“Records of the early days of the Navy's aerial electronic reconnaissance efforts in the European area are vague. Through research of unit histories, personal interviews, and with some speculation, the following information has been discerned.
In much the same way as in the Pacific, the Navy's dedicated airborne aerial reconnaissance program in Europe had its genesis with patrol squadrons in World ,War Two. It appears that one of these European-based squadrons had a secondary task of electronic recce. At the end of the war, VP-1I4 had a three-plane detachment of Consolidated PB4Y-I Liberators based at NAS Port Lyautey, French Morocco. Following the war, until June 1950, the squadron (variously designated VP-HL-6 and finally VP-26, which it carries today) maintained a permanent detachment of PB4Y-2 Privateers at Port Lyautey, while the parent squadron switched between the Moroccan base and NAS Patuxent River, Md.
During this period, the Port Lyautey detachment aircraft were specially configured for the electronic reconnaissance mission, and thus present the earliest traceable origins of VQ-2.
The primary operating areas for the electronic reconnaissance versions of VP-26's "4Y-2"s were the Baltic and Adriatic Seas, with tasking against Soviet radar facilities. The squadron's "electronic" Privateers operated from Port Lyautcy under the guise of acting as courier aircraft for US. embassies and missions throughout Europe, Scandinavia and Western Asia. During one of these Baltic Sea missions occurred the first in a long series of incidents of the "Cold War" involving U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and Sino-Soviet fighters.
he First Unit Forms
The Arrival of New Assets
The Move to Rota and More New Aircraft
The Series of Peacetime Crises Begins
The Vietnam War
A Period of Continued Crisis
Arrival of the EP-3E
Some Historic Firsts
The Frantic 1980s Begin
“Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron TWO delivered critical electronic combat information to US forces. VQ-2's 550 crew members are based at Rota. VQ-2's mission is to conduct airborne electronic reconnaissance to obtain information on areas and targets of naval and national interest. The reconnaissance aircraft provide Fleet, Joint, Combined, and National Level Commanders with vital and timely intelligence concerning potentially unfriendly forces.
Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 2 relocated from Rota, Spain, to Whidbey Island, Wash., effective Sept. 1, 2005. The move is meant to co-locate the squadron with VQ-1, already based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and thus realize efficiencies through the consolidation of personnel deployment practices, aircraft maintenance practices and air crew training for these unique Navy squadrons. The closure of VQ-2 facilities in Rota was being done in phases, with most of the Sailors and their family members permitted to complete their tours in Spain, while new personnel reported to facilities in Whidbey Island.
VQ-2's airborne reconnaissance platforms, operating in international airspace either independently or in conjunction with other U. S. Forces, frequently provide the Fleet Commanders with their only real-time assessment of the tactical posture of unfriendly military forces. While providing intelligence to the fleet in a multi-threat/open ocean environment, the reconnaissance crew, using experience and extensive knowledge, must rapidly determine the evolving tactical scenario by analyzing available information. The ability of the fleet to respond effectively, could ultimately depend upon the skill and efficiency with which the VQ-2 reconnaissance team interprets and reacts to the changing environment.
The ability of the mission aircraft to relay information directly to US Units and ground sites significantly enhance the squadron's fleet reconnaissance capability, while the real-time transmission of critical intelligence directly to the national command authority allows decision makers time to react rapidly to key developments in volatile foreign countries.
Until 1991, VQ-2 flew both the EA-3 and the EP-3 "Aries" long-range electronic reconnaissance airframes. The last "Whale" retired from active service in September 1991. Additionally, the squadron completely upgraded its EP-3 inventory from 1991 to 1995 with the more modern and capable EP-3E "Aries-II" aircraft.
The Administrative Department (N-1) is made up of several distinct divisions. In the Administrative Services Division, yeomen manage the variety of administrative processes associated with any complex organization. They provide administrative support in the areas of legal services, public affairs, awards, evaluations, temporary additional duty, and command directives. They also manage the squadron mail room, provide clerical assistance to the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, and maintain the command's general administrative services.
In addition to administrative support, the Administrative Department maintains an Educational Services Office and Career Counseling Office which provide tuition assistance information, rate training manuals, correspondence study guides, a correspondence course library, and the tracking of all advancement requirements. Additionally, they maintain liaison with Navy Campus for updated educational information, coordinate the submission of all officer commissioning packages, and coordinate and train career counselors command wide to ensure career related questions are answered rapidly. Another division, the Human Resources Management/Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor Office manages the development, implementation, and coordination of a variety of interrelated programs involving equal opportunity, race relations, drug and alcohol education, and abuse prevention. Finally, the First Lieutenant Division performs all general facilities maintenance functions for the squadron. Additionally, they run the squadron Auxiliary Retail Outlet and Enlisted barracks.
