the school yard.
"I think community service was one of the most rewarding things I did during cruise. Through community service, I was able to gain a new perspective of the Thai culture and their values with a very personal experience," said Lt. Achala Edirisinghe, from VAW-117.
Many milestones were met by VAW-117 pilots and flight officers on this deployment. VAW-117's outstanding landing grades earned them the coveted "Golden Hook" award for having the best overall landing performance of the fixed-wing squadrons.
The Wallbangers also received the air wing's "Golden Wrench" award. The award for maintenance excellence was presented by Capt. Kevin "Nix" Mannix, commander, CVW-11. Squadron maintainers were tasked to keep up with a rigorous flight schedule, but their hard work and long hours contributed to the squadron's impressive 99.7 percent mission completion rate. The "Wallbangers" consistently had all aircraft ready to launch off the carrier at a moment's notice.
During the deployment the Wallbangers paid homage to prior VAW-117 Sailors by wearing vintage lemur patches on their flight suits and uniforms. The lemur was an unofficial mascot adopted by members of VAW-117 during their 1980-81 deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV 61). The lemur was meant to emphasize the far-sighted early warning capability of the E-2 Hawkeye.
To round out their impressive deployment, friends and family were invited to come aboard Nimitz for the transit from Hawaii to San Diego. The event, known as Tiger Cruise, gave loved ones the opportunity to experience how the squadron and carrier operate when deployed. As part of the Tiger Cruise festivities, the air wing flew an air power demo that allowed riders to see flight deck operations first-hand. As Tiger Cruise comes to an end, the "Wallbangers" will fly their aircraft home where family members and friends are waiting with open arms.
VAW-117's E-2C Hawkeyes provide radar coverage for every facet of strike group defense. All data obtained on board the airplane can be relayed to surface command posts for display and decision-making. The E-2C Hawkeye has allowed the squadron to give air defense commanders the most complete, up-to-the-minute picture of theater operations possible.
For more news from Naval Base Ventura County, visit www.navy.mil/local/nbvc/.