VAQ-134 was originally commissioned on 7 June 1969 at NAS Alameda, California as the GARUDAS. Based on an old Hindu myth, the Garuda is the bird that took Wisnu, the God of War, wherever necessary in his quest to protect God's creation from those evil forces that sought to upset and destroy it. The Garudas, flying the EA-3B "Skywarriors," won the Pacific Fleet Battle "E" for combat efficiency in 1969 and 1971. After decommissioning in late 1971, the Garudas were reactivated as an EA-6B "Prowler" squadron in 1972 as the third Navy Prowler squadron, and moved their homeport to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. Assigned to USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) with Carrier Air Wing NINE, they embarked on their first deployment with the new EA-6Bs to the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) on 5 January 1973, just prior to the termination of hostilities in Vietnam. Upon their return in October 1973, the squadron transitioned to the Expanded Capability (EXCAP) version of the EA-6B.
Transition to the EXCAP EA-6B was followed by a Mediterranean cruise in USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) with Carrier Air Wing SEVENTEEN. The squadron departed on 2 March 1975 and after returning on 22 September 1975 participated in testing of the AEGIS weapon system. On 30 July 1976, VAQ-134 deployed in USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) with Carrier Air Wing FOURTEEN for another WESTPAC cruise, returning on 28 March 1977.
The GARUDAS then transitioned to the Improved Capability (ICAP) version of the EA-6B and in September 1977 received the Pacific Fleet Battle "E." On 4 April 1978, the GARUDAS deployed once again in USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) covering both the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) and Indian Ocean before returning on 30 October 1978. In March 1979, the GARUDAS were awarded the Pacific Fleet Battle "E" for the second consecutive year.
Once again, the GARUDAS made another Mediterranean cruise, this time in USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) with Carrier Air Wing EIGHT. The USS NIMITZ arrived in Norfolk, Virginia on 26 May 1980 after 144 consecutive days at sea. Later that year, on 16 December, the GARUDAS celebrated 10 years of mishap free flying.
The GARUDAS deployed again, this time in USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) with Carrier Air Wing NINE for an extended WESTPAC/Indian Ocean cruise. In May 1982 the squadron took part in the first triple battle group operation, READIEX-82, with carriers USS MIDWAY (CV 41) and USS RANGER (CV 60). On 23 May 1982, the squadron returned to Whidbey Island.
VAQ-134 joined Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN in September 1982 and deployed from Norfolk, Virginia on 1 March 1983 in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) for an around the world cruise. The cruise included over 120 days in the Indian Ocean and ended 29 October 1983. Workups began four months later and the squadron left NAS Alameda on 13 October 1984 for a WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70). They returned to Whidbey Island on 24 May 1985 after 107 consecutive days in the Indian Ocean and were awarded their fifth Pacific Fleet Battle "E" for 1984 as well as the coveted “Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award” for Electronic Warfare excellence.
Workups began for the GARUDAS in preparation for an August 1986 WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70). In December 1985 they surpassed 15 years of mishap free operations and on 12 August 1986 deployed once again for the WESTPAC. As a member of the Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN/USS CARL VINSON team, VAQ-134 was part of the first battle group to operate in the Bering Sea during the winter. They returned to Whidbey Island on 3 February 1987 and were awarded the annual Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Aviation Safety “S” Award for 1986.
Their eighth WESTPAC deployment, which included operations in the Persian Gulf to support vital convoy escort missions, began in June 1988. The GARUDAS returned to Whidbey Island on 14 December 1988 and were awarded their second CNO Aviation Safety “S” Award. They transitioned to the ICAP II version of the EA-6B during the early part of 1989.
Following the transition to ICAP II, the GARUDAS began workups in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) in preparation for another WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment. From 6 September to 7 November, they took part in PACEX '89, which was the largest fleet exercise since World War II. It was during PACEX that the GARUDAS became the first EA-6B squadron to launch a High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) from a carrier deployed Prowler.
Having been embarked in USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) for their ninth WESTPAC and sixth Indian Ocean deployment, the GARUDAS returned to Whidbey Island 29 July 1990 just one week before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In January 1991, they flew as the leading Electronic Combat asset in RED FLAG at Nellis Air Force Base. During Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, VAQ-134 became the Navy's largest fleet EA-6B squadron, flying and maintaining up to nine Prowlers.
