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PACAF plans, executes Navy VAQ-138 ‘Growler’ Air Contingent operations at Clark Air Base

CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines --

Since their arrival June 15, the U.S. Navy detachment supporting four EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft officially begin their daily operations here June 20.

The Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 138 expeditionary detachment will conduct operations that include training with Armed Forces of the Philippines FA-50 aircraft pilots and providing support for routine operational missions that enhance regional maritime domain awareness.

VAQ-138’s presence here is part of a U.S. Air Contingent established by U.S. Pacific Command with the approval of the Government of the Philippines and planned and executed by Headquarters Pacific Air Forces. The detachment is composed of about 120 Sailors from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., with additional Air Contingent security and coordination support provided by U.S. Marines and Airmen.

“Maintaining a joint aerial presence throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific is vital to ensuring regional stability,” said Brig. Gen. Dirk Smith, PACAF Director of Air and Cyberspace Operations.

“By enabling this Air Contingent in the Philippines, we are securing excellent opportunities for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines to hone their capabilities and strengthen ties with their counterparts in the Philippines.”

U.S. Navy CDR Aaron Tabor, the VAQ-138 commanding officer, said the unit’s deployment to Clark is an example of how the U.S. and the Philippines are committed to maintaining credible combat power throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

“Our presence here demonstrates our ability to work effectively with regional allies,” Tabor said. “We are building upon the strategic and lasting partnership between the U.S. and the Philippines.”

VAQ-138 Command Master Chief Rene Liban said coming to the Philippines has been a great opportunity for the VAQ-138 members and Filipino counterparts to learn from each other.

“Our Sailors are combat-proven and resilient, and wherever we deploy I’m confident we will get the job done, and get the job done right,” Liban said. “While leadership has been here to provide support, it’s the members of the unit who have really put in hard work to make all of this happen, and for that I thank them for their dedication to the mission.”

Liban added that the Philippine people have been attentive and helpful hosts.

“The hospitality we’ve received from the Filipino people has been phenomenal,” Liban said. “This mission has helped open the doors of opportunity for the U.S. and the Philippine government.”

The first temporary Air Contingent here in April was comprised of five U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt aircraft, three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and approximately 200 personnel deployed from multiple Pacific Air Forces units.