OAK HARBOR, Wash. – Lieutenant Sarah Barnum, a native of West Covina, California, followed a unique path into the Navy.
“I was recruited by the Naval Academy for track and field, and decided to join them, which meant I joined the Navy,” Barnum said. “I decided the Navy was a good choice for me.”
Now, four years after joining the Navy, Barnum serves with the Cougars of VAQ-139, working with the Navy’s premier electronic attack aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.
“The squadron life is fun here,” said Barnum. “I get to see an entire deployment cycle so I get to perform a lot of different missions.”
Barnum, a 2011 graduate of Saint Lucy's Priory High School, is a Naval flight officer with VAQ-139, a high-tech electronic attack squadron capable of altering the outcome of any engagement with the EA-18G “Growler.”
“I sit in the back seat of the jet and operate all of the equipment and weapons systems that the aircraft is capable of performing,” said Barnum.
Barnum credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in West Covina.
“I learned the value of not taking things personally, and that time never stops,” said Barnum. That has helped me in my career.”
VAQ-139's primary mission is to conduct airborne electronic warfare while embarked with a carrier air wing. They deploy aboard aircraft carriers and to airbases around the world to project electronic attack dominance anywhere in the world at any time. This includes suppression of enemy radar systems, sensor jamming and electronic protection.
The EA-18G “Growler” is the most advanced airborne electronic attack (AEA) platform in production today, according to Navy officials. The Navy invests in advanced “Growler” capabilities to ensure it continues to protect all strike aircraft during high-threat missions for decades to come.
“The missions this aircraft can perform are amazing,” said Barnum. “You get to protect a lot of important assets, and it makes me feel good being able to protect other sailors.”
Serving in the Navy means Barnum is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Barnum is most proud of getting her wings.
“I studied more to get through the advanced training squadron than I did in college,” said Barnum. “Getting my wings was a big accomplishment for me, especially because not many make it through to this point.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Barnum and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy is a great opportunity to meet great people and do something that a lot of people don't get to do every day,” said Barnum.