JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) and the Northeast Florida Navy League Council hosted the fourth biannual Individual Augmentee (IA) Appreciation Luncheon Nov. 5 at the NAS Jax Officers' Club.
The event honored 107 IAs and 62 spouses from the base and tenant commands.
"We have over 14,000 boots on the ground in the Central Command Area of Responsibility," said Capt. Jack Scorby Jr., NAS Jax commanding officer, who kicked off the event. "So obviously, the Navy is doing its part at the 'pointy end of the spear' and we could not be prouder of each and every one of you. That said though, it's the spouses who are the unsung heroes as well, they are the ones who are left at home during deployments from nine months to a year holding down the homefront," he continued.
"This is our fourth IA Appreciation Luncheon and so far we've honored 357 IAs and 130 spouses. The idea to hold this event was born about two years ago when Bill Dudley, president of the Northeast Florida Navy League came to me and asked what the Navy League could to do support our Sailors. This event is now being held nationwide, so thank you Navy League members," Scorby said.
Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SW) Joshua McLellan of the Southeast Regional Calibration Center recently returned from a nine-month IA tour in Afghanistan and attended the event with his spouse. "The Navy is much more than deploying ships, Sailors are working all over the world," McLellan said. "When I was in Afghanistan, you could often look up in the sky and see a Navy 'Prowler' or F-18 and that was a way that we, as, 'boots on the ground,' knew that the Navy was there with us. It's quite exhilarating when you are out there on the ground knowing that you have that support there," he added.
McLellan worked with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Khost, Afghanistan. "PRTs are working with the Afghan citizen to rebuild their country. I volunteered for this assignment and enjoyed my experience. It was also made a lot better with the support of my wife and my command. I can definitely say that during my time there, I never felt that my command forgot about me. It was almost like they were working there next to me. And most of all, I have to thank my wife for her love and support and care packages," concluded McLellan.
U.S. Fleet Forces Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Tom Howard served as guest speaker. "Today, we are deploying our Navy a bit differently. As IAs you have shown the other services just what it means to be an American Sailor. You've completed an unexpected deployment, the Navy way, with honor, courage and commitment. You've lived up to the Navy's mission of deterring aggression, preserving freedoms of the seas and promoting peace and security throughout the world. But you did it in a non-traditional Navy way," added Howard.
"No other service has made such a significant step out of their historically defined role and in the process, you've made us all proud," he said. "I'm honored to be in your company and thank you. It's one of the biggest changes we've seen in the Navy, being able to drop what you are doing in a command, pick up with another service and go as an individual and serve with other units. We value your service and sacrifices and support of your families. To the spouses, your personal sacrifices are just as grand as that of your Sailor."
Each IA was presented with a special plaque and coin from the Northeast Florida Navy League Council and thank you letters from U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, and U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and George LeMieux. Each spouse was also presented with a letter of appreciation.
"I think this is really great," said Yeoman 2nd Class (AW) Ian Earls of HS-11, who recently returned from Kuwait. "It's nice to be noticed for what we've done."
For more news from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, visit www.navy.mil/local/nasjax/.