By Lt. j.g. Justin Sabelhaus
VP-16 Public Affairs Officer
PR3 Simona Kaminskaite of Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 returned to her native country with the squadron as part of a detachment of a P-8A Poseidon aircraft to Å iauliai International Airport in Lithuania, July 29.
Kaminskaite, a native of Birzai, Lithuania, left her hometown in 2013, moving to Buffalo Grove, Illinois, before her 17th birthday to begin a new life with her father. After graduating high school, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy. In January 2016, she joined the "War Eagles" of VP-16, based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, for her first deployment. The detachment to Lithuania is part of her second deployment with the squadron, and the first to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
"I never expected to visit Lithuania with the Navy. When I heard we were going, I was very excited," said Kaminskaite. When asked what she was most excited for her shipmates to experience, she said, "The food is very good, and our rural countryside is beautiful this time of year."
This marks the first time a U.S. Navy P-8A has operated in Lithuania. The two-week detachment is part of the U.S. Navy's forward presence for continued support to NATO allies in the Baltic region.
Kaminskaite's contributions are unique within the squadron.
"She has been instrumental to the success of the detachment, using her language skills and cultural knowledge to act as an ambassador for the squadron and the U.S. Navy," said Lt. Josh Phillips, officer in charge of the detachment.
Kaminskaite has used some of her down time to reconnect with family and friends in her hometown, located 60 miles northeast of Å iauliai.
"I am very appreciative for the time to visit my family," she said of the opportunity. "They are very proud of my accomplishments since joining the Navy."