Leaving Whidbey Island in October 1991 to take USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) "Around the Horn" from Norfolk to San Diego, GARUDA pilots outperformed all other Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN aviators and earned the coveted "Top Hook" award for best landing grades. The GARUDAS returned to NAS Whidbey Island on 11 December 1991.
During workups for another WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment, the GARUDAS participated in RIMPAC '92 in USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) alongside units from many countries including Japan and Australia. In July 1992 they participated in TANDEM THRUST, a joint operation with the U.S. Air Force. On 3 November 1992 the GARUDAS deployed in USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63). This was KITTY HAWK's first full deployment in over five years.
VAQ-134 led combat missions in support of US Central Command’s Operation SOUTHERN WATCH on the 13th and 18th of January 1993. GARUDA EA-6Bs launched AGM-88 HARM against strategic surface to air missile sites in the Southern Iraq’s "no-fly zone," marking the first time a GARUDA aircraft fired a HARM in combat.
The squadron left for yet another WESTPAC deployment in June 1994 sailing in USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) to the Western Pacific Ocean, Sea of Japan and Yellow Sea where they participated in exercises such as KEEN EDGE, ANNUAL EX and TANDEM THRUST. They celebrated yet another milestone as they logged over 34,000 hours and 24 years of mishap free flight operations on 17 December. The GARUDAS returned to NAS Whidbey Island on 22 December 1994 where they were awarded the Pacific Fleet Battle “E” Award and the prestigious CNO Radford Award.
Originally scheduled to decommission in March 1995, the GARUDAS were once again called on to defend the flag in a new role as an expeditionary squadron supporting USAF Expeditionary Composite Wings, replacing the U.S. Air Force’s EF-111 Raven in shore based arenas. They accepted five aircraft and were ready for deployment within eight months of stand-up, despite a turnover of 80% of all squadron personnel.
In May 1996, VAQ-134 deployed to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan. While on deployment they participated in exercises such as COPE JADE, FOAL EAGLE, and Large Force Exercises. When they returned to NAS Whidbey Island on 15 November 1996, the squadron celebrated 26 years and over 36,300 mishap free flight hours and were awarded their seventh Battle “E” Award.
The GARUDAS spent most of 1997 training and honing their skills in preparation for deployment to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey to support Operation NORTHERN WATCH. Along with unit level training in the Whidbey Island area, the squadron also conducted operations with units from Great Britain, Canada, Germany, and Spain, as well as the USAF at GREEN FLAG, MAPLE FLAG, RED FLAG and COPE THUNDER exercises. On 14 January the GARUDAS fired a HARM at NAWC China Lake, CA. Although the squadron is an expeditionary squadron based ashore, it continued to conduct carrier qualifications aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in March and October. In November the squadron was awarded their fourth Meritorious Unit Commendation for their performance from the recommissioning of the squadron through their deployment to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan eight months later. In December the GARUDAS became the first EA-6B expeditionary squadron to deploy in support of a USAF/Coalition Combined Task Force when it began a six-month deployment to Incirlik AB, Turkey. The squadron was the only Navy participant in the coalition of American, British and Turkish forces conducting Operation Northern Watch (ONW). On 16 December, the squadron was awarded their fourth CNO Aviation Safety “S” award.
In June 1998, the GARUDAS returned to Whidbey Island after their highly successful deployment. During the six-month deployment, they completed over 300 ONW sorties, accumulating over 1,200 flight hours with an astounding 100% sortie completion rate. The GARUDAS were awarded their second Joint Meritorious Unit award for this period. After a short break, the GARUDAS began preparing and training for their next deployment in late July. Unit level training was conducted around Whidbey Island and at NAS Fallon, Nevada incorporating the Prowler Weapons and Tactics Program (PWTP). The PWTP training culminated with a joint Large Force Exercise with various Air Force units at Red Flag in October.
The year 1999 started with carrier qualifications aboard the USS Lincoln (CVN 72). The squadron then detached to NAWC China Lake for the EA-6B SSA 5.2 software testing. This detachment was cut short because the GARUDAS were needed in Aviano, Italy where tensions were mounting in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. Negotiations were convened to settle the conflict peacefully, so after two weeks in Italy, the squadron returned to Whidbey Island. Two weeks after that, the peace talks failed and the GARUDAS were redeployed to Italy to support Operation ALLIED FORCE (OAF), arriving there the first day of the conflict. The five-week deployment earned the squadron the Navy Unit Commendation award for maintaining a 100% sortie completion rate. At the end of June, the GARUDAS were off again to support Operation NORTHERN WATCH, returning three months later in September having earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. VAQ-134’s outstanding performance throughout the year earned them their eighth Battle “E” and fifth CNO Safety “S.”
