When the Jolly Rogers of VF-103 departed for their 2004 Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment as part of Carrier Air Wing Seventeen (CVW-17) aboard the aircraft carrier USS John F Kennedy (CVA-67) on July 10th 2004 they were beginning their final cruise as Fighter Squadron One Zero Three (VF-103). When they returned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana in Virginia the following December they turned in their Grumman F-14B Tomcats and began the transition to the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet. The squadron was re-designated Strike Fighter Squadron One Zero Three (VFA-103), and as part of that process shifted to CVW-7. It was the end of an era for the Fighting 103, who were actually the Sluggers for the majority of their existence. The previous Jolly Rogers of VF-84 were disestablished on October 1st 1995. In order to keep the rich tradition of the Jolly Rogers alive, VF-103 changed their name and squadron insignia to the skull and crossbones of the previous VF-84 and became the “new” Jolly Rogers.
The 2004 deployment was also the final cruise of the Kennedy. Along with VF-103, CVW-17 consisted of the Boeing F/A-18C Hornets of VFA-34 Blue Blasters, VFA-83 Rampagers, and VFA-81 Sunliners. The Jolly Rogers were the only VF squadron aboard Kennedy for this deployment. Electronic attack was the specialty of Grumman EA-6B Prowler-equipped VAQ-132 Scorpions. VAW-125 Tiger Tails provided airborne early warning and control with their Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes. Helos aboard for the deployment were the variants of the Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk flown by HS-15 Red Lions.
When airborne gas was needed it was usually passed by Texaco VS-30 Diamond Cutters Lockheed S-3B Vikings. The 2004 Kennedy cruise was also the final deployment for the Diamond Cutters, who were dis-established in early 2005.