Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'River Rattlers' End a Year of Adversary Missions

Eight F/A-18 Hornets assigned the River Rattlers, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 204, fly in a column formation over southern Louisiana's wetlands during a photo exercise. VFA 204 is stationed on Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John P. Curtis/Released)

Blog Ed Note: On a personnel note, this is my last command in the Navy that I retired from in 1993. Way to go River Rats.

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Hill, Commander, Navy Reserve Force Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 204 wrapped up a mission with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group during the group's composite training unit exercise off the coast of California Dec. 20.

The "River Rattlers" of VFA 204 have had many deployments in 2010 lending their assistance to the fleet.

VFA 204 is an adversary squadron that flies the FA-18/A Hornet aircraft. The entire squadron, from the pilots to the mechanics who provide maintenance for the planes, are full time support (FTS) and selected Reserve (SELRES) Sailors. Their primary mission is to act as the enemy in the sky so other squadrons and strike groups can receive the requisite training to be combat-ready. With air combat training a constant necessity and with numerous squadrons to be trained, the New Orleans-based "River Rattlers" keep busy. They deploy numerous times a year to support the active component in training evolutions all around the world.

"We deploy roughly every other month, to support about six to eight detachments a year. We're mission ready. Our Sailors are ready to deploy and provide training to fleet squadrons," said VFA 204 Executive Officer Cmdr. Greg Rielly.

The deployment schedule provides the 40 SELRES in the squadron plenty of opportunity to get annual training and active duty training (ADT). This ensures the "River Rattlers" are highly skilled, regardless of whether they are full or part-time Sailors.

"The integration between our FTS and SELRES is seamless," said VFA 204 Command Master Chief (AW) John Harlin. "That's the way it should be. Our Reservists bring a lot to the table. For example, we have a (SELRES) chief who works as a defense contractor in his civilian job. He's able to bring that experience to his Reserve position making us a stronger squadron."

Many of the SELRES in VFA 204 go above and beyond the required training to support the River Rattler's mission. Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class (AW) Emily Seal from Gulfport, Miss., is one of them.

"Last year, I went on three deployments with the squadron," said Seal. "I was almost on constant ADT orders. I feel really strongly about committing myself to the mission and being with this command helps with advancement. The learning curve is fast, and there's so much to do, it's impossible not to learn."

The Navy Reserve prides itself on being "Ready Now. Anytime, Anywhere." With the "River Rattlers," this not only applies to them – it applies to the fleet they continue to serve in their adversary role. With assistance from VFA 204, Naval Air Forces will continue to receive necessary training, preparing them for any assigned mission.