The year 2000 proved busy, demanding and rewarding for the GARUDAS. The squadron detached to Cold Lake, Canada, where Electronic Warfare support was provided to Canadian Fighter Weapons School CF-18s. From there, the squadron departed to NAS Jacksonville, Florida, to provide support for the All Services Combat Identification Evaluation Team (ASCIET) in which the Prowler was used to test and develop tactics for the identification of red and blue air forces in a simulated combat environment. NAS Point Mugu, California, was the next destination for the Garudas where radar testing versus shipboard radar was completed and proficiency in HARM employment tactics were furthered. Prior to deployment, VAQ-134 detached to Mountain Home AFB to participate in the first USAF Operational Readiness Assessment to include a Navy squadron. The Garudas then deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. In November, the GARUDAS detached to Holloman AFB, New Mexico to participate in the Joint Global Positioning System Combat Evaluation where the effects of jamming were tested against Global Positioning Systems. The final detachment of the year was to NAF El Centro, California, where the Garudas conducted unit level training in the low-level environment. 2000 proved to be another banner year for safety in VAQ-134 when the squadron achieved 43,000 mishap-free flight hours, the best record for any fleet EA-6B squadron.
2001 started off with a detachment to Nellis AFB for a Red Flag exercise. This was another highly successful large force exercise for VAQ-134. In March and April, the Garudas headed to Europe to attend the Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) in Florennes, Belgium. This was only the second time a Prowler squadron had ever attended. In April 2001, VAQ-134 head off for another deployment to Incirlik AB, Turkey. The Garudas once again found themselves flying in support of Operation NORTHERN WATCH. VAQ-134 flew over 600 hours and 150 combat sorties. Then in October there was another Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB. The year ended with a bang by firing a live HARM missile at Pt. Mugu.
The year 2002 proved to be a demanding, but rewarding year for the Garudas. VAQ-134 detached to NAF El Centro, CA during early January to conduct unit level training in preparation for deployment. Following this training, the Garudas deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 05 February 2002. The squadron participated in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH missions over the next three months, flying a total of 616 hours. The Garudas were scheduled to return to the United States in early May; however, two weeks prior to the redeployment, the squadron was reassigned to support Operation ENDURING FREEDOM missions. Over the remaining fourteen days in Saudi Arabia, the squadron worked diligently to keep focused on the current mission, gain knowledge of the new mission and make all the changes to the redeployment schedule.
On 10 May, four Garuda EA-6Bs took to the skies over Saudi Arabia for the last time during this deployment. Their destination was Shaikh Isa Air Base, State of Bahrain. Two days later, VAQ-134 took up the watch at the same time as the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) pulled into port for repairs. Garuda jets flew over Afghanistan for the first time on 17 May. The squadron relinquished the watch to VAQ-140 on 19 May and departed Bahrain the following day; their destination was the United States.
The Garudas made a detachment to Great Falls, MT during mid-July in order to hone basic fight maneuvers against F-16s from the Montana Air National Guard and returned in time for Prowler Week. The squadron made another unit level training detachment to Cold Lake, Canada during mid-September. In October, the Garudas participated in Red Flag 03-1 at Nellis AFB, NV. The squadron returned from the Red Flag prepared for the next deployment to Operation NORTHERN WATCH; however, to be completely prepared, an unit level Operational Readiness Assessment was held in mid-November. The squadron completed its chemical/biological/radiological training in true Garuda fashion. Finally, CDR Brad A. Martin relieved CDR Gregg K. Smith as Garuda One at the Change of Command ceremony held on 5 December. The Garudas received their fourth consecutive retention excellence award in 2002.
The year 2003 proved to be eventful for the World Famous Fighting Garudas, of VAQ-134. The squadron began the year deployed to Incirlik AB, Turkey supporting Operation NORTHERN WATCH. Shortly after conflict arose in Iraq the Garudas moved to PSAB, KSA to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. While deployed the Grarudas 100% sortie completion rate resulted in 152 sorties flown. After returning home the squadron participated in HARM firing exercises at Pt. Mugu, CA.
