STRIKE FIGHTER SQUADRON ONE FOUR THREE, “The World Famous Pukin’ Dogs” were originally commissioned in 1949 as VF-871, a reserve squadron known as the “Griffins.” Based out of Naval Air Station (NAS) Alameda, Calif., the Griffins were first called to active duty on July 20, 1950. Once on active duty, the squadron took the F4U-4 Corsair to war in Korea from the decks of the USS PRINCETON (CV 37) and USS ESSEX (CVA 9).
Over the next eleven years the squadron changed aircraft and designations twice: as VF-123 flying the F9F-2 Panther and F9F-8 Cougar, and then as VF-53, flying the F3H-2 Demon. Finally, on June 20, 1962, the squadron was re-designated VF-143 as they transitioned to the F4H-1 Phantom II (later re-designated the F-4B). The Pukin’ Dogs first cruise as VF-143 was in the West Pacific aboard the USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) in February 1963. On August 5th of 1964, while operating as part of CARRIER AIR WING FOURTEEN (CVW-14), the squadron responded to the Gulf of Tonkin incident by flying in the PIERCE ARROW attacks against North Vietnamese naval facilities.
In the succeeding years, the Pukin’ Dogs transitioned to the F-4J and recorded seven combat deployments to Vietnam. It was during one of those deployments in 1967 that two Dogs, LTJG Robert P. Hickey JR, USN and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) LTJG Jeremy G. Morris, USNR engaged and successfully destroyed a Vietnamese Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG)-21 with an Air Intercept Missile (AIM) 7 Sparrow air-to-air (A/A) missile, making them the Pukin’ Dogs first official MiG killers.
On April 1, 1975, after completion of F-14A Tomcat transition training, the Pukin’ Dogs permanently moved to their present home at NAS Oceana, VA. As part of CARRIER AIR WING SIX (CVW-6), VF-143 made its first F-14 carrier deployment aboard USS AMERICA (CV 66) from April 15 to October 25, 1976. During this Mediterranean deployment, the squadron participated in Operation FLUID DRIVE, providing Crisis Assistance Plus (CAP) for the evacuation of American citizens from Beirut in 1976. In the following years, the Pukin’ Dogs participated in a South Atlantic cruise from June 10 to July 19, 1977, and followed shortly thereafter by a Mediterranean cruise from September 29, 1977 to April 25, 1978.
In the fall of 1978, VF-143 joined USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) “IKE” and CARRIER AIR WING SEVEN (CVW-7). In 1979 they made IKE’s first major deployment to the Mediterranean Sea from January 16 to July 13; next, VF-143 and the IKE spent 152 days continuously at sea during their 1980 cruise. The squadron then made a brief North Atlantic (NORLANT) cruise, from August 17 and October 7, 1980, and participated in North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) exercise OCEAN ADVENTURE. During their 1982 Mediterranean deployment, the Pukin’ Dogs, with three Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod Systems (TARPS) equipped aircraft, once again provided CAP for the evacuation of American citizens from war-torn Beirut.
During their 1983 Mediterranean deployment, VF-143 flew 45 combat TARPS missions, providing the Multinational Peacekeeping Forces in Lebanon with intelligence of enemy troop movements and artillery positions in the mountains outside of Beirut. VF-143 and the IKE returned to the Mediterranean on October 11, 1984, where they again found themselves involved in a tense Lebanon situation. After a lengthy break from sea operations, VF-143 returned to the IKE for a Mediterranean cruise from February 29 to August 29, 1988. Shortly following this cruise, in 1989 the Dogs made the transition to the F-14B Tomcat in 1989.
During an air wing detachment to NAS Fallon, NV in May 1991, and the Dogs made history by becoming the first fleet Tomcat squadron to drop live air-to-ground ordnance. In September 1991, the squadron deployed to the Arabian Gulf where new standards were set in joint operations between the Navy, Air Force and numerous coalition air forces. The Pukin’ Dogs returned to the Arabian Gulf in October 1991. The later stages of the cruise took them into the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea where NATO forces and the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) Battle Group joined up above the Arctic Circle for cold weather operations during “Teamwork ’92.”
In August 1992, the Pukin’ Dogs and the rest of CVW-7 were reassigned to the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) “GW”, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier. VF-143 deployed on the GW on her maiden “shakedown” cruise, and then for her first Mediterranean deployment in May 1994 where she took part in the 50th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day invasion and Operation DENY FLIGHT.
