By Lt. Michael Garcia
The fourth Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) Reunion and Symposium took place March 26–30 at NAS Jacksonville, hosted by Patrol Squadron (VP) 30 and Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 11.
More than 500 active duty, reserve and retired maritime patrol personnel from around the world gathered to share ideas and experiences, as well as to catch up with former squadron mates. All Navy MPRF commands were represented, along with Maritime Patrol Forces from Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Admiral John Harvey Jr., commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command was the symposium guest speaker.
This year’s reunion focused on recognizing the community’s historical contributions while looking forward to its bright future. The event was unique in that it also marked the much anticipated “roll-out” of the first operational P-8A Poseidon aircraft – which is set to replace the venerable P-3C Orion. VP-30 Commanding Officer and master of ceremonies for the Fleet Introduction, Capt. Mark Stevens, captured the importance of this historic event, “In the same year that our Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force is celebrating 50 years of service for the P-3 Orion – we’re also celebrating the Fleet Introduction of P-8 Poseidon.”
The reunion kicked off with the Commander’s Conference that was followed by a variety of briefs, discussions, round tables and panels geared towards exchanging community experiences, current operations and ideas. Wednesday’s P-8A roll-out and the ribbon-cutting for the P-8A Integrated Training Center were highlights of the week. These events drew national media attention and the guest list included Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mark Ferguson, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and Boeing President and CEO of Defense, Space and Security Dennis Muilenburg.
Throughout the week, outside of the briefs and meetings, participants were able to enjoy gatherings that included the Maritime Patrol Association (MPA) Heritage Dinner, MPA Golf Tournament and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Luncheon. A popular event for many was the Flight Suit Social that capped the week of festivities at the NAS Jacksonville Officers’ Club. Old squadron mates had the opportunity to reflect on their MPA heritage, mingle with old friends and swap sea stories in a relaxed atmosphere.
Another highlight of the week was the MPA Technology Expo in the VP-30 Hangar, where visitors explored exhibits hosted by Boeing, ASEC, WYLE, MOAA, Carley, Lockheed-Martin, and the local MTOC 7 team. Also on display was a full-scale BAMS Demonstration model, a P-8A flight simulator and the Boeing P-8A trailer that included a fully functional tactical crew simulator.
In their remarks on the symposium’s final day, both Adm. Harvey and Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group Rear Adm. Michael Hewitt spoke to the community’s history and future. They praised the personnel who fly and fight these aircraft, and remarked about the responsibilities placed on the shoulders of these Sailors to carry MPRF heritage into the future.
Fittingly, the MOAA recognized one such leader, VP-30 Executive Officer Cmdr. Tony Parton, with the 2012 MPRF Lifetime Leadership Award – for his career-long advancement of the community – and all of those with whom he’s worked during his distinguished career.
Additional recognition for excellence was given to the Combat Aircrews (CAC) who participated in the 2012 Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) Fleet Challenge. The Fleet Challenge is an opportunity for the top CACs from each squadron to demonstrate their ASW prowess. Hewitt announced this year’s champion, CAC 1 of VP-4 from MCBH Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Participants at the 2012 MPRF Reunion and Symposium returned to their commands to share with the rest of the community the information they gathered and to pass on the messages from the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Community leadership.