The commander of a squadron of Navy E/A-18G Growlers based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington was fired “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.”

Cmdr. William Coulter was the commander of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136, a squadron known as “The Gauntlets” based at Whidbey Island, Washington. He was relieved on December 20 by the Commander of Carrier Strike Group ONE, Rear Adm. Carlos Sardiello.

No details of Coulter’s relief were released. The Navy routinely announces when unit commanders are relieved of command, nearly always citing only a senior leader’s “loss of confidence” in the officer rather than specific reasons or details for the firing.

Cmdr. Coulter VAQ 136 since January 2023. The squadron’s executive officer, who was scheduled to take over command in April 2024, will assume that role immediately, the Navy said.

“Navy commanding officers are held to high standards of personal and professional conduct. They are expected to uphold the highest standards of responsibility, reliability, and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable when they fall short of those standards,” the Navy said in its announcement, a statement similar to those included in other relief announcements.

According to the squadron’s website, Coulter is a native of Seattle, Washington, where he attended the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice and was commissioned into the Navy in 2004 through the school’s Naval ROTC program.

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After flight school, Coulter trained on the EA-6B Prowler, the Navy’s primary electronic warfare plane before the EA-18. His career included deployments on four aircraft carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Harry S. Truman.

Coulter has logged over 2,800 flight hours and 350 carrier landings, the Navy said, earning decorations that include a Defense Meritorious Service Medal and two Air Medals.

The E/A-18G Growler is a modified version of the Navy and Marines’ F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter. It carries a wide array of sensors, processors, and transmitters to intercept, block, or mimic hostile electronic transmissions, like radar and radio signals used to guide air defense missiles or the communications of opposing air forces.

The E/A-18G began replacing the EA-6B Prowler as the Navy’s primary electronic warfare platform in 2008. While the lower-performance Prowler provided ‘stand off’ electronic warfare capabilities, the higher-performance E/A-18 can directly escort F/A-18s and other fighters during attack missions to jam electronic threats. 

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