Patrol Squadron FORTY [VP-40]
First formed as a seaplane squadron flying the PBM-5 "Mariner" out of North Island, the Fighting Marlins' have flown four different airframes, been led by 52 Commanding Officers, deployed 44 times and enjoyed five different homeports over the last half century.
Patrol Squadron FORTY was commissioned on January 20, 1951, at NAS North Island, San Diego, CA approximately six months after the hostilities began in Korea. Following initial training in the PBM-5 Martin "Mariner" seaplane, the squadron departed for Japan in June 1951 to commence its first six-month operational deployment. In September 1952, the squadron arrived at Sangley Point, Republic of the Philippine Islands, where they conducted operations in the waters surrounding the Philippine Islands until March 1953. For its successful operations during this tour, Patrol Squadron FORTY was awarded the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Korean Service Medal, and the United Nations Service Medal. The squadron returned to San Diego in April 1953 where they transitioned to the new P5M-1 Martin "Marlin" seaplane. Patrol Squadron FORTY was the first squadron on the West Coast to receive the new aircraft and thus assumed the "Marlin" as its symbol and nickname, The Fighting Marlins.
In August 1959, the squadron changed its home port from San Diego, CA to Sangley Point, Republic of the Philippines. Early in 1959, Patron FORTY adopted the motto "Laging Handa" meaning "Always Ready" in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines. For over four years, the squadron flew patrols in the Philippine area and the South China Sea. During this period, the squadron was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for their achievements. While stationed at Sangley Point, the squadron transitioned to the new, improved P5M-2 aircraft, the last seaplane to be flown by the Navy. In March 1964, the squadron returned to NAS North Island, where they were notified that they had won the Battle Efficiency "E" Award for the 1963-1964 competitive cycle.
In February 1965, Patrol Squadron FORTY resumed their six-month deployment schedule to Sangley Point in support of "Operation Market Time" in South Vietnam. By February 1967, they departed once again to NAS Sangley Point on what was to be the last deployment of an operations seaplane squadron with the U.S. Navy. In April and May of that year, Patrol Squadron FORTY flew the last operational flight of a Navy seaplane. In November 1967, the squadron changed homeports to NAS Moffett Field and began its transition to the land-based P-3B "Orion" aircraft.
In January 1968, Patrol Squadron FORTY made its first deployment with the P-3 aircraft. Based at MCAS Iwakuni Japan, the squadron flew advanced base patrols out of Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam. The squadron received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for Search and Rescue operations conducted to find an EC-121 aircraft lost off the coast of North Korea, as well as the Vietnam Service Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal for service in Vietnam. April 1970 once again found the "Fighting Marlins" deployed to Sangley Point, A total of 145 individual awards, including Air Medals were earned by squadron personnel during this deployment. The Squadron also earned the Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation for its work in Operation Market Time.
In July 1971, Patrol Squadron FORTY deployed to Naha AB Okinawa, Japan where it participated in a weather modification project which helped alleviate a severe drought on the island. In January 1973, Patrol Squadron FORTY returned to NAS Moffett Field after a deployment to MCAS Iwakuni, and was selected as the recipient of two major awards: The Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet's Career Motivation (Golden Anchor) Award, and the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for Fiscal Year 1973. In Spring 1974, following another deployment to Iwakuni, Patrol Squadron FORTY was awards the Battle Efficiency "E" Award for the 1973-1974 competitive cycle.
Following transition to the P-3C aircraft during the summer of 1975, the "Fighting Marlins" established a three-plane detachment at NAS Adak, Alaska for nine months. During this period, Patrol Squadron FORTY was awards the "Golden Orion Award for best career retention of any deployed Pacific Fleet patrol squadron. With the reunion of the squadron back at NAS Moffett Field in May 1976, Patrol Squadron FORTY was presented with the Chief of Naval Operations Maintenance "M" Award. In February 1977, Patrol Squadron FORTY deployed to NAF Misawa, Japan, where they were credited with introducing operational data link to the Western Pacific. In July 1978, the squadron returned to Okinawa for six months of WESTPAC operations. In addition to maintaining a continuous detachment in the Indian Ocean, operations were conducted out of Agana, Guam; Cubi Point, Philippines; Atsugi, Japan; Korean and Taiwan. In July 1979, Patrol Squadron FORTY once again deployed a three plane, four-crew detachment to Adak, Alaska for a period of five months.
