News: VP-9 Golden Eagles soar home from six-month deployment
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
MARINES CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - Six months spent apart from family and friends may have felt like an eternity to 380 sailors from Patrol Squadron 9, but time faded away when they started returning, Nov. 16, to Marine Corps Base Hawaii from a deployment to Kadena Air Base in Japan and Isa Air Base in Bahrain. The last of the Golden Eagles returned, Nov. 24.
During the deployment, the squadron, comprised of P-3C Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft, supported the Navy’s 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.
A group of VP-9 P-3s traveled to Isa AB, where they supported 5th Fleet maritime operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
From their hub at Kadena AB, the remaining portion of VP-9 detached throughout the 7th Fleet area of responsibility, working with a variety of coalition partners including Guam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.
“The emphasis of these detachments was to enhance interoperability and strengthen relationships with our key regional partners,” said Cmdr. Rich Prest, executive officer, VP-9.
This included working to improve maritime domain awareness, said Prest, of Lower Merion Township, Pa. This enabled them to monitor and track maritime activity within the coastal waters of each respective regional partner.
Over the deployment’s six-month course, VP-9 worked to enhance coalition interoperability by supporting and participating in two major theater exercises.
In June, they worked with Japan during the Undersea Warfare Exercise 2010 in the Western Pacific Ocean. In September, they supported joint forces during Exercise Valiant Shield 2010 from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
“In both of these exercises, the heralded Golden Eagle maintenance team put forth herculean efforts,” said Lt. Cmdr. Alan Miller, training officer, VP-9. “They provided mission-capable aircraft, enabling the squadron a 100 percent completion rate for all 39 missions during USWEX and 95 percent of missions during Valiant Shield.”
These aircrafts were employed across the full spectrum of maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft operational mission sets, said Miller, of Grand Rapids, Mich.
While detached to Clark Air Base in the Philippines in October, VP-9 provided humanitarian assistance to the Philippine military. Using the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of their P-3s, the squadron assisted in disaster relief operations by surveying storm damage from Super Typhoon Megi.
“Our capabilities are responsive, which allowed us to quickly show our regional partners how we can assist when they are in need,” Prest said.
In addition, VP-9 took more than 10 intelligence community representatives on P-3 missions while in the Philippines, permitting them to experience the squadron’s capabilities firsthand.
“We showed them what the squadron can do so they can better understand how we can help them and further our strategic relationship,” Prest said.
Working on detachments in numerous countries enhanced theater security cooperation and mutual understanding between militaries, and also provided VP-9 sailors the opportunity to increase their cultural understanding of their Asian neighbors, Miller said.
“This was an incredibly rewarding experience for our younger sailors in a ‘see the world’ sense,” Miller said.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Kimberly Begay, an aviation structural mechanic with VP-9, said the deployment was challenging and demanding, but offered the sailors a unique taste of the world. Her co-worker agreed.
“I got addicted to chopsticks,” said Seaman Ashley Romero, an aviation structural mechanic with VP-9, from Las Banos, Calif.
While the deployment was different from others because of the frequent detachments, Begay, of Phoenix, said seeing all of the new countries, taking in the varied cultures and tasting their food was an experience that would be hard to forget.