The Intelligence Department (N-2) is made up of three divisions, each performing an essential function in support of squadron operations. An Intelligence Specialist (IS) watch keeps a close eye on the political and military climate in the Mediterranean Sea and surrounding countries. This watch briefs the Commanding Officer and aircrews regularly, providing up to date tactical intelligence information on current and potential threats and enemy capabilities. The Special Intelligence Communications Division (SPINTCOMM) is staffed by the squadron Cryptologic Technician Communications Operators (CTO's). Responsibilities include: handling all squadron message traffic, a vital part of squadron operations, and troubleshooting the complex communications circuits if there is a circuit outage. The Special Security Office (SSO) is also an integral part of the Intelligence Department. The SSO indoctrinates cleared personnel in the use of Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), debriefs personnel upon transfer, and maintains over 300 personnel files. In addition, the SSO handles all Defense Courier Service material and serves as the primary point of contact for questions concerning security procedures.
The Operations Department (N-3) sets the pace for squadron operations. Officer and enlisted personnel schedule mission and training flights, track the status of all aircrew, and keep Fleet and national-level decision makers informed on the success of mission flights. The Operations Statistics Division maintains all aircrew flight hours and ensures the proper entries are made in log books. They also manage the many Fleet, Joint, and Combined exercises the squadron participates in throughout the year.
The Maintenance Department (N-5) is comprised of the aviation professionals responsible for ensuring aircraft are available for operational tasking. Even though the majority of the Maintenance Department personnel are assigned to non-flying billets, they frequently find themselves conducting maintenance at various forward deployed staging areas. The remainder of this department is made up of aircrew personnel who, when not flying, work to keep the mission "birds" fully mission capable. Specific rating, individual expertise, and applicable manning requirements all combine to determine an individual's ultimate placement into a Production, Staff, or Material Control Division that encompasses eight distinct work centers.
Maintenance Production is divided into three main divisions. Aircraft Division, or 100 Division, is comprised of Power Plants (110), Airframes (120), Corrosion Control (12C) and Aviators Life Support/Survival (130) branches. Power Plants, with it's Aviation Machinist's Mates (AD's), test, service, and repair the high powered T-56 turbo-prop engines. The Aviation Structural Mechanics and Hydraulics personnel (AMS's and AMH's) found in Airframes, are experts in the structural systems of the aircraft, landing gear, fuselage, and flight control systems. Corrosion Control Technicians, utilizing in-depth corrosion prevention and control programs, keep the aircraft in top material condition. Aviation Structural Mechanics, Safety Equipment (AME's) and Aircrew Survival Equipment (PR's) are divided into two work centers, 13A and 13B, ensuring aircraft and aircrew survival and safety equipment is properly inspected and installed.
Avionics Division, or 200 Division, incorporates three branches: Electronics (210), Electrical/Instrument (220), and Special Projects (215).Aviation Electronics Technicians (AT's) and Aviation Electrician Mates (AE's) from these branches are tasked with maintaining the communications, navigation, and cockpit instrumentation equipment in the aircraft. Both ratings plus Aviation Structural Mechanics are also found in work center 215 (Special Projects) which develops and maintains the complex and varied special avionics and sensor systems that provide the means to accomplish most of the squadron's mission objectives. In the Special Projects Work center, assigned personnel work with civilian engineers and experienced warfare designated officers to determine the requirements for the procurement and installation of prototype systems to enhance the VQ-2 mission. They perform the testing and evaluation of these systems in the real world environment.
The final Production Division is the Line, or 300 Division. The Line Division is primarily staffed by personnel from various aviation ratings just beginning their aviation maintenance careers. They control, direct, and position the aircraft in and around the VQ-2 flight line and hangar. Additionally, they manage and coordinate the training and usage of a vast array of aviation support equipment.
