The “Liberty Bells” had spent 44-years at NAF Atsugi as the forward-deployed airborne early warning squadron for the U.S. Navy, accumulating more than 24 consecutive years and 50,000 hours of Class-A mishap-free hours in the process
On Jun. 1, 2017 the last E-2C from Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 115 “Liberty Bells” left Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, Japan.
The squadron had spent 44-years there as the forward-deployed airborne early warning squadron for the U.S. Navy, accumulating more than 24 consecutive years and 50,000 hours of Class-A mishap-free hours in the process.
Replacing the Liberty Bells is VAW-125 “Tigertails” with its E-2Ds.
As explained by H. Sam Samuelson, Naval Air Facility Atsugi Public Affairs, in the article VAW-115 Bids Farewell to 44 Years of Service in Japan, the transition of VAW-115 and VAW-125 is part of the Navy’s strategic vision to place its most advanced aircraft to the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
However 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 a crucial 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. In Oct. 1990 the unit deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield and transitioned to Desert Storm, flying 179 combat sorties. The Liberty Bells returned to the Persian Gulf again in 2003 and flew over 350 hours in support of initial major combat operations Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In Nov. 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.
But, 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.”
Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jarod Hodge / U.S. Navy and Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego / U.S. Marine Corps