OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- The "Grey Knights" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 46 find themselves busy preparing to reposition multiple P-3C Orions to four locations across the 5th, 6th, and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR) as another Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle (IDRC) concludes, March 22.
Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 10 provided a robust package of IDRC training and necessary manning and equipment for VP-46 to strengthen their core mission capabilities of anti-submarine warfare (ASW), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and set the conditions for deployment success.
The wing's IDRC training included the Advanced Readiness Program (ARP) for aircrews in both CONUS and OCONUS detachments and a challenging Operational Readiness Evaluation (ORE) that consisted of written examinations, simulator events and tactical flights, which took place from Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon, NAS North Island, and Anderson Air Force Base.
In predictable form, the Grey Knights rose to the challenge each time, fought through to success, and earned Commander's accolades along the way in the form of the coveted 2016 Commander, Naval Air Forces, Pacific (COMNAVAIRPAC) Battle "E" award; the Commander, Pacific Fleet Retention Excellence award, and the COMNAVAIRPAC Medical Blue "M".
Across the IDRC, the Grey Knights completed a total of 10 detachments and exercises including participation in Valiant Shield 2016 (VS-16), Rim of the Pacific 2016, aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson's (CVN70) Composite Training Unit Exercise/Joint Task Force Exercise (COMTUEX/JTFX), ASW opportunities in southern California, and regional airshows.
"I enjoyed having the opportunity to complete detachments to Guam and San Diego," said Aviation Electronics Mate Airman Sarah Barley from Jacksonville, Florida, after participating in VS-16 and CVN 70's COMTUEX/JTFX. "Hard work really pays off!"
"While the IDRC tempo and difficulty level seemed intense at times, a clear upside was the dense experience and confidence squadron maintainers, aircrew, and the other support ratings gained by living through packing up their gear, traveling hundreds or thousands of miles from NAS Whidbey Island, and establishing a base of operations that produced battlespace effects for various Commanders," said Lt. Bryce Bowers, a VP-46 pilot and mission commander.
VP-46 logged 2,246 flight hours during 385 sorties, routinely coordinated missions with U.S. Navy surface, air, and subsurface forces, U.S. Air Force assets, maritime patrol aircraft from Canada and Australia, and submarines from Chile and Canada.
"This rich cross-section of integrated warfare exposure enabled the Grey Knights to hone their tactical skills in the sky as well as build proficiency operating from remote locations-exactly the environment that awaits them during this deployment, said Chief Naval Aircrewman (Operator) Bradley Breaux from Jennings, Louisiana.
"It was a great opportunity to qualify and train new Sailors, and especially for them to gain experience on real-world exercises similar to what we'll face on deployment," said Aviation Ordanceman 2nd Class Daniel Goe from Ventura, California.
Large-scale exercises weren't all that VP-46 focused on during this IDRC, however, the Grey Knights executed two successful live AGM-65F Maverick air-to-ground missile shots, 12 successful reusable exercise torpedo (REXTORP) launches, and 110 hours of contact time on submarines over the course of 42 ASW flights.
Community relations were also a focus this past year, with Grey Knights volunteering a multitude of hours at local schools, homeless shelters, trash clean-ups, and county beautification projects.
The Grey Knight Maintenance Team also had a series of rigorous challenges to navigate during IDRC, including CPRW-10 Maintenance Program Assist, Group Conventional Weapons & Technical Proficiency Inspection, CNAP Aviation Maintenance Inspection, and an unprecedented 11 Intermediate Maintenance Concept (IMC) evolutions, which are significant organizational-level aircraft preventative maintenance evolutions.
Aircrew-centric challenges included a Fleet Naval Air Training and Operating Procedure Standardization evaluation, formation of 12 wing-certified combat aircrewmen, and the capstone-the CPRW 10-administered ORE, which validates the squadron's preparedness to forward deploy. The ORE exams cover warfare level of knowledge, AOR commander's guidance, and theater air, surface, and subsurface threat recognition. Simulators were scenario-based, with increasing difficulty as the cycle progressed.
Aviation Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Gina Fardis, from Stanton, California, noted, "we were home for the holidays! What a great way to end a tough and successful ORE cycle."
Following ORE, VP-46 gave Sailors the opportunity to enjoy some much deserved leave over the Christmas Holiday season. During this break, however, those who remained on shift continued to garner readiness via simulators and flights to include an ASW opportunity with a Canadian diesel submarine.
"The department heads did a fantastic job coordinating with the chief's petty officers mess and wardroom to execute an elaborate plan this IDRC. It's been a great experience being associated with such a hard-working and successful unit," said Lt. j.g. William Blume, a VP-46 naval flight officer.
The mission of VP-46 is to support forward fleet commanders' objectives by adding the mighty Orion's capabilities to the realms of ASW, ASuW, and ISR. The Grey Knights have the distinction of being the oldest American Maritime Patrol Squadron in the U.S. Navy, amassing a class A/B mishap-free record of more than 52 years and 345,000 flight hours. The squadron proudly integrates its nine P-3C Orion aircraft into the maritime domain, just as the maritime patrol aircraft force has done throughout the history of naval aviation.
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For more news from Patrol Squadron 46, visit www.navy.mil/local/vp46/.