JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Patrol Squadron (VP) 16's final aircraft touched down in Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, signifying the successful end to a dynamic seven-month deployment for the War Eagles of VP-16 and the first operational deployment of the P-8A Poseidon July 16.
Families and friends were on hand to welcome the Sailors and aircrew home with smiles, hugs and kisses.
Operating out of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, the War Eagles supported commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, flying anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, carrier strike group coordination and theater security cooperation missions throughout the Western Pacific area of operation.
"Our men and women have worked tirelessly the last seven months," said Cmdr. Daniel Papp, VP-16 commanding officer. "As the first squadron to deploy with the P-8A we were faced with challenges that the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community has not seen in over fifty years since VP-8 first deployed with the P-3 Orion. I am proud to say, our Sailors' and aircrew's flexibility and diligent work ethic allowed us to handle these trials effectively."
VP-16 Sailors played an important role in shaping a positive perception of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) community and the P-8A.
"From static displays and community service projects to day-to-day interactions with host nations, our Sailors handled themselves with the utmost integrity and discipline. Our War Eagle team unquestionably represented the U.S. Navy and the United States admirably," said Papp.
Most notable was the War Eagles' participation in the multinational search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Over the course of two months, VP-16 supplied two aircraft for the search and rescue effort, with multiple aircrews rotating through Perth, Australia, to support daily flight operations. VP-16 flew more than 37 missions, logging more than 313.3 flight hours and 365,118 square miles covered.
"It was the first time the P-8A was used in a search and rescue operation," said Lt. Cmdr. Adam Schantz, the detachment officer in charge. "As a result, our aircrew were tasked with determining how best to effectively employ the aircraft for the assignment. We were able to develop a comprehensive search plan, allowing us to cover thousands of miles of open ocean in a single mission. And although we were regrettably unable to locate the missing plane, the performance of our aircrew and the aircraft itself was commendable."
In addition to the search effort, the War Eagles conducted multiple detachments, participating in international exercises, strengthening partnerships and improving interoperability with U.S. friends and allies throughout the theater. During the deployment, VP-16 completed 16 detachments to seven countries including Japan, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, the Republic of the Philippines, Guam and the Republic of Korea. The War Eagles participated in exercises with both U.S. and international partners including Snapdragon exercises, Operation Foal Eagle (Ssang Yong 2014), Operation Tropic Thunder, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Malaysia, Coordinated Maritime Patrol Operational Procedures exercises and Operation Rai Balang.
"Introducing the Poseidon's capabilities to both our sister services as well as partner nations, friends and allies has been a great honor for VP-16," said Lt. Timothy Bierbach, a weapons and tactics instructor and tactical coordinator in the command. "There is always excitement bringing a new platform online for the first time. The MPRA community is taking a huge leap with the addition of the P-8A Poseidon, opening doors to additional mission sets not seen with the P-3C Orion."
Thanks to the dedicated support of the maintenance professionals, VP-16 aircrews flew more than 3,500 mishap-free flight hours among 600 sorties. Despite this high operational tempo, many War Eagles still managed to achieve personal milestones, with 67 personnel qualifying and receiving the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist pin, 15 being selected for advancement during the most recent exam cycle and 26 choosing to reenlist throughout the course of the deployment.
The War Eagles kept themselves busy when off-duty as well. VP-16's Morale, Welfare and Recreation committee organized and sponsored eight tours to various cultural and historical sites throughout the island, allowing 160 Sailors to explore the various attractions Okinawa had to offer. In addition, more than 60 Sailors contributed off-duty time in support of the Okinawa, Japan, area assisting the Hijagawa no Sato Retirement Home, Stearley Heights Elementary School and the Yaro Youth Center, volunteering 206 hours to the community.
"As we return home to Jacksonville, our team is looking forward to some well deserved time off to reconnect with family and friends," said Papp. "We had an extremely successful deployment and are now shifting our focus to the inter-deployment readiness cycle. I know that our Sailors are looking forward to tackling the training, exercises and evaluations here at home in prepare for our next deployment."
The War Eagles were relieved by the 'Mad Foxes' of Patrol Squadron (VP) 5.
For more news from commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c7f/.