VF-143 Pukin' Dogs
The VF-143 started out its life as VF-871, a reserve F4U-4 Corsair squadron at NAS Alameda in 1949. It was called into action twice during the Korean War, flying off aircraft carriers USS Princeton and USS Essex. The squadron was redesignated VF-123 and received F9F-2 Panthers in 1953. In 1958 it transitioned to the F3H Demon and was again redesignated VF-53. It was around this time the squadron adopted its current insignia--a winged black lion (or as squadron lore has it, the design is actually a mythological creature called Griffin) on a blue shield.
There are two tales on how the distinctive squadron name came about: One popular version is that when the Griffin design was unveiled, a female observer commented that the creature's droopy head and gaping mouth made it looked like a dog throwing up. A few claimed the nickname originated in Vietnam when a USAF F-105 pilot remarked on how the beast resembled a vomitting canine! Either way, the legend of the World Famous Pukin' Dogs had begun.
In 1962 they were once again redesignated VF-143 and transitioned to the Phantom. They went on to deploy for seven Vietnam cruises along with their sister squadron VF-142 Ghostriders. The downing of a MiG-21 in 1967 proved to be one of the highlights of the squadron's long deployment in that theatre.
In 1974 VF-143 left their F-4Js behind and upgraded to the F-14As. After the transition was complete, they moved from their long-time home NAS Miramar to NAS Oceana in 1976. VF-143 was soon a TARPTS equipped squadron and as such had provided first time imagery of the new Kiev Class Soviet Carrier "Novorossiysk" and the new Soviet class cruiser "Slava". The Pukin' Dogs became the first to fly combat TARPS missions when they flew some 45 combat reconnaissance sorties over the war-torn Lebanon in the autumn of 1983. VF-143 was also the first to deploy with the F-14A+s (now known as the F-14Bs), this occurred in March 1990 aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).
When Operation Desert Shield broke out in August 1990, Eisenhower and her battle group rushed to the Red Sea to deter the Iraqis from further advancement into Saudi Arabia. In late August, USS Saratoga (CV-60) arrived to relieve the Ike and the Dogs headed back home. The Pukiní Dogs found 1990 to be a highly successful year as they won the FFARP trophy for the second consecutive year and achieved the highest score in FFARP history. VF-143 also won the Tactical Reconnaissance (TACRECCE) trophy, an unprecedented dual victory in the same year. The squadron was also nominated for the Navyís 1990 Arleigh Burke Award and the 1990 Department of Defense Phoenix Award for aviation maintenance.
The successes of 1990 became more evident in early 1991 when VF-143 was awarded COMNAVAIRLANTís 1990 Battle "E" as the Atlantic Fleetís finest fighter squadron. In addition, the Pukiní Dogs were awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Rear Admiral Joseph C. Clifton Award which designated VF-143 the Navyís finest fighter squadron. Making history in May 1991, during the Air Wingís second detachment to NAS Fallon, NV, the Dogs became the first fleet Tomcat squadron to drop live air-to-ground ordinance. In September, the squadron deployed to the Arabian Gulf in Support of Operation Desert Storm where new standards were set in joint operations between the Navy, Air Force, and numerous coalition air forces.
The Pukiní Dogs returned to the Gulf in October of 1991. The cruise took them into the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea where NATO forces and the IKE Battle Group teamed up above the Arctic Circle for cold weather operations during TEAMWORK 92.
In August 1992, the Pukiní Dogs and the rest of Carrier Air Wing SEVEN were reassigned to the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN-73), the Navyís newest aircraft carrier. VF-143 deployed on the GW on her maiden shakedown cruise, and then again for her very first Mediterranean deployment in May 1994, where she took part in the 50th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day invasion and Operation Deny Flight. This cruise was highlighted by the stellar performance of the squadron in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Arabian Gulf, particularly for the crucial TARPS imagery it provided. The Pukin' Dogs of VF-143 were awarded the 1994 Battle E, Safety S, Joseph C. Clifton and Golden Wrench awards!
In December 1995, the World Famous Pukiní 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 Pukiní Dogs to fill every role providing aircraft and personnel for TARPS, FAC(A), air superiority, and air-to-ground missions. Additionally, the Pukiní Dogs participated in joint exercises with the Netherlands, Spain, France, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. The Pukiní Dogs returned to Oceana in July 1996, having flown over 1400 missions while enjoying an unprecedented 99.3% sortie completion rate. These extraordinary successes are a tribute to the professionalism and pride of all Pukiní Dog personnel.
1998 found the Dogs making the maiden deployment of the USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74). Over 131 days were spent in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch. VF-143 played key roles using LANTIRN, night vision goggles, and digital TARPS. The excellence of VF-143 on this cruise was recognized by COMAIRNAVLANT selecting the Pukin' Dogs for the Battle 'E' award. In addition, the Navy Safety Center awarded VF-143 with the Safety 'S'.
In late 1980s and early 1990s, the squadron's unique and somewhat irreverent nickname was the subject of many heated debates. Some thought the name was in poor taste and questioned the Navy's judgment on allowing a fighter squadron to carry such an appellation. Of course, there were many Dog supporters who vehemently disagreed. The decision came down from the Navy was to have VF-143 drop the Pukin' part, thus the squadron is now officially known only as the Dogs. Naturally this upset a lot of former and current Dogs, and many Dog lovers. However, in the era of pervasive political correctness, the change was inevitable. The good news is that sometime in late 1996, VF-143 was once again officially recognized as the Pukin' Dogs by the Navy.
F-14A, late 1970s
F-14A, early 1980s
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