ATSUGI, Japan (NNS) -- The "Royal Maces" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 based at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, Japan, were recently recognized by Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific (COMNAVAIRPAC) as the recipients of the 2014 COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" award.
Chosen from among all U.S. Pacific Fleet FA-18E and FA-18F squadrons, the Battle "E" is presented annually to the squadron that achieves the highest standards of "cost-wise and performance readiness" over the course of the year and recognizes "a unit's training and operational achievements," based on a competitive assessment across a wide range of metrics.
"Every member of the Royal Mace team has worked tirelessly to ensure the highest possible combat readiness through an extremely demanding deployment cycle that requires the squadron to deploy aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) for a considerable portion of every year," said Cmdr. Spencer Abbot, commanding officer, VFA-27.
To begin the year's deployment cycle, in spring 2014 the Royal Maces carried out a demanding transpacific training detachment to Fallon, Nevada, with squadron aircraft and personnel voyaging to the continental United States from Japan via Wake Island and Hawaii, with the assistance of U.S. Air Force KC-10 and KC-135 "big wing" tankers. While in Fallon, the squadron had the opportunity to undertake highly realistic combat training with other Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 squadrons, along with personnel from Strike-Fighter Weapons School Atlantic and the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center (NSAWC), using the training facilities of the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC).
The squadron's pilots, and a detachment of maintenance personnel, conducted Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) flights at Iwo To, formerly known as Iwo Jima, to prepare for the challenges of landing the squadron's FA-18E Super Hornets aboard George Washington.
During the squadron's summer patrol, the Royal Maces executed a rigorous schedule of exercises and flight operations throughout the Western Pacific region. The squadron also participated in port visits in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Busan. The summer deployment period wrapped up with a port visit to Sasebo, Japan, where many family members of squadron personnel embarked aboard George Washington for a "Tiger Cruise" en route to the ship's homeport of Yokosuka, Japan.
Following a brief period at home in Japan, the squadron returned to the aircraft carrier for a fall patrol, during which the squadron participated in Valiant Shield, the largest U.S.-only joint exercise held within the Asia-Pacific region. The Royal Maces honed combat skills alongside U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and F-15 Eagles, U.S. Marine Corps FA-18s, many other Navy aircraft and ships, and numerous other platforms from across the military services in a highly complex and demanding exercise.
Throughout the port calls across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and continuing upon the squadron's return to Atsugi, Royal Mace Sailors set a superb example for professionalism as Navy ambassadors abroad, demonstrating impeccable conduct over the course of the year.
The squadron achieved unmatched operational and maintenance excellence through innovative leadership, and rigorous focus on the fundamentals of aviation maintenance, operations and safety. The squadron's maintenance department demonstrated unparalleled skill, knowledge and dedication to professional and safe maintenance practices by achieving one of the top results ever recorded during an Aviation Maintenance Inspection (AMI), the top-level maintenance inspection for U.S. Navy squadrons, conducted by a NAVAIRPAC inspection team.
"I've never observed maintenance inspection results of higher caliber in my naval career," said Lt. Cmdr. Andy McKee, maintenance officer, VFA-27. "It was truly a team effort, and I could not be more proud to serve with this remarkable group of maintenance professionals."
Capt. William Koyama, commander, CVW 5, awarded the squadron's maintenance department the "Golden Wrench" award for two consecutive quarters in 2014 recognizing the Royal Maces as the air wing's top maintenance department. Under the Naval Aviation Energy Conservation Program, VFA-27 was ranked first in fuel efficiency out of the 26 FA-18E and FA-18F squadrons in the Pacific Fleet by COMNAVAIRPAC.
Royal Mace pilots earned the air wing's "Top Hook" award for the top landing performance for two consecutive line periods.
"This award is not earned just by the best, most experienced ball flyers in the squadron, it is earned by the team mentoring and ensuring reliable competence in the least experienced, and least gifted ball flyers," said Koyama as he presented the Royal Maces with their second consecutive Top Hook award. "It's earned by a squadron that does what it takes to make their lowest common denominator excellent by any other standard."
The squadron ended the 2014 patrol cycle aboard George Washington with exercise Keen Sword, an opportunity to refine tactical skills and enhance interoperability with their counterparts from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
At NAF Atsugi, the Royal Maces continued to work innovatively to further strengthen their relationship with the Japan Self-Defense Force, and with the squadron's host community in Japan. The Royal Maces organized a combined training detachment with the Japan Air-Self Defense Force 204th Fighter Squadron, an F-15J Eagle squadron based in Naha, Okinawa. Royal Mace pilots briefed, flew and debriefed directly with their Japanese counterparts, enhancing mutual interoperability. The squadron also devised and implemented the Navy's first foreign language training program for a deployed carrier air wing, partnering with the Navy's Center for Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture (CLREC) to offer language classes in Mandarin Chinese and Korean to air wing sailors when in Atsugi, and Japanese classes both in Atsugi and aboard George Washington. The squadron additionally initiated a school partnership with Terao Elementary School near Naval Air Facility Atsugi, providing squadron sailors and spouses the opportunity to teach English classes to students.
The 2014 COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" award highlights a very successful year for the forward-deployed Royal Maces of VFA-27.
"I am immensely proud of the Sailors of the Royal Maces, who have set the standard for professionalism, teamwork, and commitment to excellence in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," added Abbot.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.