NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. (NNS) — The “Vikings” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 held a change of command ceremony at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, August 1, 2017.
Cmdr. Eric Illston relieved Capt. Trevor Estes as the commanding officer of VAQ-129. The ceremony started with an airborne change of command followed by a more formal ceremony where Estes passed Illston the squadron’s Viking broadsword.
In September of 2015 Captain Estes assumed command of VAQ-129, the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS)for the EA-18G Growler community. In his time leading the 650 personnel and 50 aircraft squadron, 240 students graduated to the Navy’s premier Electronic Attack fleet. The squadron manages the training for roughly 130 students at a time through a challenging syllabus including Air-to-Air counter tactics, carrier qualifications, and airborne electronic attack. Estes lead the Vikings through a rigorous operational tempo with 33 detachments to various air stations and aircraft carriers across the country and was the acting carrier air wing commander on seven carrier qualification detachments for all the Tailhook FRSs. Through this schedule, the Vikings were also awarded the Commander, Electronic Attack Squadron Wing Pacific (CVWP) Golden Wrench Award in 2016 for utilizing the most outstanding maintenance practice.
Estes is leaving the Vikings to command Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) stationed in Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
Illston has been in the VAQ community since he was winged as a Naval Aviator in 1999 and has more than 3,200 flight hours in the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler. He joins the Vikings after a tour with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J-5, Global Policy and Partnerships) in the Pentagon.
“This squadron is the finest training squadron in the world and I’m thrilled to be a Viking again,” said Illston. “I look forward to guiding us through our mission; to fly upwards of 15,000 hours safely, lead professional aviators and maintainers, produce the highest quality of pilots and electronic warfare officers for the Navy’s airborne electronic attack community and to have fun as a team.”
VAQ-129 flies the EA-18G, which is the fourth major variant of the F/A-18 family of aircraft. Their mission is to teach the basics of electronic attack, the offensive suppression of an adversary’s electromagnetic spectrum, focused primarily on radars and communications. The EA-18G is the Navy’s primary tactical jamming aircraft.
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