Patrol Squadron SIXTEEN [VP-16]
Navy Patrol Squadron (VP) 16, based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL, flies the P-3C Orion which has a primary mission of anti-submarine warfare. Infrared, acoustic and magnetic detection devices are used to find and track submarines, and the P-3C has bombing and mining capabilities. War Eagle also deploy to various locations worldwide to support the Navy's forward presence. These sites include NAS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
The War Eagles of Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 departed for their home base of Jacksonville, Fla., on 04 August 1995, ending a highly successful split-site deployment in Keflavik, Iceland, and at Naval Air Station (NAS) Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. VP 16 had been supporting North Atlantic operations since February 1995. Caribbean operations were added in June 1995. During this era of diminishing resources and rapidly changing mission requirements, VP 16 was the first squadron tasked to accomplish all objectives previously shared by two full patrol squadrons, one at each site. The squadron also maintained permanent detachments at Jacksonville and Howard Air Force Base, Panama, as well as completing numerous detachments in 13 European and Central American countries.
While in Keflavik during 1995, the War Eagles excelled in all facets of maritime patrol aviation. Operating with four aircraft, five air crews and 150 people, they maintained the P-3 Orion's multi-mission forward presence as required by the national command authority. Additionally, the squadron operated from 11 separate European air fields, supporting 15 major multi-national exercises involving U.S., Allied, NATO and former Warsaw Pact military forces. VP 16's achievements in the anti-drug theater were no less impressive. While operating from Roosevelt Roads, the squadron interdicted more than 8,865 kilograms of cocaine and 100 bales of marijuana with a street value in excess of $473 million. Overall, VP 16 flew more than 4,200 hours while accumulating 100 percent operational sortie and 99 percent exercise sortie success rates. The squadron also passed an extraordinary milestone of 30 years and 206,450 hours of accident-free flying in June 1995. VP 16's ability to surmount all obstacles was best illustrated when War Eagle air crews simultaneously conducted operational flights out of six different countries, covering the Northern Atlantic to the Eastern Pacific.
In late 1996 the squadron used some of their capabilities to locate and document refugees and their movements in Zaire. Patrol Squadron 16, on a five-month deployment to Sigonella under Commander, Task Force Sixty-Seven were the first units on the scene. The squadron was augmented by VP-66, a reserve force P-3 squadron based in Willow Grove, PA. VP-16 arrived on site ready to go, with no extra baggage. Two crews alternated daily surveillance flights over central Africa located and tracking Rwanda refugees. Several crew members described the nine-hour flights as "an aerial obstacle course," dodging seasonal thunderstorms while trying to document the various refugee locations and movements in Zaire. Tactical Support Center (TSC) Sigonella supplied the crews with the required intelligence and charts for the region and detached one officer and two enlisted Sailors with the Mobil Operational Control Center (MOCC). The squadron provided data to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to assist that headquarters in assessing the humanitarian situation in that region. From the air, crew members could easily spot several large refugee tent cities because they stood out from the lush, green, mountainous countryside near Lake Kivu, the border between Zaire and Rwanda. They also observed large groups traveling along the road to Goma, Zaire. There was additional excitement when, flying high above Goma, crew members witnessed "puffs of smoke," characteristic of antiaircraft fire bursting well below the aircraft. There was no damage to the aircraft or injuries to the crew, as the aircraft was operating above the range of the expected threat for the area. The aircraft left the area to continue the mission elsewhere. However, the incident drew worldwide attention as it was reported by several news agencies. During the deployment, squadron crew members were interviewed and taped by CNN television, Stars & Stripes, American Forces Network (AFN), BBC and various stateside and international media. In early December 1996 Crew members of Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 returned to Sigonella, Sicily, after four weeks of operations from Entebbe, Uganda. From arrival in Entebbe Nov. 12 through completion of the deployment Dec. 6, all personnel performed with extraordinary professionalism and skill. Flying 104 hours and taking images in 153 areas in direct operational support of OGA, VP-16 provided near real-time intelligence critical to humanitarian operations.
In July 1997, for the second consecutive year, the War Eagles of Patrol Squadron SIXTEEN (VP-16) won the coveted Golden Wrench Award. Established to recognize superior performance in aviation maintenance, the award is presented annually to one squadron in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. On their way to earning the Golden Wrench Award, VP-16 conducted 19 aircraft modifications, 15 aircraft transfers, 12 aircraft phase inspections, nine engine changes, two high time landing gear changes, and 16 propeller changes. Maintenance department personnel were credited with helping the squadron achieve an overall 96 percent mission accomplishment rate.
The War Eagles of VP-16 surpassed 32 years and more than 217,000 mishap-free flying hours on 27 July 1997. This accomplishment stands as a testament to the men and women of VP-16 and their total commitment to safe operations both on the ground and in the air. Over the previous, the War Eagles had maintained aircraft throughout the world, including sites such as Keflavik, Iceland; Sigonella, Sicily; Kampala, Uganda; Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; and St. Mawgen, England. War Eagle aircraft have flown missions over the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic Circle, Central Africa, and war-torn Bosnia. Despite these exceptional geographic challenges, the War Eagles were able to fulfill all operational commitments successfully and safely at every site.
During August and September 1999, the Mobil Operations Command Center along with aircraft from VP-16 and VP-26 were deployed to Rota, Spain.
VP-16, based out of NAS Jacksonville, deployed in February 2001.
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