Atascadero native serves in Navy Strike Fighter Squadron
A 2006 Atascadero High School graduate and Atascadero native is currently serving with the U.S. Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 122, also known as the “Flying Eagles,” stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore.
Lt. David Babka is a weapons systems officer with the squadron, which the Navy designates as VFA-122, and works with the Navy’s most lethal and versatile strike fighter aircraft, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
“I am in charge of in-flight communications, navigation, and weapons systems that are set up on the F/A-18 Super Hornet,” said Babka.
The Super Hornet takes off from and lands on Navy aircraft carriers and is capable of conducting air-to-air combat as well as air-to-surface combat. It is approximately 61 feet long, has a loaded weight of 51,000 lbs., and a max speed of 1,190 miles per hour.
Operating from the sea aboard aircraft carriers, the versatile jet has the ability to destroy targets located hundreds of miles inland, without the need to get another country’s permission to operate within its borders.
“I enjoy learning from the more experienced instructors,” said Babka.
Babka said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the squadron’s 1140-member team, helping to protect America on the world’s oceans.
“My job is to complete the training in order to meet the fleet demands for new weapons systems officers,” said Babka.
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied in VFA-122. Approximately 220 officers, 660 enlisted and 260 civilian men and women make up and keep all parts of the squadron running smoothly — this includes everything from maintaining aircraft airframes and engines, to processing paperwork, handling weaponry, and flying the aircraft.
“The Sailors here are the epitome of a team,” said Cmdr. Ernie Spence, VFA-122’s commanding officer. “Everyone here is professional, skilled in their job, and they are great team players which enables us to accomplish our mission.”
The Flying Eagles are the Navy’s West Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. They train aircrew and maintainers to prepare them to go to the fleet and join the squadrons that fly the Super Hornet. VFA-122 trained aircrews have flown combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve.
“I love flying and being able to meet different kinds of people in the Navy, but most importantly I love serving my country,” said Babka.