From July 1980 to December 1983, the "Fighting Marlins" completed a serious of three highly successful six-month deployments to NAF Misawa, Japan conducting operations throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Arabian Sea. In addition, personnel were detached to bases in Africa, the Middle East, Thailand, Australia, and Diego Garcia. During this period, VP-40 received the coveted COMPATWINGSPAC "Golden Orion" Award for Retention Excellence for both 1981 and 1982, as well as the CNO Aviation Safety Award for 1982.
The deployment to Misawa from June to December 1983 was highlighted by participation in search and rescue operations following the Soviet downing of Korean Airlines Flight 007 in the Sea of Japan in September 1983, In recognition for its outstanding performance during these operations, the squadron was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation and 84 "Marlins" received personal awards from the Commander, U.S. Fifth Air Force for their participation.
In October 1984, Patrol Squadron FORTY was chosen to represent the Pacific Fleet in an Atlantic/Pacific VP deployment crossdeck program, and subsequently deployed to Keflavik, Iceland. Successfully battling the sever winter weather and operating from airfields throughout Europe, the Azores, Bermuda, and Central America, the "Fighting Marlins" once again demonstrated the ability of a VP squadron to operate world-wide in the harshest environments, with operational success unparalleled in the history of Pacific Fleet Patrol Aviation. During this deployment, VP-40 passed the milestone of 130,000 flight hours without an accident, and celebrated 18 years of accident-free flying.
In 1985-86, VP-40 transitioned to the P-3C Update III - the Navy's newest ASW platform. During this period, Patrol Squadron FORTY received several awards, among them: the Arnold J. Isbell Award for ASW excellence, the Tactics Bowl for the most significant contribution to the creation of new tactics employed by the P-3, and the Coastal Command Trophy for being the "Premier ASW VP Squadron" in the Pacific. In addition, Patrol Squadron FORTY served as hosts for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Det 21 "Black Jacks" during RIMPAC '86 exercises.
During 1986-1987 deployment cycle, the squadron deployed to Kadena, Okinawa, marking the first operations deployment of the P-3 Update III. During this deployment, the proud men and women of VP-40 proved themselves and the new Update III aircraft to be a formidable ASW force, resulting in BP-40 winning an unprecedented third consecutive Tactics Bowl Award for best tactical expertise in Patrol Wings Pacific. In addition, the squadron surpassed over 20 years and 145,000 mishap free flying hours, the finest record of any Moffett Field based squadron.
In 1988, the "Fighting Marlins" completed a very successful deployment to NAF Misawa, Japan that included a detachment to NAF Kadena, Okinawa and Pohang, Korea. During the deployment, the squadron participated in exercise "TEAM SPIRIT 88", a joint multi-national event with the Koreans. The highlight of the deployment, however, was the visit by several aircrews to various islands of the South Pacific. As VP-40 returned home in early August, the squadron settled into their at-home training cycle, as they reached 150,000 hours and 21 years if class "A" mishap free flying. Also, as a result of intense work, the fourth consecutive Tactics Bowl was awarded to the squadron for their positive contributions to ASW tactics.
In 1989, VP-40 once again deployed to NAF Kadena, Okinawa. This deployment lasted seven months with the squadron finally returning home in February 1990. The high point of this deployment was PAC-EX '89 which had the "Marlins" utilizing their "coordinated operations" expertise with numerous U.S. surface combatants, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the Republic of Korea Navy. Safety was once again the squadron's number one priority as 22 years and 158,000 hours of mishap free flying were celebrated.
FORTY's 1990 at-home cycle was an outstanding operational and training period, setting new standards in many areas. In addition to passing 23 years and 163,000 hours of flight without a mishap, "Marlin" crews flew two near-perfect Mining Exercises, while flying a challenging close proximity profile. Crews also refined single-pass rigging techniques during a detachment to Panama in October.
February 1991 saw Patrol Squadron FORTY deploy to Misawa, Japan and Diego Garcia to support Operation Desert Shield. During the deployment, the squadron participated in "TEAM SPIRIT '91" with South Korea forces, and played a part in the liberation of Kuwait. Patron FORTY also detached to Eilson AFB for UIT-91 and to Howard AFB in support of Joint Task Force FOUR. VP-40 received the Isbell award and the Golden Wrench award as the top ASW and maintenance squadron in the Pacific Fleet.
