ATSUGI, Japan -- The last E-2C Hawkeyes from Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115 "Liberty Bells" departed Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi Japan June 1st, marking the end of a 44-year storied legacy of service and achievements for one of the Navy's longest-serving forward deployed squadrons in the U.S. Navy.
Boasting a distinguished history accumulating more than 24 consecutive years and 50,000 hours of Class-A mishap-free hours, the Liberty Bells of VAW-115 are returning to the United States after turning over operational responsibilities to VAW-125 and the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.
The transition of VAW-115 and VAW-125 is part of the Navy's strategic vision to place its most advanced aircraft to the Asia-Pacific region. VAW-115 and its 140 personnel will continue to support Navy carrier strike group operations while based at Naval Base Ventura, California.
"VAW-115's Sailors, aircrew, and our families are all extremely grateful for the hospitality that we received from the people of Japan during our time at Atsugi, and for our outstanding partnership with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force," said VAW-115's executive officer Cmdr. Christopher Hulitt.
The VAW-115 "Liberty Bells" first arrived in japan in 1973. Since then, the Liberty Bells have played an integral role during numerous international events. From the late 1970s throughout the 1980s, VAW-115 made 11 deployments to the Indian Ocean and North Arabian Sea. VAW-115 deployed to the Persian Gulf in October 1990 as part of Operation Desert Shield and transitioned to Desert Storm, flying 179 combat sorties. VAW-115 returned to the Persian Gulf again in 2003 and flew over 350 hours in support of initial major combat operations Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In November 2013, VAW-115 flew more than 80 hours in support of Operation Damayan, the multi-national response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Despite all their operational accomplishments, VAW-115 is most proud of the strong bonds they built in Japan, Hulitt said.
"I want to emphasize that one of our biggest accomplishments is the positive relationships we have developed with the Japanese people and our brothers and sisters in arms of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces," he said. "It is tough to say 'Sayonara,' but we know that the VAW-125 'Tigertails' will continue to forge these bonds as a part of the U.S.-Japan strategic alliance."