Strike Fighter Squadron ONE ZERO FIVE (VFA-105) has a long and distinguished history. On 1 November 1967, VA-105 was established as the “Gunslingers”, the second use of VA-105 for a Navy Attack Squadron. Upon its establishment, VA-105 became the fourth operational squadron on the East Coast to fly the new A-7A Corsair II. A year later, in December 1968, the Gunslingers deployed with Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN (CVW-11) to the Gulf of Tonkin aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) flying combat missions over Vietnam. Tragedy struck on 15 February 1969 when the Gunslingers’ youngest pilot, LTJG William Clinton Niedecken, was killed in combat. The squadron deeply mourned his loss, but continued to carry out its mission. After returning to the United States in September 1969, the Gunslingers won the 1968-1969 Battle “E” and the 1969 Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award.
By June 1969 the squadron was back at sea, this time as a member of Carrier Air Wing THREE (CVW-3) aboard USS Saratoga (CV 60). The deployment was highlighted by operations in the Eastern Mediterranean during the September Jordanian Crisis and participation in a firepower demonstration for President Richard Nixon. Upon returning to Cecil Field, the Gunslingers participated in the development of the new “CV” concept aboard USS Saratoga. They then deployed once again to the Mediterranean in June 1971.
A brief turnaround period at home was followed by an emergency deployment to Southeast Asia, again with CVW-3 and USS Saratoga. The deployment lasted ten months to include eight months of intense combat operations over North Vietnam. The squadron’s return in February 1973 coincided with the Paris Peace Accords, which effectively ended the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam Conflict.
After upgrading to the A-7E Corsair II, VA-105 again deployed aboard USS Saratoga. Now flying the “E” model of the Corsair, the Gunslingers began wearing the “Echo Driver” patch (which was given new life when the squadron later transitioned to the F/A-18E Super Hornet). Returning home to Cecil Field in March 1975, the Gunslingers won the 1974-1975 Battle “E”, the third such award for the squadron. Another cruise with USS Saratoga and CVW-3 followed, after which the squadron returned to Cecil Field in July 1976. During this turnaround, VA-105 assisted the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by flying space shuttle profiles at the Kennedy Space Center. After completing a fifth Mediterranean deployment aboard USS Saratoga, the squadron won its fourth Battle “E”, as well as the Admiral C.W. McClusky Award as the Navy’s best attack squadron. Not content to rest on their laurels, the Gunslingers completed another Mediterranean cruise aboard USS Saratoga, returning home in April 1979.
March to August 1980 marked the final Mediterranean deployment with USS Saratoga. VA-105 and CVW-3 transferred to USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). During work-ups for a 1982 deployment, the squadron won the CVW-3 Golden Tailhook Award. Departing on cruise in January 1982, USS John F. Kennedy and CVW-3 sailed to the Mediterranean and participated in the NATO “National Week” exercise. VA-105 once again won the Golden Tailhook Award for the entire deployment.
VA-105 was transferred to a west coast air wing, Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN, and deployed with USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in March 1983. On the cruise, VA-105 set the standard by launching an unprecedented 1072 consecutive missions without missing a single sortie. After port calls in Monaco, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Australia, Subic Bay, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Pearl Harbor, USS Carl Vinson and her air wing finally arrived at her new home port, NAS Alameda.
On 8 June 1984, the entire squadron and its twelve Corsairs arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, and became the first Navy unit to operate under the control of the Marine Corps since World War II. The Gunslingers were a component of Marine Aircraft Group TWELVE, First Marine Aircraft Wing. VA-105 won its fifth Battle “E”, the Navy Unit Commendation medal, and the Commander, Light Attack Wing One Maintenance Department of the Year award.
On 1 April 1985, the Gunslingers returned to the tailhook Navy when they became members of Carrier Air Wing SIX (CVW-6), embarking aboard USS Forrestal (CV 59). During this deployment, the squadron participated in exercise SEAWING 86, Libyan Freedom of Navigation Operations, and exercise DISPLAY DETERMINATION 86.
In April 1988, the squadron once again deployed with CVW-6 aboard USS Forrestal. After transit to the Indian Ocean, VA-105 began a 108-day sustained at sea period that included flight operations in support of Operation EARNEST WILL to ensure the freedom of the Persian Gulf sea lanes. After returning home on 7 October 1988, the squadron received its fourth Meritorious Unit Commendation.
On 10 January 1991, VA-105 was redesignated VFA-105 as the squadron transitioned their aircraft from the A-7E to the F/A-18C. The Gunslingers reported to CVW-3 aboard USS John F. Kennedy on 1 September 1991 and made their first "Hornet" cruise from October 1992 to April 1993. While on cruise, the squadron supported Operation PROVIDE PROMISE off the coast of war-torn Bosnia. During this time, the squadron won its sixth Battle “E”, an impressive feat considering they had only been flying Hornets for one year.
