SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) – On the busy flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) where the crew and deck are littered with text, colors and symbols, standing out is a difficult challenge. A challenge the “Dambusters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195 took head-on for the 2017 patrol as part of the embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5.
After the squadron’s recent change of command, the Dambusters were looking for an update to their helmet decorations. An idea was formed to go back to basics and use the iconic eagle as part of their fresh look.
“Our new skipper, Cmdr. Ryan S. Jackson, wanted to recapture the pride and distinguished look of the previous helmets, but didn’t want to take a step back,” said Lt. Christian Frasher, one of the designers of the new helmets.
Prior to 1951, VFA-195 was known as the VA-195 Tigers. On May 1, 1951, VA-195 destroyed the strategically important Hwacheon Dam in Korea with aerial torpedoes, earning the nickname “Dambusters.”
Since 1951 the nickname stuck and the squadron created a new emblem of an eagle holding missiles and a bomb in its claws. The eagle became known as “Chippy” and has followed the squadron since.
After the new design was agreed upon, Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class (AW) Brandon Webb and Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class (AW) Chelsea Watson worked together to draft up the stickers for the helmets.
“We started with the squadron colors [green and black] and went from there making sure it looked good,” said Webb.
To prepare the helmets for the upcoming deployment, the Sailors and pilots worked diligently to cut out the individual stickers and make sure each helmet was prepped with the new logo.
Watson worked nights while the squadron was on shore and said the team worked meticulously to ensure each helmet looked its best.
“We would meet at shift change to pass down any progress made on the eagles,” said Watson. “We worked around the clock to make sure they looked great.”
Each eagle was printed into different sections; the gray background, the white eagle, the green feathers and the yellow beak. The individual sections were then placed carefully on each helmet in a specific order and with great patience.
“After the shapes were cut, we developed a process using tweezers and transfer tape to assemble the shapes into the eagles,” said Frasher. “All of the pilots chipped in to put together their own eagles for their helmets. Each eagle, four per pilot, took an hour to peel and place together.”
In the end the pilots and Sailors’ work paid off and each helmet was updated with the fresh look. The squadron embarked the ship with their newly minted helmets ready to tackle the patrol.
On the flight deck the squadron pilots and flight deck crew work tirelessly to maintain, fuel, and launch the aircraft. Their uniforms vary in color and symbols painted on their backs. Squadron logos are mixed throughout the crowd. The gray, green and yellow Chippy stands out, identifying the Dambusters with a whole new look.