The second part of the Maintenance Department (staff) is comprised of Maintenance Control (020), Maintenance Administration (030), Maintenance Training (03A) and Quality Assurance/Analysis (040) work centers. These work centers are collectively staffed from various ratings to include those previously mentioned plus Aviation Maintenance Administrationmen (AZ's). Together these individuals manage, service, and support the production work centers while simultaneously providing the Maintenance Officer with a broad view of the department's current status. Maintenance Control (020) is the nerve center of the Maintenance Department. This is where plans, schedules, and positive control of all maintenance performed on or in support of squadron aircraft originate and are managed. Accomplishing these tasks are seasoned professionals, drawing upon years of experience and supervisory talent. Work center 030 ensures that the tremendous amount of correspondence, record keeping data, and maintenance information is expediently logged, filed, or routed to the appropriate production division. Maintenance Training coordinates department training that includes all aspects of specific rating and general military requirements. Quality Assurance/Analysis' goal is to prevent errors from occurring in a maintenance evolution by performing detailed post maintenance inspections that guarantee adherence to standard maintenance procedures.
The final maintenance division, Material Control (050), is usually staffed by Aviation Storekeepers (AK's). They provide material and supply support to the department, and make the proper parts, tools, and equipment available to the production divisions.
Each of the divisions and their respective branches combine their individual efforts on a daily basis to ensure the squadron's aircraft are fully mission capable and ready to meet current and future operational tasking. Their accomplishment is all the more impressive when the age and accrued flight hours of each airframe is considered.
In the Electronic Warfare Department (N-6), Cryptologic Technicians maintain systems to analyze and store the extensive volume of electronic data that is collected on airborne missions. These highly trained professionals are a critical element in the timely dissemination of electronic warfare threat information to tactical and strategic decision makers. Data Processing Technicians troubleshoot and run the Ground Support computer system for the department that provides information needed by the aircrew to accomplish the squadron's mission. The Electronic Warfare department also maintains a microcomputer shop which programs and performs maintenance on all VQ-2 microcomputers, as well as trains squadron personnel on software applications. The Tactics Division is responsible for researching and providing new techniques and procedures to aircrews to tactically employ squadron aircraft during a variety of known or future operations.
The primary mission of the VQ-2 Training Department (N-7) is to provide training and instruction to enable the squadron to achieve and maintain peak combat readiness. This is accomplished through a combination of formal classroom instruction for aircrew and maintenance personnel, as well as mission simulations, on-the-job training, General Military Training (GMT), and command indoctrination. The Training Department is comprised of three divisions:
The Ground Training Division manages the command indoctrination and GMT programs. All newly reporting personnel attend a one week long indoctrination class which introduces them to both VQ-2 and the base and local community. Speakers from throughout the chain of command and from various tenant commands as well as base facilities provide information and assistance to new personnel. The indoctrination curriculum also incorporates Navy Rights and Responsibilities, ADAMS, AWARE, CPR and other required training, and serves as a single stop for many recurring training requirements.
The Flight Training Division develops qualification standards for Naval Aviators, Naval Flight Officers, and Naval Aircrewmen and creates a structured program of classroom instruction, self-study, flight events, and tactical mission simulations to meet these standards and ensure maximum readiness.
The Fleet Replacement Division (FRD) conducts a variety of formal aircrew and EP-3E ARIES II maintenance courses as well as developing and conducting training for aircraft updates. The FRD also operates and maintains tactical mission simulations, aircrew proficiency training and a Computer Based Training classroom for self-paced study.
The Safety/NATOPS Department (N-8) ensures that the squadron mission is accomplished in a safe manner. This department coordinates aircrew certification and standardization, ensuring all aircrew are proficient in their position on the aircraft. Safety issues such as aircraft handling, safety in flight operations, motorcycle safety and home safety are discussed at quarterly Safety Standdowns held for all hands. The efforts of this department, as well as the squadron as a whole, are directed to accomplishing the squadron's mission safely.
VQ-2 was commissioned on 1 September 1955 to provide the United States with an improved defense posture. Designated Electronic Countermeasures Squadron TWO (ECMRON TWO) at the outset, it was homeported at the U. S. Naval Air Station, Port Lyautey, Morocco. With a complement of 24 officers and 78 enlisted personnel under the command of CDR Morris L. Kalin, VQ-2 commenced operations supporting the United States SIXTH Fleet.
