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VAW-121 - BLUETAILS

HISTORY OF THE VAW-121 "BLUETAILS"

Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWENTY ONE (VAW-121) traces its origin to Project Cadillac, a program initiated in 1942 to develop airborne radar relay platforms. By June 1945, the first group of modified Carrier Airbirne Early Warning (AEW) TBM-3 AVENGERS were conducting trials with the USS RANGER (CV 61). However, the war ended before the first AEW units could see action. 

Following World War II, Fleet Aviation Electronics Training Units (FAETU's) were established on both coasts and continued to train pilots, operators, and maintenance personnel on AEW equipment. VAW-1 on the West Coast and VAW-2 on the East Coast were formed to replace the FAETU's in 1948. Within a yeasr, VAW-2 was redesignated VC-12 and relocated to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, where the TBM-3W was replaced with the AD-3W SKYRAIDER. During the Korean War, VC-12 sent detachments to deploy in West Coast carriers bound for Korea.

VC-12 continued to operate an improved version of the SKYRAIDER, the AD-5W, until 1960 when they acquired the new WF TRACER "WILLY FUDD", later redesignated as the E-1B. VC-12 was redesignated VAW-12 in 1960 and in 1962 moved from Quonset Point to NAS Norfolk, Virginia. In 1966 the East Coast's first E-2A arrived and in 1967 the Chief of Naval Operations directed the formation of separate squadrons and a functional wing. 

On 1 April 1967, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Wing TWELVE, RVAW-120, VAW-121 and VAW-123 were established. VAW-121 was commissioned as the GRIFFINS with the tactical call sign "PALMETTOS". The new E-2A's were flown by all squadrons except VAW-121. They assumed the E-B1's from VAW-12 and operated aboard USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT(CVA 42) as the sole remaining fleet E-1Bsquadron from 1973 through 1975. In 1975, VAW-121 transitioned from the oldest AEW aircraft in the Navy's inventory, to the newest, the E-2C HAWKEYE. 
VAW-121 joined Carrier Air Wing SEVEN (CVW-7) aboard the newly commissioned USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) in January 1978 and became the first E-2C squadron to operate from a carrier. During this period of new challenges, VAW-121 hanged its tactical call sign to "BLUETAIL" and adopted the unique tail design you see today. VAW-121 quickly established a reputation for superior performance throughout the fleet, and in recognition was awarded the Battle Efficiency "E" for 1979, as well as the 1979 AEW Excellence Award and the CNO Aviation Safety "S". 


In April 1980, the BLUETAILS deployed on IKE to the Indian Ocean, during which the squadron set new monthly, quarterly, and annual flight hour records for the E-2 community and was again recognized for outstanding performance with their second consecutive Battle Efficiency "E", AEW Excellence Award, and the CNO Aviation Safety "S" for 1980.


In 1981 the BLUETAILS deployed to Keflavik, Iceland, to provide 3 months of AEW for the Icelandic Defense Force. Upon their return from Iceland, VAW-121 and IKE deployed to the North Atlantic for a large NATO exercise in which VAW-121 once again set new community records by keeping aircraft continuously airborne for 23 days. The BLUETAILS returned to the Mediterranean Sea in January 1982 and garnered an unprecedented third consecutive Battle "E" and AEW Excellence Awards, both firsts for a VAW squadron. During the deployment, the BLUETAILS were involved in overseeing the evacuation of Americans from Beirut.


The 1983 Mediterranean deployment proved to be one of the most rigorous in the squadron's history. It included contingency operations near Libya and 95 and 92 consecutive days at sea in support of multi-national peacekeeping forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. In October 1984, the BLUETAILS once again deployed to the Mediterranean and continued to build their tradition of aviation excellence, winning the coveted CVW-7 Golden Tailhook Award twice. 


During the BLUETAILS' 1988 Med Deployment, they participated in several multi-national exercises, highlighted by the week long NATO excercise DRAGON HAMMER 88 While deployed, VAW-121 achieved an unprecedented 100% sortie completion rate. 


In April 1989, the BLUETAILS onboard the USS EISENHOWER participated in SOlid SHield '89, a highly successful joint exercise which involved all branches of the U.S.Armed Forces March 1990 saw VAW-121 and CVW-7 embark in IKE for another crucial Med cruise. This deployment was highlighted by 15 days of around the clock operations in the Red Sea in support of the critical initial phase of Operation Desert Shield, when external AEW support was non-existent. Once again, in March 1991, VAW-121 was awarded both the prestigious Battle "E" and AEW Excellence Awards for 1990. 


In September 1991, the BLUETAILS and CVW-7 sailed east once again in IKE becoming the first Battle Group to return to "Operation Desert Storm". Although hostilities had ended the BLUETAILS provided essential coordination and control for several joint multi-national excercises. Cruise culminated in a two week NATO excercise, Teamwork '92, in the fjords of Norway.


