JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The “War Eagles” of Patrol Squadron 16 and the “Lightning Riders” of Mobile Tactical Operations Center-1 returned back to Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Monday.
The squad returned home after a pioneering seven-month deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. Eight of them return as new fathers.
One of the new mothers says she gave birth to their daughter while on Facebook video chat with her husband.
"He has not met our daughter yet," Rafaela Morrison told First Coast News. "It was a tough, long deployment with covid, but we made it."
The War Eagles were attached to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 57 and 67 providing widespread intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare capability to the fleet, the Navy said in a news release.
Squadron elements assigned to CTF-57 operated out of Bahrain in the Middle East, while squadron elements assigned to CTF-67 primarily operated out of NAS Sigonella, Italy.
Overall they were deployed across five detachment sites spanning three continents and over 7,400 miles flying missions in support of operations Freedom’s Sentinel, Sentinel Sentry (5th Fleet), Sea Guardian, and Assurance Measure (6th Fleet), according to the Navy release.
The organization says the War Eagles worked to maintain mission readiness and provide theater security for the Joint Force Air Component Commander.
During their deployment, VP-16’s maintenance professionals, maintained seven P-8A Poseidon aircraft requiring over 20,000 man hours.
Authorities say these flights included the Poseidon’s air-to-air refueling capability and supported over 200 maritime navigational transits through major global choke points for six different countries and two U.S. carrier strike groups.
“I am proud of every single War Eagle and Lightning Rider for their dedication, perseverance, and resiliency during this challenging and dynamic deployment,” said Cmdr. Kevin Kraemer, commanding officer of VP-16, in the release.