JULY 1, 2015, OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) – Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CVWP), hosted a three-day Sunset Celebration commemorating the retirement of the Navy EA-6B Prowler, June 25-27.
The celebration, marking the end of an era for the Electronic Attack community, included a history hall in CVWP’s Havilland Hangar with a Prowler on display, a farewell ceremony and concluded with the last Navy Prowler flying off from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s (NASWI) Ault Field. More than 1,000 registered guests attended the event.
“This weekend, the Prowler Sunset Celebration, has been fantastic,” said retired Capt. Fred Wilmot, who served as a test pilot for the Navy Prowler and delivered the first Prowler to NASWI while serving in Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 in January 1971. “We’ve been able to see people we haven’t seen in 35, 40 years or so including some of the original people from Grumman who designed the system. It’s really a fitting end to the Prowler era.”
Wilmot credited the lengthy service of the Prowler to multiple factors.
“The fact that the Prowler stuck around for 45 years is testimony to how well it was designed and built, and the thousands of men and women who have maintained and operated it,” said Wilmot. “My hat is off to them. You don’t find any more professionalism than in those personnel.”
The farewell ceremony, held at NASWI’s Prowler Memorial, featuring speeches by leaders in the VAQ community, a recitation of the names of VAQ Sailors who sacrificed their lives in service, and a missing man formation was an emotional experience for those in attendance.
“There probably wasn’t a dry eye in the audience during the missing man formation,” said Capt. Darryl Walker, commander, CVWP.
Wilmot rode in the formation for the fly off of the last Prowler bringing this piece of naval aviation history full circle.
“I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to take the opportunity to fly in the last flight away since I brought the first flight in,” said Wilmot.
Walker feels fortunate to have led his community through this major transition.
“We’ve sunset our last Navy Prowler with VAQ 134, so the entire community will now be transitioned to the EA-18G Growler,” said Walker. “It’s really spectacular to see the community grow into the fantastic airplane, the EA-18G Growler. It’s just been really neat to be in charge during this time frame as we move from one airplane to the next.”
Wilmot thinks that the future of the VAQ community will be bright.
“It closes a chapter on the Prowler, but certainly not on this community,” said Wilmot. “The community continues to grow and thrive.”