Airborne Command & Control Squadron ONE TWO FOUR, the “Bullseye Hummers,” was commissioned on the morning of September 1st, 1967 at Sea Plane Hangar One, Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. VAW-124 was the ﬁfth squadron to be formed from the original Hawkeye Squadron, VAW-12, which was later re-designated as Carrier Airborne Early Warning Wing Twelve. On October 1st, the squadron took custody of four brand new E-2A Hawkeyes. After initial acceptance checks and various training exercises, the squadron deployed in April 1968 aboard USS Independence (CV 62) to the Mediterranean Sea.
After refresher training in the Caribbean in 1970, VAW-124 began the long trek to Southeast Asia aboard USS America (CV 66) to relieve forces in the Gulf of Tonkin. The squadron would spend many line periods at Point Yankee, also known as “Yankee Station,” conducting airborne early warning against hostile aircraft, strike support, and other special operations in support of the Vietnam War. In June 1972, VAW-124 embarked again aboard USS America for an extended Western Paciﬁc deployment. Seven line periods and 147 combat days later, VAW-124 was present in the Gulf of Tonkin when the governments of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the United States signed the Vietnamese Peace Treaty on 28 January 1973.
In December 1980, the squadron received immediate deployment orders to Keﬂavik, Iceland. As a result of numerous VAW-124 directed intercepts of Soviet "Bear" reconnaissance aircraft, the squadron acquired the new nickname the "Bear Aces."
On 19 August 1981, the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) captured world attention while operating in the Gulf of Sidra. In response to an unprovoked attack, F-14 Tomcats under the control of a VAW-124 Hawkeye intercepted and shot down two Libyan SU-22 "Fitter" ﬁghter aircraft. This event demonstrated the deadly effectiveness of the "Hawkeye-Tomcat" team and is the reason for two stars on the squadron’s insignia.
On 21 January 1991, CVW-8 launched its ﬁrst major strike of "Desert Storm" with the Bear Aces providing critical Airborne Early Warning (AEW), command and control, and Search and Rescue coordination. By the time the cease-ﬁre went into effect on 28 February, the Bear Aces had ﬂown a total of 331 combat sorties and over 1,150 combat hours in support of 1,220 strikes against 531 targets in the Kuwait Theater of Operations, the most combat hours and combat sorties of any E-2C squadron.
In 1993, tragedy struck the Bear Ace family. In the early morning hours of March 26th, Bear Ace 603 and her crew were lost at sea conducting ﬂight operations in support of Operation Provide Promise and the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force conducting humanitarian relief in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In April 1999, VAW-124 departed Norfolk aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and headed for the Adriatic Sea where the Bear Aces and CVW-8 ﬂew combat missions during Operation Allied Force against targets in Kosovo. The ﬁrst combat employment of NATO forces came to an end 78 days later with VAW-124 serving as the lone VAW squadron to participate in the conﬂict. Following this, VAW-124
transited to the Arabian Gulf and completed the deployment enforcing the no-ﬂy zone in Iraq in Operation Southern Watch.
Near the end of a CENTCOM deployment in support of Operation Southern Watch in 2001, the Bear Aces and crew of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) looked forward to conducting the ﬁrst visit of a carrier to Cape Town, South Africa. Due to the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) would not make it to that scheduled port call. Demonstrating the ﬂexibility of a Carrier Strike Group, they quickly turned around and were the ﬁrst U.S. asset on station in the Northern Arabian Sea as VAW-124 and CVW-8 prepared for what would become Operation Enduring Freedom. The Bear Aces led the ﬁrst strikes of the operation by providing AEW and Command and Control for Allied Air Forces. The deployment demonstrated the inherent ﬂexibility of naval forces and proved once again the value of a U.S. Navy carrier strike group and the importance of the E-2C in both combat and peacetime operations.
In an unprecedented move, the Bear Aces and the rest of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group departed ﬁve months early from a scheduled deployment in 2003 and steamed to the Mediterranean in support of the escalating situation that would eventually develop into Operation Iraqi Freedom. Once again, the Bear Aces proved to be the right instrument at the right time in history, as they led the ﬁrst strikes into Iraq. The skilled professionals of the Bear Aces provided Airborne Early Warning and Command and Control for the carrier strike group and the strike assets attacking Iraqi targets.
