MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 became Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 during a redesignation ceremony aboard Cherry Point Friday.
As the Navy transitions from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-18G Growler, the Marine Corps is assuming the responsibilities of training its Prowler aircrews. Prior to this, EA-6B aviators received their initial and follow-on training at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
“The conversion of the squadron will allow more integration of training with the fleet,” said Capt. Calvin R. Smallwood, the assistant operations officer of VMAQT-1. “Because training was conducted way out at Whidbey Island, there was a bit of disconnect between initial training, advanced tactical training and the fleet.”
The newly stood up training squadron’s mission focuses on core skill introduction training, which will teach aircrews the skills they need to operate and navigate during basic flights.
“This vital change is important for the Prowler community and the Marine Corps,” said Smallwood. “We will continue to operate the Prowler until 2019. In order to do that, we need to keep our aircrews properly trained in how to do so.”
As VMAQT-1 Marines adjust to new responsibilities, many are gearing up to take on roles as instructors before the unit begins its first Prowler training evolution in October. “We are using the time we have before we
begin training to make the new syllabus more Marine Corps centralized, focusing more on assault support, anti-aircraft warfare, offensive air support, electronic warfare, control of aircraft and missiles and aerial reconnaissance, the functions of Marine Corps aviation,” Smallwood said.
Thus far, the Marines have faced the challenges that come along with transitioning from a fully functioning fleet squadron to a training squadron well, said Smallwood.
“We have had two different mission sets going at one time,” he said. “For the most part, we have been very successful at balancing both. I know we will continue to perform well.”
VMAQ-1 was one of only four operational Marine Corps electronic warfare squadrons, all based out of Cherry Point. After it’s activation in 1952 as Marine Composite Squadron 1, the unit supported Korean War combat operations by conducting airborne early warning and electronic countermeasures.
Throughout the span of VMAQ-1’s history, the squadron saw action and provided support for combat in Vietnam, Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Now that Lt. Col. Joshua S.K. Gordon’s prior unit has been deactivated and he has taken command of the training squadron, he will still be responsible for the five aircraft that were under his command at VMAQ-1. The squadron expects to receive an additional aircraft to add to their arsenal in the near future.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Smallwood. “Our aircrews and instructors have a chance to put their mark on every Prowler aviator going to the fleet for the next three to four years.”