JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A group of Naval aviators and sailors are returning to NAS Jacksonville Thursday after a seven-month deployment.
The first of five P-8As from Patrol Squadron (VP) 26 spent the last seven months in Japan and El Salvador in support of U.S. 4th and 7th Fleets, the Navy said in a release announcing the return.
The squadron departed for its deployment in April, in the midst of the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, spearheading the president's initiative for an increased commitment against illicit narcotics, the Navy release said. During the deployment, VP-26 flew a wide variety of airborne anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as maritime domain awareness, search and rescue and theater security cooperation missions.
VP-26 was the first squadron to complete multiple air-to-air refueling evolutions in a single flight during Valiant Shield, the Navy said. The squadron also provided critical direct support to the USS Ronald Reagan and Nimitz Carrier Strike groups in the Pacific area of responsibility.
“Only through the steadfast dedication and unwavering commitment of every Trident were we able to have such a successful deployment across the entire globe,” said VP-26 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Mike Steffens in the release. “Backed by the service and sacrifice of our families and friends back home, thank you to all who made the last seven months’ accomplishments possible.”