After returning home, CVW-3 was reassigned to USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The squadron won its second consecutive Battle “E” in 1993. In 1994 the first female Sailors and pilots joined the squadron. VFA-105 deployed aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Mediterranean Sea and North Arabian Gulf from October 1994 to April 1995. Returning home, the Gunslingers once again supported Operation PROVIDE PROMISE to Support United Nations resolutions against the former Yugoslavian Republic. On the transit home, VFA-105 was awarded its third consecutive Battle “E” marking its eighth in total.
The Gunslingers then embarked aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) from November 1996 to May 1997 participating in Operation DELIBERATE GUARD over the skies of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in the Arabian Gulf and over Iraq. In November 1998 the squadron deployed aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) participating in Operation DESERT FOX, an intense four-night combat operation over Iraq, as well as Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and DELIBERATE GUARD over Bosnia.
Two months after returning home, the squadron changed homeports and began operations at NAS Oceana, Virginia. In November 2000, VFA-105 joined USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) on her maiden voyage in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.
The Gunslingers embarked aboard USS Harry S. Truman on her second deployment in December 2002, playing an integral role in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The Gunslingers were awarded their second Admiral C.W. McClusky Award and their ninth Battle “E.”
In October 2004, the Gunslingers embarked aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) on a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. During the deployment, they supported coalition and U.S. Army and Marine ground forces. Gunslingers jets were overhead the polling booths on 30 January 2005 as Iraqi citizens held their first free election in 30 years. Gunslingers Sailors were awarded for their efforts with the CVW-3 Golden Wrench award for outstanding maintenance during the deployment.
In March 2006, the Gunslingers pilots began training at NAS Lemoore, CA for the squadron’s transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. With the transition complete, VFA-105 was awarded Safe for Flight Certification ahead of schedule. The squadron’s first deployment flying the Super Hornet was in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM from November 2007 to June 2008.
In May 2010, the Gunslingers again deployed aboard USS Harry S. Truman, this time in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) over the skies of Afghanistan. Once again working closely with Marines and other coalition troops on the ground, the Gunslingers provided precise and effective close air support. Returning from cruise in December 2010, the Gunslingers maintained a superior level of readiness during a four month Prepare to Deploy Order while Strike Fighter Squadron ONE NINE FIVE transitioned to Super Hornets. The squadron completed many successful training detachments, including a Vermont Air National Guard Joint Exercise, Hill Air Force Base Weapons Detachment, Tyndall Air Force Base Weapons Detachment, and Vigilant Shield in Key West.
In 2012, the Gunslingers began flying training missions in order to maintain a state of combat readiness. Such missions were executed during Operation NEPTUNE FALCON, a joint Navy/Air Force tactical training evolution, and carrier qualifications aboard USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77). The remainder of the year included various pre-deployment work-up cycle evolutions to include Air-to-Air Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP), Air-to-Surface SFARP, Air Wing Fallon, and two at-sea training evolutions, Tailored Ship’s Training Availability and Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), in preparation for the 2013 deployment.
In 2013 the Gunslingers began a nine-month deployment aboard USS Harry S. Truman in support of OEF, assisting coalition forces in Afghanistan. Additionally, the Gunslingers once again earned the coveted CVW-3 Golden Wrench award.
In 2016, the Gunslingers began a seven-month combat deployment onboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, employing 254,500 pounds of ordnance from 296 precision guided munitions while supporting coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. Following the exceptionally successful cruise, the squadron was awarded the Golden Anchor, Blue “M”, and Safety “S” awards during sustainment phase.
In January 2020, the Gunslingers embarked aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower for COMPTUEX and continued sailing into deployment in support of Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL. The six-month combat deployment proved unique and challenging amid a global pandemic ultimately resulting in all port visits being cancelled. Along with the rest of the crew aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Gunslingers broke the “consecutive days at sea” record with a total of 206 consecutive days at sea. The Gunslingers also participated in a “crossing the line” ceremony in which Sailors became “Iron Shellbacks”. During the deployment, the Gunslingers flew over 1,800 sorties encompassing 3,350 flight hours while continuing to support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.
In January 2021, the Gunslingers departed Norfolk, Virginia aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower for COMPTUEX immediately followed by a combat deployment, the second combat deployment for the squadron in as many years. From April to June, VFA-105 executed flight operations in support of Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL and the drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan. During the deployment, Gunslingers flew 1,600 sorties encompassing 3020 flight hours to include more than 470 combat hours.
Throughout their history, the Gunslingers have continually strived for excellence in all areas of carrier aviation. Their outstanding operational record clearly demonstrates that VFA-105 continues to set the standard for a fully capable combat-ready strike fighter squadron, able to project power and American resolve during times of war or peace anywhere in the world.