Wednesday, June 17, 2009

VP-8 "Fighting Tigers" Return from Deployment

By Lt. j.g. Donald Lauderdale, Patrol Squadron 8 Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- A new chapter in the 66-year history of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 began June 10 when the squadron's last P-3C aircraft arrived at its new home base at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville from the Middle East.

The crew included VP-8 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Sean Liedman. They were welcomed by Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 11 Capt. Kyle Cozad, CPRW 5 Capt. Jim Hoke and NAS Jacksonville Commanding Officer Capt. Jack Scorby Jr. at a special ceremony held at their new home in Hangar 511.

"On this last deployment, you set the bar. You made a difference. You went to some of the world's most dangerous places and supported our warfighters," said Hoke. "As we saw with the Maersk Alabama situation, when there were things that had to be done in theater, the Tigers were the first to be called. Today is kind of bittersweet for me because this is the beginning of the end of CPRW Five and squadrons at NAS Brunswick. This is the fifth time VP-8 has moved during the span of their history, and each time you have set the standards, and I have no doubt you will do that here. Thank you for your service, thanks for what you did with Wing Five and thanks for what you did for your country during the past six months."

"In addition to thanking VP-8, I'd like to thank the folks who have made this happen," said Cozad. "This is a historic move and for the past two and a half years, we have all looked forward to making this move a reality. I especially want to thank the families for helping with this move and welcome home the Tigers. You are home!"

VP-8 deployed in December 2008 from their former homeport at NAS Brunswick, Maine. During their six-month deployment to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, the squadron flew in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and coalition counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin.

"Thank you for welcoming VP-8 to our new homeport at NAS Jacksonville," Liedman told the crowd from the podium. "Today is historic, because as VP-8 closes out 38 years of service at NAS Brunswick, we open a new chapter at NAS Jacksonville. I can't think of a better way to put a bookmark between those two chapters than to do it in conjunction with returning from our highly successful deployment to the Middle East and Africa."

VP-8 generated an impressive 97 percent mission completion rate during the deployment despite the challenges of operating from the expeditionary environments of Qatar and Djibouti. Aircrews from VP-8 were the first Department of Defense asset to come to the aid of the motor vessel Maersk Alabama and provided round-the-clock surveillance until the rescue of the ship's captain, Richard Phillips.

VP-8 will be followed by VP-10 and VP-26 as they depart NAS Brunswick on deployment before relocating to NAS Jacksonville. With the return from deployment of VP-8's last aircraft, members of the Fighting Tigers say they look forward to opening a new chapter in their storied squadron history.