RAAF NEWS: Friends unite for mission
TWO Growler pilots who became close friends after an exchange posting in the US have come together again for Talisman Saber.
Commander (CDR) David 'Rooster' Harris is commanding officer (CO) of US Navy Growler 'Scorpion' squadron VAQ-132.
He and Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Shannon 'Bird' Kennedy, executive officer (XO) of No. 6 Squadron, met in 2014 when they were re-training on the EA-18G Growler.
SQNLDR Kennedy was then posted to VAQ-132 on exchange in 2015.
CDR Harris said SQNLDR Kennedy was embedded with VAQ-132 to learn processes and tactics associated with the Growler, in preparation for No. 6 Squadron's transition.
He went on to say that what began as a working relationship, soon developed into a lasting friendship.
"For a little over two years, Bird was a pilot and one of my department heads at VAQ-132," CDR Harris said.
"On a personal level, we became very good friends and his wife and my wife became very good friends.
"Our kids were also on the same swim team, so we really have a great professional relationship and our entire families have a great personal relationship."
SQNLDR Kennedy said he too had good memories of the exchange posting to the US.
"I did two years with VAQ-132; it was an excellent squadron," he said.
"I had a great time there and filled a myriad of jobs, including acting XO.
"I learnt my electronic attack trade there with the US Navy as well - it was certainly a career highlight."
As with CDR Harris, SQNLDR Kennedy said the friendships formed during the exchange had lasted.
"The CO of VAQ-132 is one of my good friends and our families are friends as well," he said.
"At work, the relationship was professional and after-hours it was social.
"It's a very close unit; I have very strong relationships with those guys."
The two friends were working together again, this time for Talisman Saber 17.
VAQ-132 has played a major role in the exercise, while No. 6 Squadron was involved on a smaller scale.
Based in Whidbey Island, Washington, VAQ-132 brought more than 200 sailors and aircrew to the exercise where they have worked closely with both No. 1 Squadron and No. 6 Squadron.
"We came to Australia to train with one of our oldest and best allies," CDR Harris said.
"Our primary goal was to take part in realistic war-type scenarios; but also to work through new tactics, techniques and procedures.
"It's a pretty simple mission but the focus of the squadron was to meet that overall mission."
CDR Harris said VAQ-132 was a proud squadron with a number of firsts.
"We're the first squadron to have the EA-18G Growler, the Navy's newest tactical aircraft," he said.
"We were also the first electronic attack squadron to be in Vietnam; to be in Desert Storm; and then to be in Libya a few years ago.
"Our motto is First to the fleet, first to the fight."