In September 1992, VAW-121 and CVW-7 relocated to the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) and participated in the carrier's initial two month "shakedown". The squadron once again proudly served aboard the Navy's newest nuclear carrier. 


February of 1993 found VAW-121 deployed to Howard AFB, Panama. For two months, the BLUETAILS, as part of Joint Task Force 4, expertly provided airborne surveillance to help stem the flow of drug traffiking from the Central Central America region. The squadron was the crucial detection and communication link which fused the efforts of the U.S. Air Force, D.E.A., and U.S. Naval vessels and aircraft in intercepting numerous narcotic flights. 
On 20 May 1994, after an extensive work-up period, the BLUETAILS deployed with Carrier Air Wing SEVEN and USS GEORGE WASHINGTON for it's maiden deployment. Highlights of the historic voyage included the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day as well as the BLUETAILS key participation in operations Deny Flight over Bosnia - Herzegovina and Southern Watch over Iraq.


After an accelerated turnaround cycle, VAW-121 departed on deployment bound for the Mediterranean Sea and Arabian Gulf in January 1996. Once again, the command, control, and communication efforts of the squadron were utilized in Operation Decisive Endeavor over Bosnia-Herzegovina and Southern Watch over Iraq. The BLUETAILS returned home in July 1996 and immediately began transitioning to the new E-2C Group II aircraft. The BLUETAILS are currently training for their next deployment in February 1998 with CVW-7 onboard the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74).


The BLUETAILS are owners of the best safety record of any East Coast squadron and the second longest in carrier aviation. The squadron has surpassed 29 years and over 58,000 flight hours mishap free. This is truly a credit to the tradition of teasmwork and and attitude of "BLUETAILS take care of BLUETAILS". 

 

PRESENTED AS A GIFT OF THE BLUETAIL WARDROOM ON 29 AUGUST 1996:
CDR JOHN M. PRIUTT, JR. CDR CARL M. JUNE 
LT RAYMOND T. SCHENK LCDR ANDREW ALFORD
LCDR DAVID L. BUTTRAM LT JOHN W. SCIUTTI
LCDR RICHARD D. KEYS LCDR RICHARD A. LAWSON
LTJG JAMES B. BLEAKLEY  LCDR THOMAS J. MURPHY
LCDR PAUL D. SHANKLAND LTJG WALTER V. SMITH
LCDR RICHARD E.VANDEN HEUVEL LT HENRY G. BERG
LT DOUGLAS J. BEAVER LT KEVIN P. BLENKHORN
LT MARCUS M. SMALLWOOD LT STEVEN J. WEIMAN
LT WILLIAM A. BULIS LT MARK E. FOSTER
LT RONALD P. PREISS LT DAVID T. FRITZ
LT LEONARD M. HAIDL LT RANDY J. ROBERGE
LT SCOTT V. HANNA LT BRIAN K. JACOBS
LT JEFFREY A. MARTIN LT PETER J. KASISKI
LT RAY E. KOCHEY LT ROBERT P. MOORE IV
LT LEONARD E. KRESTAN LT REGINALD D. LEUTHEN
  
FORMER VAW-121 COMMANDING OFFICERS :
CAPT J.A. PARISEAN APR 67 - JUN 67 
CDR E.F. CAFFREY, JR. OCT 88 - FEB 90
CAPT S.L. CORNER JUN 67 - JUL 67
CDR M.R. MILLIKEN FEB 90 - FEB 91
CDR R.A. PETTIGREW JUL 67 - JUL 68 
CDR M.F. KLAUSS FEB 91 - JUL 92
CDR S.V. REYNOLDS JUL 68 - MAY 69 
CDR L.E. TANT JUL 92 - NOV 93
CDR C.F. ALEXANDER MAY 69 - JUN 70 
CDR P.S. PRITULSKY NOV 93 - FEB 95
CDR T.G. EVANS JUN 70 - MAY 71 
CDR C.M. JUNE FEB 95 - AUG 96
CDR W.T. MIESSE MAY 71 - JUN 72 
CDR J.M. PRUITT AUG 96 - PRESENT
CDR R.M. PHILLIP JUN 72 - JUN 73
CDR R.L. RENTSCHLER JUN 73 - JUN 75
CDR P.E. ELLISON JUN 75 - AUG 76
CDR W.A. WAGNER AUG 76 - NOV 77
CDR W.E. BEYMAN NOV 77 - FEB 79
CDR A.J. MURPHY FEB 79 - APR 80
CDR J.W. SPRAGUE APR 80 - JUL 81
CDR D.E. WALKER JUL 81 - OCT 82
CDR T.J. WENDT OCT 82 - MAY 84
CDR J.L. ROBERTS MAY 84 - NOV 85
CDR W.D. VANCE NOV 85 - APR 87
CDR O.R. BABIN APR 87 - OCT 88

Based on code developed by Richards Consulting Group