Early History: Electronic Attack Squadron ONE FOUR TWO (VAQ 142) was established 1 June, 1988, in response to the Navy’s requirement for a thirteenth operational EA-6B Prowler squadron. The VAQ-142 “Grim Watchdogs” made their first and only deployment with Carrier Air Wing SIX (CVW 6) embarked in USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) to the Mediterranean Sea in 1989-90. In fewer than three years as a squadron, VAQ-142 aviators flew aboard USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70), USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72), USS FORRESTAL (CV 59), USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62), USS SARATOGA (CV 60), and USS MIDWAY (CV 43), logging more than 3,600 flight hours and 860 traps. As a result of defense spending reductions, VAQ-142 was disestablished in March 1991 and remaining personnel were transferred to a pre-establishment detachment for VAQ-35. On June 1, 1991 VAQ-35 was established with the Electronic Warfare Support mission, under the cognizance of Fleet Electronic Warfare Support Group (FEWSG). In their brief history, VAQ-35 made over forty-two detachments to more than sixteen locations as far away as Puerto Rico, Bermuda and the Hawaiian Islands. In October 1993, due to further spending cuts, VAQ-35 was disestablished, and their mission was absorbed by reserve squadrons based in the East and West Coasts.
Return of VAQ-142: In 1994, the Department of Defense sought to replace the Air Force’s aging EF-111A Raven fleet and provide a joint service solution with the addition of five new expeditionary EA-6B squadrons. On 3 April 1997, VAQ-142 was re-established as the fourth of these new squadrons, and officially designated the “Gray Wolves.” Over the next four years, VAQ-142 forward deployed operationally around the world, participating in numerous multi-national exercises. The Gray Wolves saw their first combat deployment in 1998, when the squadron deployed three times to Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB), Saudi Arabia in support of Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and DESERT FOX, and received both the 1998 Battle “E” and Safety “S” awards as well as the 1999 Association of Old Crows Outstanding Unit Award. From 1999-2002, the Gray Wolves deployed to PSAB two more times in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and three times to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey in support of Operation NORTHERN WATCH, winning the Safety “S” again in both 2001 and 2002.
Global War on Terror: In December 2003, within a week of receiving short-notice deployment orders, the Gray Wolves departed enroute to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, making them the first Navy squadron to deploy completely within the nation of Afghanistan. Following an October 2004 deployment to Iwakuni, Japan, VAQ-142 returned to Bagram in July 2006 through January 2007, flying missions for 187 days in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The Gray Wolves were awarded the 2006 Battle “E” and Safety “S” awards.
War in Iraq: In October 2007, VAQ-142 deployed to Al Asad Airbase, Iraq, for six months as a forward deployed expeditionary squadron in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Following this deployment, the squadron received the 2007 Safety “S” and were awarded the 2008 Association of Old Crows Outstanding Unit Award. In 2008 the Gray Wolves returned to Al Asad in January 2009, again in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In May 2010, VAQ-142 returned a final time to Al Asad, flying missions in support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and NEW DAWN, and marking the final EA-6B expeditionary deployment to Iraq.
Return to the Air Wing: VAQ-142 returned to carrier aviation in May 2011 when the Gray Wolves joined Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN (CVW 11) attached to USS NIMITZ (CVN 68). After transition to the Improved Capability (ICAP) III EA-6B airframe, VAQ-142 and CVW-11 began work-ups with Carrier Qualification onboard USS NIMITZ in April 2012. In August 2012, the Gray Wolves completed the first squadron carrier detachment in over 21 years as part of the 2012 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). In April 2013, VAQ-142 deployed with the USS NIMITZ and CVW-11 as part of Carrier Strike Group ELEVEN (CSG 11) for a planned six-month deployment to the FIFTH Fleet AOR. Once on station, the Gray Wolves flew 93 combat sorties totaling 637 flight hours with a 100% combat sortie completion rate in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Just prior to FIFTH Fleet outchop, the NIMITZ Strike Group was unexpectedly redirected to the Red Sea in response to the Syrian chemical weapons crisis. After several extensions in the Red Sea, the Gray Wolves ultimately completed a nine-month deployment that included operations in the U.S. THIRD, FIFTH, SIXTH, and SEVENTH Fleet AORs. Following this deployment, VAQ-142 received the 2013 Battle “E” and Safety “S” awards, and was awarded the 2013 Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy.
The penultimate Navy EA-6B squadron, in July 2014 VAQ-142 delivered four EA-6B Improved Capability (ICAP) III Prowlers to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) for induction into long-term preservation. The Gray Wolves are currently at their homeport of NAS Whidbey Island, WA, and undergoing transition to the newest airframe in the Navy inventory and the future of Airborne Electronic Attack, the EA-18G Growler.
Current VAQ-142 awards include the 2013 CNAP Battle “E” Award, the 2013 CNO Aviation Safety “S” Award, the 2013 COMPACFLT Retention Excellence Award, the 2013 CNAP Squadron Blue “M” Award, and the 2013 Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy. Additionally, the Gray Wolves are authorized to fly the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist pennant.