The squadron continued participating in high-level exercises detaching to NAS Key West to support Operation Mustang Canter. At Mustang Canter the Garudas served to validate the effects of EW fires in support of low intensity operations of naval forces, involving submarine, surface, Naval Special Warfare, and Naval Aviation assets.
VAQ-134 was later asked to participate in the GYPSY CHARLIE evaluation at Nellis test range in Nevada. This was the third in a series of four tests to evaluate the affects of electronic attack on GPS performance during Time Sensitive Targeting and contingency operations.
In October the Garudas detached to Nellis Air Force Base, NV in support of Red Flag 04-1. The squadron was involved in the development and execution phases of large force tactics with Air Force strike and EW platforms.
The year 2004 proved to be eventful for the World Famous Garudas, of VAQ-134. The squadron started the year in work-ups for an overseas deployment to Iwaquini Japan. Due to demands to the community because of the global war on terrorism, their schedule changed to support a deployment to Bagram Air Base Afghanistan.
Despite a shortened work-up time, The Garudas participated in integrating training requirements with the Air Force Operational Testing and Evaluation Center testing of F-22 integration with electronic attack assets at Nellis AFB in January.
Following F-22 integration testing, The Garudas detached to Mountain Home AFB, ID. During this period, VAQ-134 flew an unprecedented 88 sorties in 13 days, completing ARP II/III requirements for LFT, BFMC, RSEAD and Surface-to-Air Missile counters. Additionally, the Garudas completed 14 PWTP and 11 NVD events--improving from M4 to M1 in sorties per aircrew. Additionally qualifying five pilots and eight ECMOs for NVDs in less than 30 days.
Following their accelerated work-up cycle, the Garudas departed Whidbey Island for Bagram. On 2 April 2004, the Garudas arrived in the Central Command Area of Responsibility, assuming the role of Electronic Warfare (EW) leaders in OEF. The Garudas trained the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, Combined Joint Task Force 76 and Other Coalition Forces in Prowler weapon system capabilities and mission integration. This effort focused on Communications Electronic Attack in support of ground forces and effects generated by non-kinetic fires. The Garudas flew 363 combat sorties during four months of deployment with a 100% sortie completion rate--flying 800 hours including 497 night hours and 437 NVD hours. Creative and innovative planning/scheduling led to a 10% improvement in Air Strike Request support, while remaining within mandated flight hour restrictions.
Upon return to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, VAQ-134’s focus became preparations for future combat operations. In October, the Garudas participated in Red Flag (RF) 05-1.2. During this coalition RF, aircrew refined both combined and joint employment tactics. Working side-by-side with Australian F-111s and F-18s, British GR4s, Nimrod and NATO AWACS, the Garudas continued to exchange information and integrate new capabilities relevant to the SEAD mission. Despite inclement weather--forcing numerous cancellations--the Garudas completed 22 major PWTP training qualifications in only seven flying days.
Additionally in November, VAQ-134 sent both aircrew and intelligence professionals to Nellis AFB, NV, to participate in the 2004 Electronic Warfare conference--improving squadron expertise and knowledge of the modern electronic threat environment as well as the Chinese/North Korean theater tactics.
2004 showed the true nature of the VAQ-134 Garudas. Twelve months of sustained operations integrating with other assets and furthering the efforts of the Global War on Terrorism. The Garudas took no rest this year, and are looking for none in the future as the demand for Prowlers increases.
Safety remained a top priority for the Garudas during all exercises, detachments and their combat deployment. In the year 2004, the squadron surpassed over 47,600 flight hours and 25 years of Class A Mishap-Free flying, resulting in the best safety record among all fleet EA-6B squadrons.
Following an accelerated Fleet Response Training Plan (FRTP), the squadron deployed in April 2004 to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan in support of OEF. Conducting four months of sustained combat operations, the Garudas flew 800 flight hours in the execution of 363 sorties while achieving a 100% combat mission completion rate providing electronic attack support to ground troops engaged in close combat as part of the Global War on Terrorism.
By July of 2005, VAQ-134 had once again returned to Afghanistan, where they flew for a remarkable 188 straight days, supporting OEF. The squadron achieved a 100% mission completion rate while flying 672 sorties and over 1,900 flight hours. The Garudas were also selected as the 2005 Battle “E” winner, as well as earning the Safety “S” and the 2005 ADM Arthur W. Radford Award.
