Thursday, November 26, 2009

Whidbey Patrol Squadron Home for the Holidays

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael James, Patrol Squadron 40 Public Affairs

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Many "Fighting Marlins" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 40 have an extra reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving. They are home from Iraq.

The first VP-40 airlift bringing home 105 Marlins, and one of their P-3 Orion aircraft with 16 on board arrived Nov. 24, representing the first wave to return after completing a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Marlins will continue flying the remaining aircraft home over the next two weeks.

VP-40 deployed to Iraq supporting Commander Task Force 57, providing vital intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to Central Command troops and commanders.

During this global deployment, they sent crews to Sigonella, Italy under Commander, Task Force 67, supporting Operation Active Endeavor; to Kadena, Japan supporting 7th Fleet operations and detached crews to Bulgaria, Germany, France, Norway and Scotland, participating in various exercises.

"Everyone gains something from an experience like this; for some it's professional, for others it's a character building experience," said Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Maurace Clark. "These Sailors give it their all to get these planes off deck and accomplish the mission. Very few people have faced conditions like we've faced here in Iraq."

Over the course of the deployment, Sailors faced extreme weather conditions, reaching temperatures in excess of 130 degrees and blowing sand.

"Not even Sailors from Texas or Arizona have seen weather like this and for Northerners…they might as well be on the moon," said Clark.

During the deployment, VP-40 flew 4,000 flight hours and more than 400 combat sorties in support of OIF. The squadron also flew 120 events and 500 flight hours supporting 7th Fleet theater security objectives. The Marlins' Maintenance Department diagnosed and repaired 5,471 discrepancies, encompassing 12,091 man hours.

"With operational mission accomplishment as the centerpiece of each day, 24/7, for seven months, every Marlin did it right, did it proud and did it safe," said Cmdr. Michael McClintock, VP-40 commanding officer. "Our Sailors have operated in the most austere conditions, and I couldn't be more proud of the Marlins' performance."

Even while operating at an extremely vigorous operational tempo, personnel were still able to carry out essential training, qualifying 31 personnel in different flight crew positions and 43 personnel in essential maintenance positions. Training that will empower the next generation of Marlins to carry out its mission.

"We provide an essential piece of the intelligence picture to the Iraqi theater so that multi-national forces here can create an effective plan," said Chief Aviation Electrician's Mate (AW/NAC) Brett Edwards, VP-40 Operations leading chief petty officer. "Very few Navy personnel get to see this side of the Navy. It has been an extremely rewarding experience."