In January 1996, the World Famous Pukin’ Dogs completed their turnaround training cycle and departed on their second cruise in fifteen months. The preparation quickly paid off as the Dogs found themselves flying over Bosnia in support of Operation DECISIVE ENDEAVOR and the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. CARRIER AIR WING SEVEN relied heavily on the Pukin’ Dogs to provide aircraft and trained crews for TARPS, Forward Air Control (Airborne), air superiority, and air-to-ground missions.
February 1998 found the Pukin’ Dogs making another maiden cruise, this time aboard the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74). Over 131 days were spent in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.
Twenty years after their first cruise aboard the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69), VF-143 once again boarded the IKE and headed for the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf. VF-143 protected the skies over Bosnia-Herzegovina under Operation JOINT FORGE and enforced the Iraqi no-fly zones by participating in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. In both theaters of operations, the Dogs maintained air superiority and displayed unparalleled success in the Tactical Reconnaissance mission. The highlight of this cruise was the successful delivery of laser-guided munitions in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.
In February 2002, the Pukin’ Dogs cruised aboard the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV 67) in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF). This was a brand new type of conflict, and once again the Tomcat proved to be adaptable. With an upgraded Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) and TARPS capability combined with the ability to fly five hour missions, VF-143 jets proved invaluable as Reconnaissance (RECON) and Close Air Support (CAS) assets. While flying over 1,300 sorties, VF-143 achieved a sortie completion rate of 98.2 percent, while successfully completing 99.9 percent of OEF sorties. Returning home in late August 2002 VF-143 took a well-deserved break and earned the MUTHA trophy, an award given for their outstanding professionalism and fighter spirit both on and off the flight line.
The squadron’s last Tomcat deployment occurred in 2004 aboard USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) in support of Iraqi Freedom, during which time the squadron participated in strikes over Fallujah. Following this historic cruise, the squadron spent six months in Lemoore, Calif. transitioning to the single-seat F/A-18E Super Hornet and upon completion was subsequently re-designated VFA-143. In October 2006, VFA-143 made its first successful deployment as a Rhino squadron onboard the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) in support of OEF, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF), and the Global War on Terrorism.
In February of 2009 the Dogs headed back to sea in support of OEF. During this six month cruise the Pukin’ Dogs did their part by dropping over 30 bombs on enemy positions throughout Afghanistan. Returning home in the summer of 2009, the Dogs quickly entered a turnaround cycle in preparation for their upcoming 2010 deployment. As advertised, VFA-143, aboard the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69), successfully embarked on January 1, 2010 for their deployment in support of OEF.
In June 2012, the Pukin’ Dogs deployed onboard the mighty IKE for 6 months in support of OEF providing kinetic strikes and over-watch support to coalition troops on the ground in Afghanistan. The Dogs also conducted National Security Objective Missions for Allied nations in the Area of Responsibility (AOR).
The entirety of 2014 was spent in the Maintenance Phase allowing the Dogs to prepare both their equipment and personnel. In the Pukin’ Dogs tireless 2013 deployment, they were awarded both the 2013 Battle E award and Wade McClusky Trophy; both of these honors demonstrated the excellence of the Pukin’ Dogs from top to bottom. The Dogs’ then detached to Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB) to participate in Naval Weapons System Evaluation Program (NWESP) for two weeks where they successfully employed seven live A/A missiles as well as the F/A-18’s 20MM M61 Vulcan cannon.
Later in 2014, the Dogs detached to Portland, OR to conduct extensive joint A/A mission training with the F-15C Eagles of the US Air Force’s 123rd Fighter Squadron. VFA-143 again found themselves on the road in late October, this time supporting the Navy’s most advanced jet fighter, the F-35C Lightning II. The Pukin’ Dogs seized the opportunity to work alongside the Grim Reapers of VFA-101 at Eglin AFB, in Fort Walton Beach, FL. They successfully supported the F-35 pilots while conducting their own advanced tactical training over the Gulf of Mexico.
In November of 2015, the Pukin’ Dogs embarked aboard the USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75) for deployment to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR). By the end of the eight month combat deployment, the squadron executed 390 combat sorties from both the Arabian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, totaling 5,673 total flight hours and employed 422 precision guided munitions totaling 369,616 lbs.
