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WORLD FAMOUS GOLDEN DRAGON HISTORY

The Bridges at Toko-Ri Movie Poster


The "World Famous Golden Dragons" of Strike Fighter Squadron One Nine Two (VFA-192) are a United States Navy F/A-18C Hornet fighter squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA. They are a part of Carrier Air Wing 9, and are attached to the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN-74). Their tailcode is NG and their radio callsign is "Dragon".

1940s

Strike Fighter Squadron 192 was originally established as Fighter Squadron 153 (VF-153) on March 26, 1945 at NAS Atlantic City flying the F6F-3 Hellcat. The squadron received F6F-5s in April, and relocated to NAAS Oceana in June. VF-153The squadron’s first insignia was approved by the Chief of Naval Operations on 11 October 1945 and consisted of a reddish brown kangaroo with crimson boxing gloves on a white cloud. The squadron was known as the Fightin' Kangaroos.

The squadron moved to NAS Alameda in Aug 1946, and was redesignated to Fighter Squadron 15A on 15 November 1946. The squadron’s first deployment was aboard USS Antietam (CV-36) from March-October 1947. Immediately following their return, the squadron transitioned to the F8F-1 Bearcat in Nov 1947.

Following the squadron’s redesignation to VF-15A, the squadron changed its name to the Black Knights and a new insignia was approved on 24 November 1947. It was a black helmet with gold markings and a gold shield. The squadron was redesignated Fighter Squadron 151 (VF-151) on 15 July 1948. VF-151With this redesignation, the helmet/shield insignia was modified and the Latin inscription In Omnia Paratus was added, meaning ever ready. In February 1949, half of the squadron’s personnel and aircraft deployed aboard USS Boxer (CV-21) for a Pacific Fleet Minor Cold Weather Exercise near Kodiak, Alaska. They upgraded to the F8F-2 model of the Bearcat in July 1949.

1950s

In January of 1950, the squadron sailed from Alameda aboard USS Boxer. It was redesignated Fighter Squadron 192 on February 15, and returned from the Western Pacific in June. Immediately upon return, VF-192 transitioned to the F4U-4 Corsair.
A new squadron insignia was approved on 8 August 1950, consisting of a silver dragon and grey/black aircraft carrier. VF-192The squadron deployed aboard USS Princeton from Nov 1950 to June 1951 in support of the Korean War. On 5 Dec 1950, the squadron flew its first combat missions, providing close air support for U.S. Marines during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. On 1 May 1951, the squadron participated in a special strike against the Hwachon Reservoir Dam with VF-193 and VA-195. The purpose of the mission was to destroy the flood gates and raise the level of the river to form a natural barrier against the enemy’s advance. VF-192 F4U-4s were tasked with flak and small arms suppression.
After deployment, the squadron moved to NAS Moffett Field and began to transition to the jet powered F9F-2 Panther, receiving several of these aircraft in Jul 1951. However, all of these aircraft were transferred to VF-191 in October 1951, and VF-192 continued to fly the F4U-4.

F4U-4

The squadron deployed for Korea aboard Princeton again from Mar-Nov 1952. On 23–24 Jun, the squadron, along with units from two other carrier air groups, conducted coordinated air strikes against North Korean hydroelectric plants. Squadron aircraft struck the Suiho hydroelectric plant on the Yalu River, the Kyosen hydroelectric plant and the Fusen hydroelectric plant. In July, VF-192 participated in one of the major joint Navy, Air Force and The Bridges at Toko-RiMarine Corps air strikes of the war, hitting industrial targets in North Korea’s capital city of Pyongyang.

Early in 1953, the Black Knights entered the jet age by receiving the F9F-2 and F9F-5 Panther fresh off the assembly line. The squadron deployed aboard USS Oriskany in September 1953, and during that cruise to the Orient, the pilots participated in the filming of The Bridges at Toko-Ri. It was the debut of this film that earned the squadron the name “World Famous Golden Dragons.”

On January 19, 1956, the squadron upgraded to the swept-wing F9F-6 Cougar and their mission changed to include the aircraft's ground weapons delivery capability. On March 15, VA-1921956, the official designation of the squadron was changed from Fighter Squadron to Attack Squadron 192 (VA-192). The squadron insignia was modified once again, this time with a yellow dragon, white nuclear symbol and white cloud with a red rising center.

