Had he been with a squadron, of course, he would have been with a bunch of aviators and not had wings, but his sense, my son's and mine is that as part of a squadron he would have taken less grief, or at least it would have come with less venom. We all think he would have been a happier camper in a squadron.
No matter how you slice it, the life of a spy is one of grief....
Unfortunately, the proper way to address this question is not "Which is better?", but "Which will suck less?" The life of an AI (that's Aviation Intell Officer, aka spy, aka booger eater, etc.) can be a hard row to hoe, either as ship's company or at the squadron level. Both have their minuses, as well as a few pluses. That's an unfortunate reality about how the 1630 community relates to the URL community. Some observations:
-Both the 13xx and the SWO (whatever their designator...) communities tend to have very poor opinions of the 1630/Intel community. A lot of this is due to the fact that good hard answers (The Kind Aviators Like!) can be hard to come by when your up against a thinking, breathing adversary. Answering the "Where are the SAMs?" question is just not that easy - for a lot of reasons. I say this a lot: intelligence is not magic.
This "lack of magic" is also the root of more disdain - the tendency of the Intel Community to lack definitive answers, and not being predictive. Many intel estimates get heavily couched in "might be's", "could be's", and past tense statements - people want accurate forecasts, not history lessons. Now, if more URL folks were chopped over to the Dark Side of Intel more times in their careers, they might come to understand why there can be such a lack of definitive info, but for now Intel takes it in the chops as being "more wrong than right."
A lot of the problem, though, is also related to the fact that we place wet-behind-the-ears O-1s into squadron AI billets, when they have essentially no understanding of how their platform is fought. They don't speak the language, and when they try they tend to sound foolish. And after 30 months, just when they might be getting up to speed on some important aspects of their jobs, boom! Time to rotate and get a new face in.
This is compounded by the fact that an AI *rarely* tells someone something they don't already know. The spy essentially can't tell anyone in a Hornet squadron anything they don't already know about adversary fighter tactics, other than maybe to read some Powerpoint bullets that someone else wrote about Kraplakistan tendencies at BVR ranges. They generally can't tell anything to a Prowler squadron about adversary EP tactics and how to overcome them - because they don't know 1% of what the ECMOs have already picked up. Again, they might *remind* aircrew of certain facts, but they rarely tell them anything new. This breeds the attitude of "This guy provides me no value added, since I could go find out whatever I need to know on SIPRNET in less time than it took to listen to this guy get it wrong." And you know what? They're not far from being wrong.
The role of the squadron level spy is essentially of a 2-way conduit: from national and below down to the aircrew in the form of intelligence briefs, and from the aircrew level back out to higher in the form of MISREPs. And that's about it, other than trying to unfvck everyone's security clearance, and making sure there's anough Diet Cokes, Pop Tarts, and fresh coffee (the much-vaunted Snack-O job). Now, in this Age of Information do you really need an *officer* to do this? Nope, a squared away 3rd class PO can handle any AI job. Putting an O-1 in a squadron is merely providing an SLJ officer to Ops, and having an extra body to stand weekend SDO duty...
The CVIC or ship's company officer is still a conduit, but to a different set of masters - the ship and the embarked battle group staff.
Being assigned to ship's company can be a good or bad deal. (Like in the squadron environment, it can be highly personality dependent). You're more of a DIV-O in a CVIC environment, and you have a few more like-minded souls to commiserate with, but then you're also dealing with the disdain of the shoes as well; SWOs tend to have little use for spies either - for most of the reasons mentioned above.
I hope I don't come across as overly negative on the life of an AI - after all, I are one. I enjoy my job a lot, and am very good at it - but then again I had 11 years professional experience in the Intel Community before I ever pinned on O-1 bars, and I had 2 years at NSAWC as an instructor before setting foot in a squadron. I think I'm good at what I do because I have a good understanding of my platform and it's mission, and I get to fly enough in the jet to really understand what matters (and what doesn't) when I'm briefing. If the Navy would change it's training and manning policy, things might be different - in fact, I wrote a big article for Proceedings a couple of months ago on just this subject; if you want a copy, PM me.