Luers grad keeps Navy Growlers jamming

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – A 2013 Bishop Luers High School graduate and Decatur native is serving with a U.S. Navy electronic attack squadron that flies one of the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced aircraft, the EA-18G Growler.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas Coyne is an aviation structural mechanic with the “Black Ravens” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 135, one of 14 Navy electronic attack squadrons based in Whidbey Island, Wash.

As an aviation structural mechanic, Coyne is responsible for overall maintenance on the aircraft, including safety equipment, training and hydraulic systems.

“I like the people I get to work with,” Coyne said. “The morale here is great.”

Taking off from and landing on Navy aircraft carriers, as well as supporting expeditionary land-based operations around the world, Growler crewmembers engage in electronic warfare, one of the most important components of modern air combat, according to Navy sources.

The EA-18G Growler is the fourth major variant of the F/A-18 family of aircraft that combines the proved F/A-18F Super Hornet platform with a sophisticated electronic warfare suite, complete with advanced receivers, jamming pods and satellite communications. The electronic warfare mission involves jamming enemy radar and communications systems to render air defenses ineffective.

“The camaraderie here is the best,” Coyne said. “Everyone gets along great. I can talk to anyone and they welcome you with open arms. The chain of command is so welcoming, they always point me in the right direction.”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied at VAQ-135, according to Navy officials. About 65 officers, 400 enlisted men and women, and 110 civilian contractors make up and keep all parts of the squadron running smoothly – this includes everything from maintaining airframes and engines, to processing paperwork, handling weaponry, and flying the aircraft.

Serving in the Navy, Coyne is learning about being a more responsible leader, sailor and citizen through handling numerous responsibilities.

“Serving in the Navy means serving my country and protecting my family while getting the training and unique, honorable things that some people will never get a chance to do,” added Coyne. “It’s rewarding for myself to see how what we do helps the rest of the country.”