Navy Stories: Electronic Warfare School

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USS Ranger (CV-61)
USS Ranger CV-61

After high school, like many, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I was working and attending college trying to figure it all out. At the same time, I was regularly hearing from my brother about California, his overseas adventures, and being a part of the US Navy’s world famous VF-1 Wolfpack squadron (F-14 by Grumman). This was the Navy’s beautiful interceptor/strike fighter that eventually replaced the aging F-4 Phantoms. The Wolfpack squadron was attached to the USS Ranger CV-61 (Aircraft Carrier by Newport News Shipbuilding), home ported in sunny San Diego, California.

I also wanted to experience something different and to see the world, so I followed in his footsteps and joined the Navy. After testing and learning about all the various jobs, I chose the Navy’s Electronic Warfare (EW) School. It was here that I realized how my role was instrumental in helping to defend a ship at sea against threats. To add importance in my choice of Electronic Warfare, this was during the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union had an arsenal of advanced weapon systems designed not to just take out ships, but entire battle groups.

VF-1 Wolfpack Squadron
VF-1 Wolfpack Squadron

I completed basic training in Orlando, Florida and was approved for a Secret Clearance. I then completed System Operator Training School at Corry Station in Pensacola, Florida. Corry Station is an Information Operations Command that specializes in cryptology, equipment maintenance, and information dissemination training. I learned how to setup and use ship-borne equipment to detect and identify missiles, aircraft, and surface/sub-surface platforms. The first phase was equipment operator training and gaining experience out in the fleet. After eighteen months, I would return to Corry Station for Advanced Electronics and Equipment Maintenance training.

Part of the overall EW duties would include: maintaining computer-controlled electronic equipment used for detection, interpretation, identification and location of electronic signals (RF events) from radar emissions. I would determine effective defensive maneuvers and operate systems that produce high-power electronic signals. These signals would be used to deceive and jam enemy electronic sensors, including those associated with electronically guided weapons.

My primary role was to help defend the ship against inbound anti-ship cruise missiles. I would routinely work with classified information and technical material in support of national security directives. My working environment would be clean, cool, and dark in CIC (Combat Information Center). This was the brain of the ship’s tactical combat direction and was made up of mainly technical and combat officers. I would report directly to the TAO (Tactical Action Officer) who made offensive/defensive decisions for the safety of the ship (on carriers, for the entire battle group).

I finished my Operator School gaining high marks and was offered a position on the USS Ranger — VF-1 Wolfpack’s carrier when underway. I was going to sail with my brother as a member of Battle Group Echo: made up of Cruisers, Destroyers, frigates, weapons/fuel/rations tenders and, of course, a silent friend — a nuclear submarine.

Look for my next Navy story on how the Ranger and the F-14 squadrons encountered the Russian Anti-ship Missile Cruiser Sovremenny and multiple long-range TU-95 bombers.