Patrol Squadron FOUR returns from Aloha Deployment
LTJG Matthew Johnston
The first wave of Skinny Dragons from Patrol Squadron (VP) FOUR returned home Thursday from a demanding, yet highly successful tri-site deployment. For the first time since 1964, that return home was not made to Hawaii, but instead to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. In the midst of deployment, the Skinny Dragons executed a permanent duty station change (PDSC) to Whidbey Island with many families moving in advance of the squadron’s return – a stressor that certainly guaranteed the deployment was anything but mundane. Despite these factors, VP-4 personnel committed each day to ensuring that their last P-3C Orion deployment was a resounding success.
The VP-4 ”P-3 Sundown,” or ‘Aloha Deployment’ as it became known, saw the Skinny Dragons operate out of twelve different countries in three vastly diverse Areas of Responsibility (AOR’s). In fact, during one 24-hour period on June 13th, VP-4 launched six P-3C aircraft in five different detachment sites on six different missions. The commitment from aircrew, maintenance, and support personnel alike was astounding throughout the entire deployment. “The Skinny Dragons are finishing a very successful deployment that saw us deployed to several locations around the world. This deployment was a significant milestone for our squadron as 2016 marks 50 years of flying the P-3C Orion for Patrol Squadron FOUR,” remarked VP-4 Commanding Officer, Cdr. Christopher Smith. “This summer was a great opportunity to honor the fine heritage of our squadron and the storied history of the mighty P-3C Orion.” Those already in Whidbey Island eagerly await the arrival of the rest of their squadron who will trickle home in waves over the next two weeks.
While certainly bittersweet to leave the island paradise of Oahu, the Skinny Dragons are excited for the move to the Pacific Northwest and are enthusiastic to join Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing TEN (CPRW-10). The local community and sponsors from CPRW-10 have been instrumental and the PDSC undoubtedly would not have been possible without their help. “VP-4 is extremely excited to join the Whidbey Team and we have been welcomed with open arms at every step of our transition,” expressed Cdr. Smith. “The local community, on and off base, has been aware of our arrival for over a year and has continuously worked to make our transition a seamless one. I am overwhelmed with the support we have been given and I am very grateful.”
The next step for Patrol Squadron FOUR is a transition from the P-3C Orion to the P-8A Poseidon. The first of the three Hawaii based Orion squadrons to transition, VP-4 is focused on a successful integration into CPRW-10 and continuing their standard of excellence in maritime aviation throughout the transition.
The Skinny Dragons will take some much needed time to rest and relax with families before picking back up in October for the transition. For the first portion of P-8A training, VP-30, the P-3/P-8 Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), will provide a detachment of personnel to NAS Whidbey Island. After the New Year, VP-4 personnel will travel to the FRS in Jacksonville, Florida to complete the rest of their training.
Thankful for the support of CPRW-10 and the Whidbey Island community, Patrol Squadron FOUR looks forward to bringing the Aloha spirit to the Pacific Northwest and their next chapter in maritime aviation.