HISTORY

 

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 USS AMERICA (CVA-66) 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 USS AMERICA in the summer of 1976 and again in October 1977. The squadron was awarded the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle Efficiency Award (“Battle E”) 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 E” at the conclusion of 1987. On 21 January 1991, CVW-8 launched its first major strike of OPERATION DESERT STORM with the BEAR ACES providing critical AEW, command and control, and Search and Rescue coordination. By the time the cease-fire went into effect on 28 February 1991, the BEAR ACES had flown a total of 331 combat sorties and over 1,150 combat hours in support of 1,220 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 1991, USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) assumed station northeast of Cyprus between Turkey and Syria to lead the multi-national OPERATION PROVIDE COMFORT. The transit home ended a highly successful and unforgettable combat cruise for the BEAR ACES. On 26 June 1991, the BEAR ACES returned home to a hero's welcome.

In August 1991, VAW-124 was awarded the AEW Excellence Award for being the finest E-2C squadron in the Navy.

In April 1999, VAW-124 departed Norfolk 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 (AEW) missions in support of OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH over Iraq and 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.

Due to the tragic events of September 11, USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65) would not make it to Capetown, South Africa. Demonstrating the flexibility of a Carrier Strike Group (CSG), the Strike Group 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 first strikes of the operation by providing AEW and Command/Control (C2) for Allied Air Forces. The deployment demonstrated the inherent flexibility of naval forces and proved once again the value of the CSG and the importance of the E-2C in both combat and peacetime operations.

In an unprecedented move, while demonstrating incredible professionalism and flexibility, the BEAR ACES and the rest of the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) Strike Group departed in 2003 during COMPTUEX and steamed to the Mediterranean Sea to support an escalating situation. This developed into OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. Once again, the BEAR ACES proved to be the right instrument at the right time in history, as they led the first strikes into Iraq. The skilled professionals of the BEAR ACES provided AEW and C2 for the CSG and the strike assets attacking Iraqi targets.

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 AEW and C2 for CVW-8 and USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71). During the deployment, the dedicated men and women of VAW-124 proved their mettle by helping ensure a maritime secure environment and continued to lead from the front in the War on Terror.

In September 2008, VAW-124 again deployed onboard USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71). During this deployment the BEAR ACES provided AEW and C2 for CVW-8 in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. Over the course of seven months the BEAR ACES ensured Coalition forces successfully and effectively transited the Afghanistan Joint Operation Area as well as provided necessary C2 to conduct missions for coalition forces on the ground. BEAR ACE Air Intercept Controllers also participated in OPERATION NEON FALCON, a Joint military training exercise between the U.S. Navy and the Bahraini Air Force and in EXERCISE EASTERN ANGLER, a Joint military training exercise between the U.S. Navy and the Qatari Air Force. At the conclusion of the deployment, the BEAR ACES were awarded the CNO Safety “S”.

The year 2011 would once again allow the BEAR ACES to prove themselves on a combat deployment. Onboard USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH (CVN-77) for her maiden deployment, the BEAR ACES provided CSG-2 with AEW and C2 in support of EXERCISE SAXTON WARRIOR, Joint Task Force Horn of Africa and OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and NEW DAWN. Over the course of seven months, the BEAR ACES successfully and effectively supported Coalition Forces as they transited the Afghanistan Joint Operation Area while providing necessary C2 in support of Coalition Forces on the ground. The BEAR ACES also facilitated the drawdown of Coalition Forces in Iraq. In recognition of their accomplishments, the BEAR ACES received the 2011 “Battle E”.

In February 2014, the BEAR ACES and CVW-8 deployed aboard USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH as a member of CSG-2 to the Afghanistan Joint Operation Area to provide AEW and C2 in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. In June 2014, after spending just a few short months over Afghanistan, CSG-2 was ordered to the Arabian Gulf to support the Government of Iraq against the invasion by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in what was later named OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE. The BEAR ACES would also support the first strikes into Syria in an attempt to deny ISIL a safe haven. Over the course of the nine month deployment, the BEAR ACES flew 548 sorties and 2,210 mishap-free flight hours, 465 combat sorties and 2,120 were combat flight hours. In recognition of their contributions in support of OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE the BEAR ACES were awarded the 2014 CNAL “Battle E” and the 2014 RADM Frank Akers Award. In addition, the squadron was awarded the 2014 CNO Aviation Safety “S” Award and the 2014 Blue “M” for outstanding medical readiness.

The BEAR ACES participated in multiple Joint exercises during 2015. Notably, VAW-124 was designated as the Command and Control element lead for EXERCISE AMALGAM DART. This Joint exercise between the Department of Homeland Defense and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) marked the first time in years that any U.S. Navy Hawkeye squadron was included in execution of OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE. Due to their success, VAW-124 was hand-selected to participate in EXERCISE VIGILANT SHIELD, a test of NORAD’s defense of the United States and Canada in the arctic. The deployment of the "Polar" BEAR ACES to Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay, Newfoundland, marked the first deployment of a U.S. Navy squadron in support of NORAD.

January 2017 marked the beginning of the BEAR ACES final deployment in the E-2C Navigation Upgrade. Embarked aboard USS GEORGE H. W. BUSH (CVN-77), the squadron deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf in support of OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE. While continually adapting to the dynamic battlespace, the BEAR ACES filled key CENTCOM radar coverage gaps in the south of Syria, which led to the detection and eventual shoot-down of another SU-22 Fitter aircraft. The deployment ended with EXERCISE SAXTON WARRIOR, focusing on interoperability between U.S. and British naval forces.

In the summer of 2018, the BEAR ACES and CVW-8 participated in EXERCISE CHESAPEAKE aboard the USS GEORGE H. W. BUSH (CVN-77). They completed carrier qualifications and cyclic operations while underway alongside the French 4F (Hawkeyes) and 17F (Rafale) squadrons.

During a September 2018 detachment to Tyndall Air Force Base, the BEAR ACES worked in a challenging Joint Force environment to provide control for Air Force fighters as well as Air Wing fighters from VFA-37, VFA-87 and VFA-213 in support of EXERCISE COMBAT ARCHER. In April 2019, the squadron detached to Nellis, Air Force Base in support of EXERCISE NEPTUNE HAWK, an extensive joint exercise.

In 2018, the BEAR ACES were awarded with the Retention Excellence Award, Medical Blue “M”, and in February 2019, the Golden Wrench Award. The squadron is currently transitioning to the E-2C Hawkeye 2000.

The BEAR ACES will continue to honor their storied past and rich heritage that carried them through times of adversity and victory. The BEAR ACES will continue to execute the 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.