The squadron received its first F9F-8s in Jun 1956. VA-192, now known as the Golden Dragons, transitioned to the FJ-4B Fury in Dec 1957, and following an exchange of aircraft, maintainers and support equipment with VA-216, transitioned again to the A4D-2 Skyhawk in July 1959.

1960s

In December 1962, the squadron moved from Moffet Field to NAS Lemoore, California, and on November 21, 1964, after completing almost ten months in the Western Pacific, the Dragons returned from their fourth consecutive cruise aboard USS Bon Homme Richard. After a four-month turnaround, they deployed aboard the “Bonnie Dick” in April 1965 for a ten-month cruise in support of the Vietnam War. A new and more powerful A-4E “Skyhawk,” with the ability to carry a greater bomb load, was received in June 1966.

A-4 Skyhawk

The squadron deployed again to Yankee Station in Oct 1966 aboard USS Ticonderoga (CV-14). During this deployment, Golden Dragon LCDR Michael J. Estocin greatly distinguished himself in the air arena, posthumously earning the Medal of Honor for his gallantry and courage while flying two separate missile suppression missions to Haiphong. On the second mission, Commander Estocin's A-4 was shot down and he was listed as MIA; on 10 November 1977 his MIA status was changed to presumed KIA. In his memory, the Navy’s award for the best F/A-18 Hornet squadron is called the Michael J. Estocin Award.

In July 1967, the Golden Dragons became the first operational fleet squadron to receive the new A-4F Skyhawk, and in December of that year the Dragons again deployed aboard Ticonderoga. In March 1968, VA-192, along with other squadrons in CVW-19, conducted flight operations from Tico in the Sea of Japan as part of Operation Formation Star - a continuing show of American forces in the area following the capture of USS Pueblo (AGER-2) by North Korea. In April 1969, the Golden Dragons made their last deployment with the A-4F aboard USS Oriskany (CV-34). It was during this cruise that the squadron was recognized for A-7E Corsair IIan amazing safety record during extensive combat operations. Specifically, this safety record spanned over 55 accident-free months, 30,477 flight hours and 11,580 carrier landings. No other carrier jet squadron had ever achieved such a safety record up to that time.

1970s

VA-192 took delivery of their first A-7E Corsair II in February 1970. On 6 November 1970, the squadron deployed aboard USS Kitty Hawk. During this cruise, VA-192’s “Laotian Highway Patrol” set an all-time record for ordnance dropped on a single cruise, over 15 million pounds, while flying more than 6,600 flight hours and amassing 2,901 arrested landings. The Dragons delivered this record amount of ordnance on enemy supply routes both day and night, in all kinds of weather, without losing a single man or aircraft. After returning to NAS Lemoore in July 1971, the Dragons immediately began preparing for another combat cruise to Southeast Asia . On 17 February 1972, the squadron departed on their sixth Vietnam combat cruise, flying their first combat sorties on 5 March 1972. In May 1972, squadron aircraft participated in the mining of North Vietnamese harbours and Linebacker I operations, concentrated air strikes against targets in North Vietnam. The Golden Dragons flew over 3,600 combat strikes while participating in seven combat line periods over a record 192 days.
From late 1973 to 1978, the squadron made several WestPac deployments aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. In November 1973, VA-192 deployed with CVW-11 and Kitty Hawk as part of the first CV concept air wing deployment on the west coast. This concept employed all aspects of carrier aviation warfare into one air wing deployed on a single deck. On 3 March 1979 the squadron embarked aboard USS America at Norfolk, Virginia, for their first Mediterranean cruise.

