The Flying Eagles of Strike Fighter Squadron One Two Two (VFA-122) recently bid farewell to Chief Warrant Officer Walter F. Garcia III, after 24 years of distinguished service in the United States Navy.
Garcia was born in Burlingame and raised in Spokane, Wash. There, he enlisted into the Navy in August of 1990. He went to Recruit Training Command in San Diego, and attended Aviation Maintenance Administrationman (AZ) “A” school in Meridian, Miss.
Upon graduation from “A” school, he received orders to the Sundowners of VF-111, at Naval Air Station Miramar. He reported shortly after the start of the first Persian Gulf War in February of 1991. While attached to the Sundowners, he earned his Shellback status onboard the USS Kitty Hawk, during the “Around the Horn” cruise from Norfolk, Va. to San Diego in the fall of 1991.
He completed his first Western Pacific (WESTPAC) cruise onboard the Kitty Hawk in May of 1993. After a very successful sea tour with VF-111, he transferred to VA-128, NAS Whidbey Island, as a Second Class Petty Officer in August 1994.
Making the transition from F-14’s to the world’s largest A-6 training Squadron was a welcomed challenge. His time with the Golden Intruders was a short one, as he was part of the squadron’s decommissioning in December 1995.
From there, he executed a split shore tour, and transferred to NAS Whidbey Island Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Detachment (AIMD). While attached to AIMD, AZ2 Garcia worked in the Armament (700) Division and the Avionics (600) Division. There, he earned his first Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
In September of 1997, Petty Officer Garcia was selected for orders to be a “Plank Owner” and stand up the new VAQ-128 Fighting Phoenix EA-6B Squadron. From 1998 to 2001 (as one of the first “concrete” expeditionary squadrons), he enjoyed numerous deployments to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia and Incirlik, Turkey.
During his tour as a Phoenix, he was handpicked to lead the Line Division as an AZ2. Thriving on the leadership and excitement of working in the Line, he was advanced to First Class Petty Officer in September 2000.
Now, at his 10 year mark, he decided to stay and make the Navy a career. He volunteered for Recruiting Duty. After a 2-month school in Pensacola, Fla., Garcia was attached to Navy Recruiting District Seattle, and was stationed as a recruiter in his hometown of Spokane, Wash. in October 2001.
Needless to say, after the horrific events of 9/11, the time to recruit young Americans to serve their Country was paramount to the future of our freedom. After only 8 months as a recruiter, it was obvious he had the passion and desire to help the future of America’s youth and our great nation. He was promoted to Recruiter-In-Charge of NRS Sandpoint, ID in May 2002.
After his first year, he was selected as the “Rookie Recruiter of the Year” for NRD Seattle in October 2002. His continued success and dedication resulted in his first Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal in 2003. Above all, his greatest accomplishment was being selected, initiated, and promoted to Chief Petty Officer in September 2003.
In October 2004, a new chapter in his career took him to VFA-115 in Lemoore, back to sea duty and the exciting life of the F/A-18E Super Hornet. During his three-year tour as an Eagle, he earned his Safe-For-Flight qualification as a Maintenance Control Chief and made the maiden cruise onboard the USS Ronald Reagan in 2006. After a successful surge deployment in 2007, Garcia received orders to the Rough Raiders of VFA-125 and checked into the Command in January 2008.
In February 2008 he was selected to become a Chief Warrant Officer. In February 2009 he was commissioned and then attended LDO/CWO Indoctrination School in Newport, R.I., followed by Aviation Maintenance Officer (AMO) School in Milton, Fla.
Upon completion of the AMO course, he was assigned to the Kestrels of VFA-137 in April 2009. While stationed with the Kestrels, he worked his way up from the MCO job to the Quality Assurance Officer (QAO) position and finally became an MMCO -- his most honored title! After a combat cruise onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and three years on sea duty it was time to transfer back to shore duty.
Garcia checked into his final command, VFA-122, in December 2011 where he served as the Quality Assurance Officer, Logs & Records Division Officer and finally the Aircraft Division Officer.
When asked what advice he had for junior Sailors, Garcia replied, “Always work your hardest at every job you have. No matter how small or insignificant you think the job is, everyone has a vital role in our Navy. Have passion in what you do and pride in serving our country. It is truly an honor, and the civilians we protect really appreciate what we do.”
Garcia plans to move up to the Great Northwest, to the small town of Chewelah, Wash. with his wife Yvonne. There, he is taking a job with Washington State as a game warden.
It is with the deepest gratitude for your distinguished service, the Flying Eagles of VFA-122 wish CWO3 Walter F. Garcia III fair winds and following seas. Congratulations on your retirement!