The squadron originally utilized the P4M-1Q Mercator and the P2V Neptune as mission aircraft. In September 1956, a new and faster carrier-capable A3D-1Q Skywarrior came into VQ-2 service. In January 1960, the squadron was transferred to its present homeport, Naval Station, Rota, Spain. In early 1960, while commanded by CDR Paul D. Halpin, the squadron's name was changed to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron TWO (VQ-2). Shortly thereafter, the P4M-1Q aircraft were replaced by the WV-2Q Super Constellations. In October 1962, the WV-2Q was redesignated the EC-121M Super Constellation. VQ-2 continued to operate and maintain EC-121M aircraft into 1974. The A3D-1Q was replaced by the A3D-2Q and was subsequently redesignated the EA-3B Skywarrior.
On 31 July 1971, the squadron received its first delivery of the EP-3E ARIES aircraft. On 29 June 1991, the first EP-3E ARIES II aircraft arrived in Rota and on 20 September 1991, the squadron retired the EA-3B Skywarrior.
Since commissioning, VQ-2 has provided reliable and timely intelligence on areas and units of naval and national interest. The squadron has participated in numerous exercises with Fleet and air units of the Mediterranean/European theater, while simultaneously conducting operations with fleet and theater commanders. The squadron's EP-3E's have been valuable assets in Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Caribbean operations. In the summer of 1990, the squadron provided electronic reconnaissance during the evacuation of 2000 non-combatant personnel from war-stricken Liberia in operation SHARP EDGE. From August 1990 to April 1991, VQ-2 provided combat reconnaissance during operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, PROVEN FORCE, and PROVIDE COMFORT.
Since July 1992, VQ-2 has flown in support of Operations DENY FLIGHT, PROVIDE PROMISE, SHARP GUARD, JOINT ENDEAVOR, DECISIVE ENDEAVOR, AND DELIBERATE GUARD providing combat reconnaissance and intelligence to NATO and United Nations forces in the Former Yugoslavia. In March 1997, VQ-2 provided electronic reconnaissance during the evacuation of non-combatant personnel from Albania following unrest from a failed pyramid savings scheme during operation SILVER WAKE.
VQ-2 was awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal for participation in the 1982 - 1983 Beirut evacuation; operations in the vicinity of Libya, 12 -17 April 1986; and operations in support of Desert Shield and Desert Storm from August 1990 to February 1991. Four Navy Unit Commendations were awarded to VQ-2 for meritorious service during the Arab-Israeli conflict from October to November 1973, operations near Libya in March-April of 1986, meritorious service during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and meritorious service during the Balkans conflict from January 1992 to February 1994. Four Meritorious Unit Commendations have been awarded for operations conducted in October 1970 during the Jordanian Crisis, March 1979 to April 1980, June 1982 to May 1983, and from August 1983 to November 1985. The squadron also received the Joint Meritorious Unit Award for operations in the Balkans from July 1992 to March 1994. The squadron has been the recipient of COMNAVAIRLANT's Battle "E," as the most effective and operationally efficient special mission squadron for 1983, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996. VQ-2 also received the 1977 CINCLANTFLT Golden Anchor Award, the 1988 COMFAIRMED Silver Anchor Award, the 1991 CINCUSNAVEUR Silver Anchor Award, and the 1987, 1989, 1993, and 1994 CINCUSNAVEUR Golden Anchor Award for excellence in career motivation and retention programs. The Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award was bestowed upon the squadron in 1969 and again in 1993. Finally, the squadron received the Association of Old Crows Award in 1986, 1991, and 1994 for its outstanding contributions and achievements in Electronic Warfare.
Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 2 of Naval Station Rota, Spain, completed 50,000 mishap-free flight hours on 21 February 1996, marking a nine-year safety record that began on 20 January 1987. The record included thousands of missions, many in combat conditions, for both the EP-3 and the now retired EA-3 "Whale" carrier-based passive electronic surveillance aircraft. VQ-2 does more missions with fewer aircraft than most other squadrons, so the maintenance and training challenge is formidable. Over the nine years, VQ-2 has responded to every national crisis in the European and Middle Eastern theaters including Operation Sharp Guard (Liberian evacuation), Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operation Provide Comfort, and since July 1993, Bosnian support Operations Provide Promise, Deny Flight, Deliberate Force and Decisive Endeavor.
As of early 1996 VQ-2 had a detachment in Sigonella, Italy, with two aircraft flying combat missions supporting the peacekeeping force in the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
As of 1997 VQ-2 operated four EP-3E Aries II aircraft and two P-3C Orion aircraft from its home-base at Rota and two-plane detachment at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Crete. The squadron had flown more than 10,000 hours since 1992 as part of Operations Deny Flight, Sharp Guard, Joint Endeavor, Decisive Endeavor, Deliberate Force, Provide Promise and Deliberate Guard.
Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 2 relocated from Rota, Spain, to Whidbey Island, Wash., effective 01 September 2005. The relocation of VQ-2's six aircraft and 450 Sailors to the United States was in keeping with the Navy's ongoing transformation of forces in Europe, and helped reduce costs and eliminate redundancies throughout its force structure worldwide.
The move co-located the squadron with VQ-1, already based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and realized efficiencies through the consolidation of personnel deployment practices, aircraft maintenance practices and air crew training for these unique Navy squadrons. This move is an essential element of Navy transformation in Europe, greatly enhancing overall efficiency and, in the process, improving the operational capabilities of both VQ-1 and VQ-2. Both squadrons were now strategically located together, maximizing their training and readiness posture and their ability to surge worldwide as required.
VQ-2, established in 1955, operating out of Rota since 1960, and was at the forefront of the Navy's reconnaissance operations for the majority of the Cold War. The squadron was instrumental in providing reconnaissance collection for NATO operations in the Balkans in the 1990s, and operated alongside VQ-1 to enforce no-fly zones with operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch during the same period. More recently, VQ-2 deployed to support both operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in the Middle East.
The closure of VQ-2 facilities in Rota was done in phases, with most of the Sailors and their family members being permitted to complete their tours in Spain, while new personnel report to facilities in Whidbey Island. Additionally, two smaller associated units, Naval Security Group Activity Rota and Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Unit Rota, will be disestablished through the ongoing transformation efforts” (Ref. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/navy/vq-3.htm).
A sad day at NAS Whidbey as VQ-2 disestablished
“Federal budget belt-tightening has claimed its first victim at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
In a ceremony in Hangar 6 on board NAS Whidbey Island Thursday morning, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 2 was officially “disestablished.”
“Today we’re being asked to hang up our flight jackets and put away our tool boxes,” said VQ-2 Cmdr. Mark Stockfish.
The ceremony brings to an end 57 years of service for VQ-2, which was established on Sept. 1, 1955. The hangar was filled Thursday with personnel past and present, brought together to remember the squadron and its mission.
“We honor 57 years of a truly remarkable air reconnaissance mission,” acknowledged Air Wing 10 Commander, Capt. Peter Garvin. “VQ-2 has set a new standard. If you heard of a hot spot anywhere in the world, or those you didn’t hear of, VQ-2 was there. They met every challenge head on.”
Guest speaker for the ceremony was retired Navy Capt. Don East, who commanded the squadron from 1981 to 1982.
“This is a ceremony of mixed emotions,” East said. “Today we say farewell to an old friend.”
East spoke of writing the history of VQ-2, noting that the squadron seemed to be alive, becoming a part of everyone who ever served.
“When this ceremony is complete, it will be time to write the final chapter,” he said. “But its spirit can remain with us as long as the sun shines and the wind blows. VQ-2 will not be just history, but a legacy.”
And the former commander didn’t mince words regarding the Rangers’ disestablishment.
“What we’re losing is our team in the sky,” he said. “This act will someday be seen as a mistake.”
Cmdr. Stockfish spoke jokingly about his efforts to try to prevent the day from arriving.
“I started scheming to try to get the bullseye off our backs,” Stockfish said. “But it did us no good, as we’re standing on the dais today with the task at hand.”
With words of thanks to Capt. Garvin, Capt. East and family and friends, Stockfish also had words of praise for the men and women of VQ-2.
“The improbable happens every day,” he said. “Multi-tasking is not in your toolbox — it’s what your toolbox is made of. You are the ones that have made this squadron a success over the last 57 years.
“Look at this as an opportunity,” he continued. “In a few minutes, memories will be all we have of VQ-2. Remember the past, but do not live in it. The Ranger spirit will lead you to success.”
After reading the orders, which stated VQ-2 will officially be terminated as of Aug. 31 and its personnel consolidated into VQ-1, tradition took over. The bell was struck eight times and the squadron’s pennant was retired and presented to Cmdr. Stockfish.
“This is a sad day, but we will move forward,” Stockfish said. “Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 2, dismissed” (Ref. By KATHY REED; Whidbey News Times Whidbey Crosswinds, May 22, 2012 · 1:37 PM - http://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/news/152689545.html).
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