1980s

The squadron deployed for a second Mediterranean cruise aboard America from April to November 1981, spending 202 of 220 days at sea. In November 1982, the squadron joined Carrier Air Wing 9 and became a part of the USS Ranger team. In Jul–Aug 1983, Ranger, with VA-192 embarked, was ordered to operate off the coast of Nicaragua in response to an unstable situation in Central America. From Oct 1983 to Jan 1984: Ranger, with VA-192 embarked, was extended on station in the Arabian Sea due to the Iranian threat to block oil exports from the Persian Gulf. By early 1985, the Golden Dragons began to prepare for transition to the F/A-18 Hornet. About half of the A-7E’s and personnel who maintained them had been transferred from the squadron when the Dragons were ordered to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan under the Marine Corps Unit Deployment Program. In less than three months, the squadron was fully manned and equipped with 12 A-7E’s, and on June 3, 1985 launched for a three day transpacific flight to Iwakuni. Upon arrival, the squadron became part of Marine Aircraft Group 12 under the 1st Marine Air Wing. The squadron returned to Lemoore for Christmas, and on January 10, 1986 the Golden Dragons were re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron One Nine Two (VFA-192) while in FA-18 Hornet transition training under VFA-125. On February 14, 1986, exactly 16 years after the first Dragon Corsair II was accepted, VA-192 transferred its last A-7E. The squadron received their first FA-18A on 5 May 1986. F/A-18 HornetThis new beginning also included notification that the squadron would be changing homeport to join CVW-5 and USS Midway out of Yokosuka, Japan. This change became official on 1 Jul 1986, and in November the Golden Dragons executed their second transpacific movement in eighteen months in new F/A-18 Hornets to NAF Atsugi, Japan. 1987 began with VFA-192’s first deployment embarked in Midway as a member of the restructured CVW-5. The next twelve months included 261 days of embarked operations in the South China Sea, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Sea. During November and December, the Dragons participated in Operation Earnest Will, providing air cover for the escort of reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf .

1990s

On October 2, 1990, the squadron set sail aboard Midway for the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Shield. When Operation Desert Storm began on the night of January 17, 1991, the Golden Dragons attacked Iraqi missile batteries. Over the next 43 days, the Golden Dragons flew 576 combat sorties, dropping over 730,000 pounds of ordnance. In March, VFA-192 and the Midway Battle Group departed the Persian Gulf, returning home to Yokosuka following seven months of deployment. On August 21, 1991, VFA-192 and CVW-5 embarked for the last time aboard Midway prior to her retirement and replacement as the forward deployed carrier by USS Independence. During the turnover at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the squadron also traded their F/A-18A aircraft for newer F/A-18Cs.

On April 15, 1992, the Golden Dragons deployed for the first time aboard Independence, participating in the 50th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Coral Sea in Sydney, Australia . The Dragons Oriskanywere also a part of the battle group that spearheaded Operation Southern Watch (OSW), establishing the Iraqi no-fly zone south of the 32nd parallel north. In Fall 1993, Summer 1995, and again in Winter 1998, the Golden Dragons deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of OSW. On July 7, 1998, the Golden Dragons and CVW-5 embarked for the last time aboard Independence. In Hawaii, the squadron moved to USS Kitty Hawk, and upgraded aircraft to Lot 17 F/A-18Cs. The Golden Dragons deployed again on March 2, 1999 for the South Pacific and to the Persian Gulf in support of OSW.

2000s

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the squadron began preparations for an emergency deployment and began training at Iwo Jima while Kitty Hawk sortied from Yokosuka. Within a week the Dragons were again carrier qualified and ready to sail. Instead, CVW-5 was divided to fill urgent requirements elsewhere in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. CVW-5 Detachment A, comprised FA-18Cs from VFA-192 and VFA-195, S-3’s from VS-21 and HH-60’s from HS-14, sailed aboard Kitty Hawk to the Indian Ocean with a large Special Operations contingent embarked. The Spec Ops force moved from Kitty Hawk into Afghanistan while the aircraft provided close air support (CAS) until November 2001. Detachment B, comprised FA-18Cs from VFA-27 and manned with pilots from all three CVW-5 Hornet squadrons, deployed to the U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia to provide air defense of the Maritime Pre-positioned Fleet and USAF bomber force deplolyed there.

In January 2003, VFA-192 deployed aboard Kitty Hawk to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The squadron flew 339 combat missions and dropped 224,000 pounds of ordnance including 283 JDAM and LGB bombs. After 100 consecutive days at sea, the Dragons returned to Japan in May.