From 2003 through 2011, the Bear Aces conducted numerous deployments aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn. They provided AEW and Command and Control for U.S. and Coalition Forces in their respective theaters, as well as, helped secure the maritime environment in support of Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. The year 2011 would once again allow the Bear Aces to prove their ﬂexibility as they supported both Coalition forces in the Afghanistan theater of operation and supported the drawdown of forces in Iraq.
In February of 2014, the Bear Aces and CVW-8 deployed aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) as a member of Carrier Strike Group Two (CSG-2) to the Afghanistan Joint Operation Area to provide Command and Control and Airborne Early Warning in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. On June 14th, 2014, after spending just a few short months over Afghanistan, CSG-2 was ordered to the Arabian Gulf to support the Government of Iraq against the invasion by the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in what was later named Operation Inherent Resolve. Initially supporting Non-Traditional ISR, and then strikes over Iraq, the Bear Aces would also support the ﬁrst strikes into Syria in an attempt to deny ISIL a safe haven. Over the course of the nine month deployment, the Bear Aces ﬂew 548 sorties and 2,210 mishap-free ﬂight hours, of which 465 were combat sorties and 2,120 were combat ﬂight hours. In recognition of their contributions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the Bear Aces were awarded the 2014 CNAL Battle “E,” the 2014 RADM Frank Akers Award, and the 2014 CNO Aviation Safety “S” Award. The squadron was also awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for exceptionally meritori-ous service while planning and executing dynamic responses to emergent threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorist group.
The Bear Aces participated in multiple Joint exercises during 2015. Notably, VAW-124 was designated as the Command and Control element lead for Exercise Amalgam Dart. This Joint exercise
between the Department of Homeland Defense and NORAD marked the ﬁrst time in years that any U.S. Navy Hawkeye squadron was included in execution of Operation Noble Eagle. Due to their success, VAW-124 was hand-selected to participate in Exercise Vigilant Shield, a test of NORAD’s defense of the United States and Canada in the arctic. The deployment of the "Polar" Bear Aces to Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay, Newfoundland, marked the ﬁrst deployment of a U.S. Navy squadron in support of NORAD and CANR.
January 2017 marked the beginning of the Bear Aces ﬁnal deployment in the E-2C Navigation Upgrade. Embarked aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), the squadron deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While continually adapting to the dynamic battlespace, the Bear Aces ﬁlled key CENTCOM radar coverage gaps in the south of Syria, which led to the detection of, and eventual shoot-down of, another SU-22 Fitter aircraft. The deployment ended with Exercise Saxon Warrior, focusing on interoperability between US and British naval forces.
In the summer of 2018, the Bear Aces and CVW-8 participated in Exercise Chesapeake aboard the USS GEORGE H. W. BUSH (CVN-77). They completed carrier qualiﬁcations and joint tactical cyclic operations while underway alongside the French 4F (Hawkeyes) and 17F (Rafale) Squadrons. During a September 2018 detachment to Tyndall Air Force Base, the Bears worked in a challenging Joint Force environment to provide control for Air Force ﬁghters as well as Air Wing ﬁghters from VFA-37, VFA-87 and VFA-213 in support of Combat Archer. In 2018, the Bear Aces were awarded with a 4th consecutive Retention Excellence Award, Medical Blue “M”, and in February 2019, the “Golden Wrench” Award. During a March 2020 detachment on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Bear Aces completed the ﬁrst ever E-2C trap aboard a Ford class carrier.
From 2020 into 2021, VAW-124 completed two Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW-8) Jacksonville Maritime Strike Command and Control Exercises, the seamless integration into Carrier Strike Group TWO’s Composite Training Unit Exercise (C2X), a multi- domain Joint Exercise Krater Bender, four Independent Steaming Events aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), and spearheaded a highly successful Integrated Air and Missile Defense Course detachment with VFA-213, VFA-37, USS Philippine Sea (CG-58) and USS Gettysburg (CG-64).
On June 1st, 2021 the Bear Aces started their transition to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. During this transition, the Bear Aces completed a Maintenance Program Assessment (MPA) with a score 21 points above the Type Wing average, the highest community-wide score in over two years. Upon completion of the transition syllabus the Bear Aces received their Safe-for-Flight Designation January 28th, 2022. This milestone was proceeded by aiding in the accomplishment of flight deck certification and cyclic operations aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), CVW-8 Large Force Events, and air control of Navy, Joint, and Allied aircraft off the coast of Virginia.
Airborne Command and Control Squadron ONE TWO FOUR is looking forward to it's first work-up and deployment cycle as an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Squadron with Carrier Air Wing EIGHT.