In February 2006, the Garudas were hand-selected by Commander, Naval Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet to lead the community’s transition to the ICAP II Block 3 version of the EA-6B and the Low Band Transmitter (LBT). After many months of successful Early Operational Capability (EOC) testing and integration, the Garudas then deployed to Afghanistan in January 2007 with both assets in direct support of combat operations against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. Spearheading the introduction of Block 3 and the LBT within the Commander, Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet inventory, the Garudas brought significant war fighting enhancements and reliability improvements to the Electronic Warfare mission and laid the foundation for the next generation of EA-6B aircrew and equipment.
Following the squadron’s return from deployment in July 2007, they participated in Operation Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in January 2008 to help train for a return to Afghanistan in 2008. Barely seven months after completing their 2007 deployment, the Garudas again departed Whidbey Island for Bagram Air Base in March 2008. During this six month deployment the squadron flew an incredible 2200 hours, averaging over 60 hours each month and successfully completing 614 combat missions. Due to this success rate, the squadron was awarded the Battle “E” for tactical excellence.
In September 2008 the Garudas returned home for another quick turn around. After only two months, the squadron left for Naval Air Station Key West, Florida in December to practice BFMC (Basic Fighter Maneuvering Countermeasures) against the VFC-111 Sundowners. Detachments to NAS Fallon, Nevada and another Operation Red Flag large force exercise in Nellis Air Force Base completed the squadron’s workups for a return to Afghanistan in the summer of 2009.
In May 2009 the Garudas departed for their fifth deployment to Afghanistan in support of OEF. While deployed to Afghanistan Garuda aircrew flew 636 combat missions and accrued over 2700 combat hours with a 98% sortie completion rate. In each of the last four months in theater, the squadron flew an unprecedented 500+ combat hours.
When the Garudas returned from Afghanistan, they were directed to transition to a carrier based squadron and join Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 attached to USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70). In preparation for this, 122 members of the squadron conducted a carrier qualification (CQ) detachment in conjunction with VAQ-129 aboard USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74) from 13 to 22 March 2010. This was the first time a Garudas jet made a carrier arrested landing since February 1997.
In April 2010 the Garudas travelled to Naval Air Station Key West, Florida to conduct BFMC exercises against the VFC-111 Sundowners. The squadron also supported the Electronic Attack Weapons School (EAWS) during ME-Phase at Nellis AFB, NV in May/June, conducting joint large force exercises.
July 2010 marked the beginning of the Garuda’s work-up cycle for their upcoming deployment aboard the USS CARL VINSON starting with Electronic Attack Advanced Readiness Phase (EW-ARP) run by the Electronic Attack Weapons School receiving an overall grade of “Average” for its performance.
In August 2010, the Garudas rejoined Carrier Air Wing 17 for Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) for a month of shipboard operations. This detachment allowed the squadron to tactically integrate electronic attack support with Air Wing aircraft in various missions, fusing both expeditionary and carrier based knowledge.
The Garudas turned right back around and spent most of October 2010 at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada providing the Garudas with a unique and challenging training opportunity for its aircrew and maintainers. Earning a grade of 'Above Average' during the detachment the squadron was described as "the best in five Air Wings", thus further demonstrating themselves as a valuable member of the Air Wing 17 team. Additionally, the Garuda aircrew served as the planning lead for a highly successful CVW-17 AGM-88 HARM shoot to Pt. Mugu, CA, providing critical training and readiness to VAQ-134 and all four Air Wing F/A-18 squadrons.
Dececmber 2010 brought VAQ-134 back to the USS CARL VINSON for Combined Training Unit Exercise (CTX) to incorporate the skills and knowledge gained during their demanding work up cycle. For three weeks, the Garudas produced unparalleled results from carrier landings to electronic attack employment, leading the way in the development and execution of Carrier Strike Group ONE’s Coutner Targeting (CTTG) and Anti-ship Missile Defense (ASMD) doctrine and tactics.
22 December 2010 marked the first carrier based deployment for the squadron in 16 years. The six-month combat deployment to the CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility (AOR) put the squadron at the tip of the spear supporting Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and NEW DAWN.
The Garudas returned from their inaugural deployment in June 2011, and enjoyed five weeks at home before leaving again for NAS Fallon for an abbreviated Air Wing syllabus.
After yet another rapid turn-around cycle, the Garudas have once again proven that they are one of the premier Prowler squadrons in the United States Navy. The Garudas are proud of their fine record of operational excellence and have always served as the nation’s front line in electronic attack.