MISAWA, Japan - Patrol Squadron (VP) 1 completed a six-month deployment at Naval Air Facility Misawa, May 28, 2012, and officially turned over with VP-8.
The "Screaming Eagles" of VP-1, will now return to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, located in Oak Harbor, Wash., and VP-8, which comes from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., will take over deployment duties for the next six months. Both squadrons fly P-3 Orion aircraft.
While primarily headquartered out of Misawa, VP-1 also had detachments at Kadena Air Base, Japan, and within the U.S. 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).
VP-1 was the first squadron to deploy to Naval Air Facility Misawa in almost five years. After deploying regularly to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR within the Middle East, many VP-1 Sailors found the deployment experience in northern Japan to be a nice change of pace.
"The P-3 can handle many kinds of mission sets, so when we previously deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR, we largely served as an Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform. The two theaters are set up quite differently for the P-3." said LCDR Curtis Cruthirds, a native of Pensacola, Fla., who serves as VP-1's Commander, Task Group 72.4 Misawa Detachment Maintenance Officer. "In Misawa we still do ISR, but the main focus is Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). P-3's were built to chase submarines, and that's what we focus on out here."
In just six months time, VP-1 helped reestablish NAF Misawa as a strategically important site for patrol squadrons, and also laid the groundwork for future squadron deployments in northern Japan.
"We reestablished a Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft footprint in Misawa after a four-and-a-half-year hiatus," said LCDR Scott Coonan, originally from Orange Park, Fla., who serves as VP-1's Commander, Task Group 72.4 Misawa Detachment Officer in Charge. "We also established a great working relationship with our Japanese counterparts from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's (JMSDF) Fleet Air Wing 2."
During their deployment, the squadron took part in numerous bilateral exercises with the JMSDF and the Republic of Korea Navy, but VP-1's largest impact might have been through their support of the Taiwanese.
On April 21, 2012, crew members aboard a VP-1 aircraft helped rescue nine Taiwanese fishermen whose fishing vessel caught fire and began sinking off the coast of Guam.
The aircraft's crew was able to locate the ship's distress signal and dropped two inflatable rafts near the burning vessel. It also contacted a nearby ship to come in and aid the fishermen. The aircraft circled the area until the aiding ship rescued all nine of the boat's crew members. "The rescue was definitely a highlight during this deployment, as we don't get a lot of opportunities to perform that mission set," said Coonan. "We practice for it, and we are an asset that is easily capable of it, but we don't get tasked to conduct it often. For the crew to execute the rescue so efficiently and with such success was very humbling and exciting for everyone on board VP-1."
Also of note, VP-1 reestablished NAF Misawa as an Intermediate Maintenance Concept (IMC) Inspection hub.
"Years ago, Misawa served as U.S. 7th Fleet's IMC inspection hub, but with no P-3s in Misawa the past several years, Misawa's P-3 IMC capability diminished," said Cruthirds. "But since we've been back, we've conducted six inspections, one for every month we've been here.
"Every P-3 aircraft goes through this annual inspection, so it was a big coordination piece between us, the 35th Fighter Wing and NAF Misawa's Safety Department," he said. "Misawa is once again the main IMC hub for 7th Fleet."
VP-1 Command Master Chief Jesse Robles said after previously deploying to desert-like locales within 5th Fleet's AOR, his Sailors enjoyed their time in Misawa.
"Our guys loved being out here in Misawa," said Robles, a native of Fresno, Calif. "Not just because of the climate, but the base itself. It had all the amenities we needed and it was all in walking distance. I think if anyone were to say they have the perfect place to deploy to, this would be it."
With VP-1 now departing, "The Fighting Tigers" of VP-8 will now take on the mantle of P-3 operations in northern Japan.
VP-8 Command Master Chief Frank King said his squadron members are looking forward to a new deployment atmosphere.
"We're absolutely excited to be here," said King, a native of Abilene, Texas. "VP-8s last three or four deployments have been to the desert in the 5th Fleet AOR, so our Sailors are excited to see a new environment and are happy to be in Misawa.
"We look forward to continuing the successes that VP-1 started and building upon them," he said. "We are eager to get flying and take on any missions the operational commander tasks us with."
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