Spring has arrived aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, the season brings with it the annual Maritime Patrol Association (MPA) Symposium. It was a busy week at the “Pro’s Nest” as Patrol Squadron (VP) 30 hosted the latest edition of this tradition. The weeklong event spanning April 23-27 was attended by more than 900 active duty, retired and civilian personnel.
The week kicked off with an annual command photograph. Standing proudly at attention in their whites behind their Skipper, Commanding Officer Capt. Adam “Kujo” Kijek, were the wardroom, chief’s mess, and maintenance personnel of VP-30. Behind the men and women of the squadron stood the aircraft they fly and maintain: the P-3C Orion, the P-8A Poseidon, and the Navy’s newest Unmanned Aircraft System, the MQ-4C Triton. This year’s MPA Symposium theme, “Family of Systems Unite,” was certainly evident in this impressive sight.
The Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) is well aware of the old saying “change is the only constant.” The community has seen plenty of change over the past several years, having successfully transitioned all six Jacksonville-based squadrons from the reliable but aging P-3C turboprop aircraft to the agile new P-8A jet aircraft.
The three Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, squadrons that completed successive homeport changes to Whidbey Island, Washington, have also undergone the same shift. The last of those three, VP-9, is on pace to complete the transition this summer, leaving just three Whidbey Island-based P-3C squadrons left to accept the P-8A.
Additionally, Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19 has been established, manned and is now equipped with the MQ-4C Triton.
Among other special events this week, a ribbon cutting was held for the newest Triton training facility where operators currently excel and from which they will eventually conduct real world MQ-4C missions in the near future.
The annual heritage dinner Wednesday evening was held in historic Hangar 117 aboard NAS Jacksonville and included more than 350 guests.
The sun setting upon a P-3C Orion provided a backdrop for an evening of fine food, great guests, and spectacular sea stories.
This year, the MPRF community inducted two heroes into the revered Hall of Honor:
Retired Lt. Cmdr. Clyde Barber served as a “Black Cat” crewmember on the PBY aircraft throughout World War II in the Pacific. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in the evacuation of 219 Australian commandos from their post near Wewak, New Guinea, in December 1943. In September 1949, he participated in airlifts supporting Berlin, setting records for tonnage delivered and aircraft utilized.
Retired Rear Adm. Salvatore Gallo flew the P2V and was instrumental in advancing MPRF capabilities, to include demonstrating the Harpoon capability by conducting a multi-aircraft, multi-axis simultaneous simulated strike. In 1985, during the Cold War, he led efforts to track as many as ten Soviet submarines, to include five then new Victor III submarines, off the East Coast of the United States over a five-week period.
Certainly, these two men are just a pair from a number of heroes that have bravely served with distinction and honor in the MPRF family.
Rear Adm. Wheeler summed it up best, remarking that we as current aviators “stand on the shoulders of giants.”
The keynote speaker of the evening, Vice Chief of Naval Operations and former VP-30 P-3C instructor pilot Adm. Bill Moran took time to sincerely thank all attendees for the “unbelievable honor” to work with such dedicated professionals and remark on the sincere joy of returning to NAS Jacksonville to be surrounded by old colleagues and friends.
The winners of the annual Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Challenge were also recognized at the dinner. The Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Weapons School (MPRWS) hosts and recognizes the most tactically proficient combat aircrews in the Fleet.
During this year’s series of simulated competitions, the Weapons School’s own “Sentinels” achieved the highest score to win the coveted trophy. As Capt. Kijek put it, “the art and science of antisubmarine warfare is alive and well” across the MPRF community. Falling close behind in second was the crew from VP-16, with VP-47 combat aircrew one taking third place.
The week continued with the annual spouse symposium, which provides a means of support and understanding for military spouses as they navigate the challenges of military service. In attendance were spouses with as little as one year of military support, to those who have supported a military career that has spanned over three decades.
More than 180 people gathered Thursday at the NAS Jacksonville Golf Club for the annual tournament to support the MPA Scholarship Fund, which offers college scholarships to dependents of military members from the U.S. Naval aviation community. It took the winning team of Lt. Cmdr. Curtis O’Neal, Lt. Cmdr. Dave Joselyn, Lt. Cmdr. Josh Lowery, and Lt. Ben Hayes just 52 strokes to win the day, coming in at 19-under-par.
A 5K race was also held onboard NAS Jacksonville. Capt. Lee Boyer was the first of 25 participants to cross the finish line. This week’s events successfully raised $10,000 for the MPA Scholarship Fund.
With the weeklong ceremonies coming to a close, the MPRF community refocuses on the mission: being exceptionally fierce tacticians and warfighters.
The upcoming year will be full of challenges as the P-3C to P-8A transition pushes forward with the last squadrons in Washington, and as the Triton continues to evolve. It is certainly an excitingly dynamic time to be in the community with such a phenomenal group of leaders equipped with cutting edge technology.
As “Air Boss” Vice Adm. Dewolfe Miller, III, described it when addressing the large crowd at the Officer Flag Panel this past week, “our future is unbelievably bright.”