Thursday, June 04, 2009

VP-8 Crew Comes Home to Jacksonville

By Aviation In-Flight Technician Airman Scott Beach, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Families gathered at Naval Air Station (NAS)Jacksonville May 27 to welcome the first crew of the Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 to its new duty station when it returned from deployment.

Six months ago, the "Fighting Tigers" of VP-8 bid farewell to their families at NAS Brunswick, Maine as they deployed to the Middle East and Japan.

Friends and families awaiting the afternoon arrival found it difficult to contain their anticipation. Every P-3 flying over the base excited them as they hoped it was "their crew." Then, precisely at 1 p.m.– VP-8 Orion number 295 landed and taxied down the ramp with an American flag flying from the overhead hatch of the cockpit.

After cutting engines and securing the aircraft, VP-8 Executive Officer Cmdr. Jiancarlo Villa led his crew down the ladder to a historic homecoming.

"This is exciting," said Villa after he greeted his family. "We're just trying to get everyone settled into the routine of a new duty station. The families sacrificed greatly to move from Maine to Florida during deployment. For us, it's exciting to be some of the first to get down here. We're all really looking forward to integrating with the other squadrons and becoming part of the Jacksonville community."

After Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Scott Wagner hugged and kissed his wife, Stephanie, she introduced him to their daughter, Grace, who was born during his deployment.

"I've never felt like this – it is an amazing feeling to come home from a successful deployment and finally see my daughter," said Wagner. "Maine is a beautiful place, but I'll take warmth over snow any time. It's definitely going to be a great lifestyle down here."

The Fighting Tigers are in the process of moving into their new spaces at Hangar 511, a home it will share with VP-5, VP-16, VP-62 and VPU-1.

"In the first two weeks of June, we'll be welcoming our maintainers' airlift, plus, three more P-3s," said Villa.

As part of the BRAC 2005 realignment, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11 will assume the administration, operations and oversight for three squadrons - VP-8, VP-10, VP-26 - moving to NAS Jacksonville. NAS Brunswick is scheduled for closure in May 2011.