Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Engel takes command of Star Warriors


May 28, 2020

Commander Dustin Engel of the U.S. Navy, Sundance native and son of Janet Lake, was recently promoted to take command of VAQ-209, otherwise known as the “Star Warriors”, the U.S. Military’s only reserve Electronic Attack Squadron.

The airborne change of command took place on May 15 in a traditional and symbolic flight lead change above the USS Ronald Reagan. As the two EA-18Gs – known as Growlers – flew past, CDR Engel relieved CDR Brian Arena as Commanding Officer as the supercarrier approached Tokyo Bay.

The “Star Warriors” recently completed a combined integration exercises with the USS Ronald Reagan during her latest underway period off the coast of Japan. The squadron is currently forward deployed to the INDOPACOM AOR in support of joint security and presence operations.

Engel graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. He reported to NAS Pensacola in Florida for flight training and earned his Naval Flight Officer wings in November, 2002.

Engel reported to NAS Whidbey Island to fly the EA-6B Prowler as an EA-6B Electronic Countermeasures Officer in VAQ-129. After completing the Fleet Replacement Squadron syllabus there, he was assigned as a Navy exchange officer with the Marines of VMAQ-2 at Cherry Point, NC.

During his tour, he made two combat deployments to Iraq, flying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom between 2004 and 2007. He also completed the Fleet Marine Force PQS qualification.

Engel reported back to the “Vikings” of VAQ-129 as a flight instructor, training new pilots on carrier landings and their initial training flights in the Prowler. He also served as a squadron aviation safety officer and standardization officer; he was also selected as the 2011 Instructor EMCO of the Year.

In 2010, Engel was selected to be an FTS Officer. In April, 2011, he reported to the Star Warriors at Joint Base Andrews, MD.

While assigned to VAQ-209, he deployed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and flew missions in support of NATO and coalition forces during Operation Enduring Freedom. He served in department head billets as the administrative officer and maintenance officer.

Now a lieutenant commander, he served as an action officer on the Chief of Navy Reserve staff and directly supported the Navy Reserve as assistant family readiness officer. He subsequently completed a tour on the Naval Air Forces Reserve staff as the Reserve VAQ/VAW program manager.

Engel has accumulated more than 2700 flight hours in five aircraft and 100 carrier arrested landings. He has earned the Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal (ten awards), Navy Commendation Medal (four awards) and various other service awards and ribbons.


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