On December 15, 2009, VFA-192 departed NAF Atsugi and CVW-5 as part of a homeport change to NAS Lemoore and CVW-9. Likewise, VFA-115 arrived in NAF Atsugi on December 13, 2009 to be the replacement squadron for the Dragons.

Dragon 300

Awards

From 1966 to 1969, the Golden Dragons received four consecutive Chief of Naval Operations Safety Awards. They are six time recipients of the Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet Battle Efficiency Award, most recently for 2009. They have twice been awarded the Michael J. Estocin award for being the top Strike Fighter Squadron in the Navy. In 1979, the Golden Dragons were awarded the Bruce Carrier Award for excellence in aviation maintenance. The Golden Dragons earned the Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Safety-S award consecutively for 1999 and 2000, and again for 2005, 2006 and 2008.

COMMANDING OFFICERS
1. CDR WARD POWELL (May-1948)
2. CDR KARK VAN METER (JUNE 1949)
3. CDR “ACE” PARKER (NOVEMBER 1951)
4. CDR JOHN DINNEEN (OCTOBER 1953)
5. CDR C. N. V. WHITED (MAY 1954)
6. LCDR FRANK FOLTZ (OCTOBER 1955)
7. LCDR BILL FLANAGAN (SEPTEMBER 1957)
8. LCDR LARRY BAUMGAER (SEPTEMBER 1958)
9. CDR BILL PAYNE (JULY 1959)
10. CDR HANK SNOWDEN (MAY 1960)
11. CDR BEN ADAMS (Mar-1961)
12. CDR MITCH SIMMON (Mar-1962)
13. CDR KEITH WEAVER (Feb-1963)
14. CDR “BUCK” ROGERS (Dec-1964)
15. CDR GENE TISSOT (Dec-1964)
16. CDR A. E. “BOOT” HILL (Dec-1965)
17. CDR ED McKELLAR (Dec-1966)
18. CDR L. F. “GUS” EGGERT (Dec-1967)
19. CDR J. K. STANLEY (Dec-1968)
20. CDR R. E. WOODBURY (Oct-1969)
21. CDR D. C. PARKHURST (Aug-1970)
22. CDR R. L. KIEHL (Apr-1971)
23. CDR R. C. TAYLOR, JR. (May-1972)
24. CDR D. D. OWENS (May-1973)
25. CDR D. N. ROGERS (Jul-1974)
26. CDR G. R. GOLDENSTEIN (Oct-1975)
27. CDR J. D. COLE (Jan-1977)
28. CDR J. L. McWHINNEY (Apr-1978)
29. CDR T. B. LATENDRESSE (Jun-1980)
30. CDR J. J. ZERR (Sep-1981)
31. CDR H. T. RITTENOUR (Jun-1982)
32. CDR G. E. RUDD (Jun-1983)
33. CDR C. D. ENGLEHARDT (Aug-1984)
34. CDR R. G. FERVER (Jan-1986)
35. CDR J. F. WILLIAMS (Apr-1987)
36. CDR J. A. PETTITT (May-1988)
37. CDR M. D. SHUTT (Sep-1989)
38. CDR J. B. “GIB” GODWIN III (Mar-1991)
39. CDR T. L. “HEELS” HEELY (Jun-1992)
40. CDR C. T. "CT" CUNNINGHAME (Sep-1993)
41. CDR S. R. "TURK" GREEN (Dec-1994)
42. CDR S. R. TALLANT (May-1996)
43. CDR C. E. “JUICE” AYUSO (Sep-1997)
44. CDR S. P. “SLAM” DUNKLE (Dec-1998)
45. CDR R. “BEAV” HORTON (Dec-1999)
46. CDR D. C. “TAILS” TAYLOR (Feb-2001)
47. CDR J. “HOSER” PAULSEN (May-2002)
48. CDR B. K. "ZULU" COREY (Sep-2003)
49. CDR C. P. "CHEBS" CHEBI (Dec-2004)
50. CDR S.A. “FUZZ” MCCLURE (Mar-2006)
51. CDR G. A. “STIFFY” McWHERTER (Jun-2007)
52. CDR J. L. “DOOGIE” ENFIELD (Aug-2008)
53. CDR K. M. “SQUISHY” HENRY (Jul-2009)


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