Gunfighting island style -- Part 2
By Lt. Col. Kevin McFatridge, 390th Electronic Combat Squadron commander
/ Published March 04, 2011
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Last time I had the opportunity to write a commentary, I had just taken command of the 388th Electronic Combat Squadron at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, Wash., and I wanted to remind everyone there were some Gunfighters who didn't live in Idaho. Almost two years later, we still live and work at Whidbey Island, but that's about the only thing that has stayed the same -- so I thought it might be time for an update.
If you're new to Mountain Home, or you've always wondered about that "other" squadron patch you see on the side of the 366th Operations Group building, here's a quick history.
The Air Force started flying the EA-6B at Whidbey Island in 1995 -- when the Department of Defense decided it would retire the EF-111 Raven and turn all tactical electronic attack responsibilities over to the Navy. The Navy needed more aircrew to fulfill the mission, so an agreement was reached that the Air Force would supply aircrew to augment the Navy land-based squadrons and aid with integrating these squadrons into the Air Expeditionary Force construct. This allowed the complete retirement of the EF-111, and more importantly, allowed the Air Force to maintain a small cadre of aircrew versed in tactical electronic warfare. Throughout the history of the joint program, more than 100 Air Force members have graduated from the program, representing numerous platforms, including fighter, bomber, cargo and reconnaissance aircraft.
Last September, when the 390th Fighter Squadron and their F-15Cs departed, the squadron was re-designated from the 388th Electronic Combat Squadron to the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron, allowing the 366th FW to retain the "Wild Boar" heritage, while returning the 390th to its ECS heritage -- as it was from 1980 to 1992 when it flew the EF-111. Since then, it's been my pleasure to be able to brief the history of this great squadron on numerous occasions here at Whidbey Island. Being the sole representative on base of the "junior" service -- as we're inclined to be referred to -- it's nice to be able to show a lineage of a squadron that dates back to World War II -- and predates any Navy squadron that currently resides on base here by more than 20 years!
With our new name, our mission and capabilities have also evolved. While still helping to man EA-6B squadrons, there's been a slight change of philosophy. Since the inception of the program in 1995, the Air Force manned only the expeditionary or "land-based" squadrons. That all changed last summer when the Navy decided it was going to transition the expeditionary mission to the new EA-18G "Growler." With that decision and the Air Force's desire to continue flying the EA-6B, we now have "Wild Boars" serving upon aircraft carriers. In the last month alone, we've had four members of the 390th taking part in workups on carriers off both coasts, and one member has been on "cruise" in the Persian Gulf supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn since late November -- truly immersed in naval operations.
Additionally, in a look toward the future, our first "Growler" EWOs will be graduating the training squadron late this spring. They will be manning the "expeditionary" EA-18G squadrons, continuing the mission established with the original agreement in 1995.
After an 18 year break, 390th "Wild Boars" are once again on the leading edge of providing electronic warfare support to the warfighter, while flying the only two tactical electronic warfare platforms in DOD. While we're not stationed at Mountain Home anymore, the "Wild Boars" are alive and well -- just a little further away on Whidbey Island!