In 2017, the Pukin’ Dogs traveled to San Antonio, TX for a Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) detachment with F-16s from the Texas Air National Guard. They later proceeded to Savannah, GA, to work with multiple Air Force and Air National Guard units. In Savannah, VFA-143 trained to Fighter Integration (FI), Large Force Exercise (LFE), and DACT with F-22s, F-16s, F-15s, and T-38s. In June, VFA-143 supported the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72) during day and night Carrier Qualifications (CQ) operations for flight deck certification. In the summer, VFA-143 flew to Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, AK, for a two week detachment with the 525th Fighter Squadron. Here they practiced more FI, LFE, and DACT. Lastly, in December, the Pukin’ Dogs supported a VAQ-129 Pensacola DACT detachment.
In 2018, the World Famous Pukin’ Dogs began another year of training and work-ups for the fast approaching 2019 deployment, beginning in February with a detachment to Savannah, GA. Once again, VFA-143 worked with multiple Air Force and Air National Guard units. Next, VFA-143 detached to conduct NWSEP at Tyndall AFB where they completed training and readiness requirements by shooting live AIM-9X, AIM-9M, and inert AIM-120 training missiles. Shortly thereafter, the Dogs traveled to NAS Fallon, NV for A/S Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP).
On May 24th, 2018 VFA-143 had their Change of Command, when CDR Joseph Furco relieved CDR Christopher Pacentrilli as the Commanding Officer of the World Famous Pukin’ Dogs. VFA-143 got right back to work with preparations and the execution of A/A SFARP in Key West, FL. In an upscale change from squadron level training, the Dogs began Air Wing Fallon (AWF), and conducted training with all of CARRIER AIR WING SEVEN (CVW-7) in order to hone their capabilities. The Air Wing executed numerous Large Force Strikes (LFS), Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), and CAS missions.
January of 2019, the Pukin’ Dogs prepared for a month long pre-deployment exercise, COMPTUEX (C2X). During C2X, CARRIER STRIKE GROUP TWELVE (CSG-12) integrated each of its components to include CARRIER AIR WING SEVEN (CVW-7), USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72), and DESRON 2. In a crawl-walk-run phase of dynamic training, the Pukin’ Dogs worked intensely with other squadrons, including Florida Air National Guard’s F-15s, to defend the ship.
On April 1st, the Dogs deployed aboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72), and VFA-143’s first port call was in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. In April, VFA-143 participated in an Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) with the Italian Navy for their annual MARE APERTO exercise, integrating with Italian AV-8B Harriers. After conducting a long range CAS event in Lithuania, CSG-12 was directed to rapidly transit into the Central Command (CENTCOM) AOR to FIFTH Fleet through the Suez Canal in support of Operations FREEDOM’S SENTINEL, INHERENT RESOLVE, and deterrence of Iranian aggression. Throughout the summer, the Pukin’ Dogs integrated with USAF B-52s, KC-135s, and F-15s in a large scale training ADEX in the Northern Arabian Sea. During this time, the World Famous Pukin’ Dogs maintenance department was credited with maintaining the highest percentage rate of Fully Mission Capable (FMC) Super Hornets in the entire fleet. In conjunction with other U.S. Military assets and our NATO allies, the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) would remain with one main goal: deter Iranian aggression. Iran’s escalatory behavior necessitated our continued presence.
In December VFA-143, CVW-7, USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72) and CSG-12 were relieved by the USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN 75). On January 18th, the Pukin’s Dogs flew off the carrier, bound for Virginia Beach, VA. The pilots and aircraft arrived home on January 19th, and by January 21st, all members of VFA-143 successfully returned to NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA. At the completion of an arduous ten and a half month long deployment lasting into 2020, those aboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72) were credited with the longest nuclear powered carrier deployment ever, and the longest deployment since the Vietnam War.
Upon the Dogs return from deployment, the majority of 2020 was again spent in the Maintenance Phase providing the Dogs with well-deserved time off for the sailors and the jets. The extraordinary effort that the Pukin’ Dogs put forth in their 2019-2020 deployment earned them the 2019 Battle E Award as well as the Wade McClusky Trophy; both which exemplify the distinction that the Pukin’ Dogs demonstrated from the flight deck to the skies above it. However, in March the Coronavirus of 2019 (COVID-19) affected us all, and nearly put all progress at VFA-143 to a standstill. By May of 2020, the Pukin’s Dogs returned to work, and on the shoulders of the Maintenance Department continued to pursue excellence in the ‘new normal.’
In over 60 years of faithful service the Sailors of VFA-143 have answered the call around the world. Their quiet professionalism has earned them numerous fleet awards, citations, MiG kills, and A/G strikes across multiple platforms and multiple areas of responsibility. They enjoy a rare, rich heritage and close relationship with the former members of the squadron called the Old Dogs Forever, also known as the “ODF.”