By Lt. j.g. Shamus McNamara
The "Fighting Tigers" of Patrol Squadron 8 (VP-8) recently traveled to Rayong, Thailand to participate in Sea Surveillance Exercise with the members of Squadron 102, Wing One, of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) from Dec. 12-14. The exercise demonstrated the interoperability and tactical proficiency of the Allied nations in a variety of maritime domain awareness, anti-surface warfare, and anti-submarine warfare scenarios.
Led by Mission Commander and Tactical Coordinator, Lt. Kerri Englert, VP-8 Combat Aircrew Twelve (CAC-12) and the Tiger Maintenance team utilized the next-generation capabilities of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft to serve as the lead platform in coordinated collection, prosecution, and strike scenarios against both surface and sub-surface targets of interest. The Fighting Tigers flew coordinated missions with the F27-200 MAR Fokker of RTN Squadron 102, proving the effectiveness of dissimilar platforms in achieving total mission success. The exercise also allowed the aircrews and maintainers of both squadrons to operate side by side and further their own training while demonstrating the capabilities of their own aircraft.
During the course of the exercise, the Fighting Tigers hosted various members of the RTN on flights simulating operational missions to offer first-hand experience of tactics, techniques, and crew coordination used by U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft aircrews. The squadron personnel also participated in multiple goodwill events with Squadron 102, which were designed to strengthen bonds of fellowship and camaraderie between the two nations. These events included an opening ceremony hosted by Squadron 102, a number of VP-8 briefs on daily operations, and a celebratory cookout between the two squadrons that culminated in a 7-on-7 soccer match.
"The opportunity to work side by side with our Royal Thai Navy counterparts was both incredibly rewarding and a positive experience for both squadrons. Their professionalism and dedication to excellence is evident in everything they have contributed to this exercise. It was an honor for CAC-12 and the Fighting Tigers to serve with Squadron 102 in this capacity" said Englert.
VP-8 Sailors took additional steps to leave a positive impact on the local population by participating in a community relations event. They helped deliver goods and supplies to schoolchildren in the Chonburi Province of Thailand. "Of all of the things we did on this detachment, that is the thing that will leave the most impact on me," said AWO2 Nick Balkus. "There was nothing quite like seeing the joy and amazement on the faces of all of the kids."
VP-8 is currently deployed to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility conducting theater and national level tasking in support of 7th Fleet, U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Pacific Command.