VFA-211 trains in the Cascade Mountains.
VFA-211 sent a detachment of four FA-18F Super Hornets from NAS Oceana, Va., to NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., between 25 September and 10 October 2008, where the Fighting Checkmates conducted various joint-service exercises. The Checkmates' primary focus was to provide night close air support (CAS) training for U.S. Army Rangers working as forward air controllers (FAC) and quick response forces.
The great northwest provided a challenging yet scenic backdrop for scenario-based training for junior pilots and weapon systems officers. The squadron's Super Hornets also tanked from Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers, performed FAC (Airborne) duties, conducted combat search and rescue, and performed nontraditional intelligence support and reconnaissance. The training missions provided a realistic overview of the rugged terrain the squadron experiences when deployed with CVW-1 in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Additionally, the Checkmates had the opportunity to fly their Super Hornets on low-level missions in the Cascade Mountains and conduct basic fighter maneuvers (dogfighting missions) in support of EA-6B Prowlers from the Rooks of VAQ-137, who hosted the Checkmates while at Whidbey Island.
"The entire Whidbey Island community welcomed the Checkmates with open arms, and their outstanding support was critical to the success of our detachment," VFA-211 XO Cdr. Matthew L. Leahey said. "I can't say enough about the great support we received from NAS Whidbey Island, the Prowler Weapons School, and the Rooks of VAQ-137."
While using VAQ-137's maintenance spaces, VFA-211 maintainers worked around the clock to provide the most capable aircraft in order to ensure mission success in scenarios that closely emulated current combat operations. "The Checkmate maintainers did an outstanding job consistently providing high quality training assets in support of a major Joint Forces exercise," Cdr. Leahey added.
The Checkmates are attached to CVW-1 and have flown the F/A-18F since 2005. The squadron is currently preparing to conduct flight deck certification on the recently commissioned George H. W. Bush (CVN 77).
Story and Photos by Ltjg. Gabriel Slater
Ltjg. Slater is the VFA-211 PAO.