News: UDP’s only Navy Hornet squadron returns
Story by Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
IWAKUNI, Japan - Marine Aircraft Group 12 welcomed 12 Strike Fighter Squadron 94 F/A-18C Hornet jets to the air station July 14.
MAG-12 commanding officer Col. C.J. Mahoney and Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 aircrew warmly welcomed the VFA-94 pilots on the ground when each one climbed out of the cockpit after his long journey from the west coast of the United States.
VFA-94, also known as the Mighty Shrikes and named after a small carnivorous bird of prey called the Loggerhead Shrike, came across the Pacific Ocean from Naval Air Station Lemoore in Fresno, Calif., where the squadron is based.
“We are one of the only Navy squadrons to be attached to a Marine air wing,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Q. Sterling, VFA-94 assistance operations officer. “There are a couple of Marines attached to Navy ships, and we are the Navy’s payback squadron for that.”
For the duration of their deployment, VFA-94 will fall under the command and support of MAG-12.
“Under the [unit deployment program], we are essentially a MAG-12 asset,” said Sterling. “We will be working closely with them to support their mission. Last year, we went up to Misawa and worked with the Japanese up there. We expect that we will probably conduct some operations down in Kadena as well.”
The UDP was implemented to allow the mobility of units throughout the Western Pacific for a period of approximately six months to gain valuable training and increase squadron readiness in forward-deployed environments.
“We have been in the UDP business about four years now,” said Navy Cmdr. Curt Carroll, VFA-94 commanding officer. “We are the Navy’s only expeditionary UDP squadron. We are very excited to be working with MAG-12.”
Many squadron members arrived a few days prior to prepare workspace and logistical support for the incoming aircrew.
“The F/A-18C Hornet is a dual-role fighter, so we do air-to-air and air-to-ground missions,” said Sterling. “We are proficient in both of those areas.”
The squadron works to carry out its mission, which is to project power from the sea or shore, to establish and maintain air supremacy, and to deliver fuzed ordnance on target and on time.
Their single-seat F/A-18C Hornet aircraft provides the squadron with the capability to carry more fuel than the F/A-18D Hornet variation because of the absence of the weapons system operator seat. Both variations are ideal for day and night operations.
According to Sterling, both platforms are capable of carrying out the same types of missions.
VFA-94 will get the chance to work alongside MAG-12’s VMFA(AW)-242 Bats during much of their deployment, which is meant to encourage unit cohesion and peak operability.
“It’s good when two squadrons operate out of the same place,” said Sterling. “We can use a lot of the same facilities and help each other out with maintenance.”
As far as the sailors on the ground are concerned, providing meticulous maintenance and conducting operations will be business as usual.
“It’s the same thing, just different place and a bigger shop,” said Navy Airman Richard Moten, VFA-94 fixed-wing aircraft safety equipment mechanic. “It’s a little bit easier for us to work out here.”
According to Moten, working on an air station provides many advantages over working on the limited space of an aircraft carrier.
Either way, VFA-94 will continue to work to complete their upcoming tasks and overall mission.