VAW-124 was commissioned on 1 September 1967 and nicknamed the "BULLSEYE HUMMERS." In 1968, the squadron was assigned to Attack Carrier Air Wing SEVEN (CVW-7) and deployed aboard USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62).
In April 1970, VAW-124 deployed with CVW-9 aboard USS AMERICA (CVA-66) to Southeast Asia.
In June 1972, VAW-124 embarked again aboard AMERICA for an extended Western Pacific deployment. Seven line periods and 147 combat days later, VAW-124 was present in the Gulf of Tonkin when the Vietnamese Agreement was signed on 28 January 1973.
VAW-124 deployed with CVW-6 aboard AMERICA in the summer of 1976 and again in October 1977. The squadron was awarded the COMNAVAIRLANT-Battle Efficiency Award and the Command Retention Silver Anchor Award in recognition of accomplishments during the year.
In December 1980, the squadron received immediate deployment orders to Keflavik, Iceland. As a result of numerous VAW-124 directed intercepts of Soviet "Bear" reconnaissance aircraft, the squadron acquired the new nickname "BEAR ACES."
On 19 August 1981, USS NIMITZ (CVN-68) captured world attention while operating in the Gulf of Sidra. In response to an unprovoked attack, F-14 Tomcats under the control of a VAW-124 intercepted and shot down two Libyan SU-22 "Fitter" fighter aircraft. This demonstrated the deadly effectiveness of the "Hawkeye-Tomcat" team. In June 1985, VAW-124 provided tracking of hijacked TWA Flight 847 as it crisscrossed the Mediterranean. The Bear Aces were awarded their second COMNAVAIRLANT Battle Efficiency Award at the conclusion of 1987 and completed over sixteen years and 32,000 hours of mishap-free flying.
On 21 January 1991, CVW-8 launched its first major strike of "Desert Storm" with the BEAR ACES providing critical AEW, command and control, and SAR coordination. When the cease-fire went into effect on 28 February, the BEAR ACES flew a total of 331 combat sorties and over 1150 combat hours in support of 1220 strikes against 531 targets in the Kuwait Theater of Operations, the most combat hours and combat sorties of any E-2C squadron. Remarkably, over 750 of the combat hours were flown in a single thirty-day period. After transiting the Suez Canal on 20 April, USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) assumed station northeast of Cyprus between Turkey and Syria to lead a multi-national Operation PROVIDE COMFORT. The transit home ended a highly successful and unforgettable combat cruise for the BEAR ACES. On 26 June, the BEAR ACES returned home to a hero's welcome.
In August, VAW-124 was awarded the 1991 AEW EXCELLENCE AWARD by VADM Less, Commander, U.S. Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet. This award is given annually to the finest E-2C squadron in the Navy.
In April 1999, VAW-124 departed Norfolk for what became an unprecedented (why was it unprecedented?) combat deployment aboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71). The BEAR ACES flew combat missions during Operation ALLIED FORCE against targets in Kosovo. Transiting to the Arabian Gulf, the BEAR ACES completed the deployment enforcing the no-fly zone in Iraq in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.
VAW-124 left home again in April 2001 aboard USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65). After several months of operations in the Northern and Mediterranean Seas, the BEAR ACES flew airborne early warning missions in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH over Iraq. VAW-124 proved crucial in numerous strikes against Iraqi targets. In September, with their mission complete, the ENTERPRISE headed south towards Capetown, a rare African port call.
However, due to the tragic events of September 11th, ENTERPRISE would not make it to Capetown, South Africa. Demonstrating flexibility of a carrier strike group, ENTERPRISE quickly took station in the Northern Arabian Sea as VAW-124 and CVW-8 prepared for what would become Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The BEAR ACES led the way by providing Airborne Early Warning and Command/Control for Allied Air Forces. Again, the squadron quickly adapted to the challenge and excelled in typical BEAR ACE fashion.
The deployment demonstrated the inherent flexibility of naval forces and proved once again the value of Navy TACAIR and the importance of the E-2C in both combat and peacetime operations.
During the normal workup cycle in early January 2003, while preparing for a June 2003 deployment, the BEAR ACES answered the call once again and steamed to the Mediterranean onboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) in support of the escalating situation that would eventually develop into Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Once again, the BEAR ACES, along with CVW-8 and the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) Carrier Strike Group proved to be the right instrument at the right time in history to answer the call of the nation. The skilled professionals of the BEAR ACES providing Airborne Early Warning and Command/Control for the carrier strike group and the strike assets attacking Iraqi targets and led U.S. efforts to displace a despotic regime.
Beginning another normal workup cycle in October 2004, VAW-124 honed their skills for their second deployment in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. VAW-124 departed Norfolk in September 2005 to support Operation SEA DRAGON THREE in the Arabian Gulf. During their six and a half month deployment, VAW-124 provided Airborne Early Warning and Command/Control for CVW-8 and the THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) Carrier Strike Group. During the deployment, the dedicated men and women of VAW-124 proved their mettle by helping ensure maritime security environment and continued to lead from the front in the war on terror.
In September 2008 VAW-124 deployed onboard THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71). During this deployment the BEAR ACES provided Airborne Early Warning and Command/Control for CVW-8 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Over the course of 7 months the BEAR ACES ensured Coalition forces successfully and effectively transited Afghanistan Joint Operation Area as well as providing necessary airborne command and control to conduct missions for coalition forces on the ground. Bear Ace air intercept controllers also participated in Exercise Neon Falcon, a joint military training exercise between the U.S. Navy and Bahraini Air Force and in Exercise Eastern Angler, a joint military training exercise between the U.S. Navy and Qatari Air Force. The BEAR ACES conducted over 400 sorties flying over 2000 flight hours and over 800 traps onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The Bear Aces were also awarded the CNO Safety “S” on April 13, 2009.
In May of 2009, the BEAR ACES received an outstanding grade of 90% on the Aircraft Material Condition Inspection 90%. In a continuation of their superior performance, in the September Unit Evaluation they were recommended for an Outstanding, and scored far above rest of the fleet E-2 squadrons.
The year 2011 would once again allow the BEAR ACES to prove themselves on a combat deployment. This time the BEAR ACES would be onboard the USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH (CVN-77) for her maiden deployment. During the deployment, the BEAR ACES provided the Carrier Strike Group TWO with Command and Control and Airborne Early Warning in support of Exercise Saxon Warrior, Joint Task Force Horn of Africa and Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and NEW DAWN. In addition to combat operations, the BEAR ACES supported Exercise Nautical Artist by sending a detachment of their aircrew to Saudi Arabia. Over the course of 7 months, the BEAR ACES successfully and effectively supported Coalition Forces as they transited the Afghanistan Joint Operation Area while providing necessary Airborne Command and Control in support of Coalition Forces on the ground. The BEAR ACES also facilitated the drawdown of coalition forces in Iraq. During this deployment, the BEAR ACES completed 552 sorties and 2,643 mishap-free flight hours. In recognition of their unrelenting perseverance throughout the year, the BEAR ACES received the 2011 Battle “E”, 2011 COMACLOGWING East Coast Top Hook Award and the 2011 Blue “M”.
In preparing for the next deployment, the BEAR ACES will continue to honor their storied past and hone their war-fighting skills to execute commander's intent through dominant command and control, leveraging the speed, agility and lethality of joint and combined forces to shape the battle space to our advantage and swiftly defeat any foe.