JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The Navy said farewell to the Topcats of Sea Control Squadron 31 (VS-31) in a disestablishment ceremony held March 27, aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville.
The Topcats, assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, ended 60 years of distinguished service. The squadron was originally established during World War II from 1942 to 1945, and was recommissioned in April 1948.
Guest speaker, retired Navy captain and former commanding officer, William Carey said he was honored to speak at the ceremony.
"I'm here because I love being part of the Topcat world and history," said Carey. "If you look in the audience today and if you think back through the years, the history and accomplishments of this fine squadron are really mind-boggling."
Carey went on to highlight some impressive accomplishments of the squadron and many of it's achievements. He also spoke of the high level of proficiency and professionalism of the Sailors. "They make me want to suit up again," said Carey.
"In 1940 VS-31 became the first Atlantic Fleet VS squadron, one of many firsts that this squadron has realized. This squadron has supported many foreign policy decisions and many crises," continued Carey. "They supported the Suez Canal Crisis and they were the first squadron to deploy and arrive on station to support Operation Desert Shield, literally within days of the invasion of Kuwait. And on 9/11, this squadron simultaneously deployed to two different aircraft carriers."
Also giving praises to the squadron during the ceremony was Capt. Sterling Gilliam, commander, CVW-9. "I am honored and fortunate to be associated with some tremendous S-3 squadrons, but none of them have come close to the sustained operational achievements of VS-31."
He also presented VS-31's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Muhammad Khan with the Meritorious Service Medal for his outstanding meritorious service to the squadron.
Khan then took the podium to thank former Topcats and guests for attending the ceremony and gave accolades to the remaining third of his squadron.
"I have been living the dream for the past year," stated Khan. "For a kid growing up in Pakistan, we heard about the capabilities of the U.S. military and we were in absolute awe, and then we would hear about the U.S. Navy in the Indian Ocean, and sometimes see the aircraft carriers conducting flight operations; I was so impressed. But never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that I'd be commanding a U.S. Navy squadron. As a new recruit, I didn't think that it was possible. But only in this great Navy, can an immigrant reach as high as the goal he sets for himself. This is truly the land of opportunity."
The ceremony closed with reading of "The Watch" and the stand-down of the squadron's last S-3B Viking aircraft.
VS-31 Sailors, past and present, have proudly served the Jacksonville area since 1973. Previously located at NAS Quonset Point, R.I., the squadron moved to NAS Cecil Field, Fla., and eventually to its current home base of NAS Jacksonville. In August 2007, VS-31 returned from its last deployment in the Persian Gulf aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
The S-3B aircraft is being phased out and it's roles are being assumed by existing helicopter and super hornet squadrons.
The Sailors and officers of the community will transition to different communities and platforms, and are able to maintain their same career path. The squadron will exists on paper until the last Sailor checks out and moves on in late April 2008.
VS-31 was comprised of 190 members with aproximatley eight aircraft. All but one of their S-3B aircraft have been reassigned to other VS squadrons. The last remaining aircraft will be flown to Davis-Mothan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz. for preservation in the war-time ready reserve fleet.
For more news from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, visit www.navy.mil/local/nasjax/.