In 1992, the "Fighting Marlins" completed one of the most successful at-home training cycles in the history of patrol aviation which included record setting performances on the Mine Readiness Certification Inspection and Operational Readiness Evaluation. In November, the squadron began a six-month multi-site deployment to Alaska, Panama, and Key West. The squadron continued its stellar safety record with 25 years and 170,000 hours of mishap free flying.
Patrol Squadron completed its multi-site deployment and returned home to NAS Moffett Field for the last time in 1993. Concluding 26 years of community involvement, the squadron bid farewell to the San Francisco Bay area and was welcomed to their new home at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington in November. VP-40 arrived at their new home having captured the Captain J. Isbell Award and the Coastal Command Trophy for ASW excellence. However, the ultimate recognition of the "Fighting Marlins" pride and dedication arrive on 22 February 1994 when the squadron was selected as the CY93 Battle "E" winner.
In May 1994, VP-40 became the first NAS Whidbey Island-based maritime patrol squadron to deploy to the Far East as it assumed operational duties at NAF Misawa, Japan and NAF Kadena, Okinawa. During the challenging split site deployment, VP-40 achieved performance levels unparalleled in recent history which were highlighted by prosecutions that resulted in the first submerged contact by Pacific Fleet MPA on a second generation Russian SSGN. "Fighting Marlin" aircrews were also recognized for their successful search and rescue effort in recovering survivors of a stricken vessel. VP-40 returned home following their successful deployment and celebrated 28 years and 189,000 hours of mishap free flying. They were again presented Command, Naval Air Forces Battle "E" Award for the second consecutive year.
In 1995, Patrol Squadron FORTY completed an extremely successful home training cycle that included an unprecedented number of aircrew designations in all positions in preparation for a challenging Diego Garcia deployment. Operational commitments consisted of a nine-month Ready Alert, 26 aircraft transfers, and three detachments; two to NAS North Island in support of the Nimitz Battle Group and one to Adak, Alaska. All pre-deployment evaluations were completed with a high degree of professionalism by squadron personnel and directly contributed to the outstanding marks attained on the Aviation Maintenance Evaluation, the Operational Readiness Evaluation, Mine Readiness Inspection, and the NATOPS evaluation. In late October, the squadron took the helm as CTG 57.2 and CTG 72.8. VP-40's six month Diego Garcia deployment included permanent detachment sites in Masirah, Oman; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Kadena, Okinawa.
This record-breaking quad-site deployment spanned six thousand miles and six time zones and established the "Fighting Marlins" as the dominant force in Patrol Wings Pacific. VP-40 saved twenty lives on five flight events, with three of these events being uncued searches. The "Fighting Marlins" were also the leader in flight hour execution in Patrol Wings Pacific with over 6000 hours logged. The Marlins returned home in May 1996 and are again on a record setting pace during the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle, having achieved a 95% success rate as crews go through advanced qualifications. After five crew positions scored 4.0 on their in-flight NATOPS evaluations, Captain Holmes, the Commanding Officer of VP-30, proclaimed, "This is the best performance I have seen to date. VP-40 has a superb NATOPS program." The Mine Readiness Certification Inspection was a resounding success with a record setting overall score of 95.8, and a cumulative drop accuracy score of 98.9. This performance, coupled with the squadron's implementation of Operational Risk Management, resulted in the CPW-10 nomination for the annual CNO's Safety Award. The squadron was also the CPW-10 nominee for the Arnold J. Isbell Award for USW Excellence and the Battle "E". After a flawless Maintenance Corrosion Inspection, and an outstanding Maintenance Program Assist, VP-40 was nominated for the Phoenix Award for Maintenance. The Marlins led COMPATWINGSPAC VP squadrons with 40 advancements on the March 1996 advancement cycle, and 22 advancements on the September 1996 cycle. Retention rates have exceeded the CINCPACFLT and the COMNAVAIRPAC rates by more than 50%.
In May of 1997, the squadron reached yet another safety milestone, 30 years and 200,000 hours of mishap free flying. On May 19th, Patrol Squadron FORTY left for Misawa, Japan and Kadena, Okinawa for a six month deployment.
When the Navy and the world were shocked on 12 October 2000 by the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, Navy leaders searched for the assets to provide support. VADM Charles W. Moore, Jr., Commander FIFTH FLEET (C5F), decided the immediate response required medical assistance, security, leadership, and an immediate investigation. All of these assets were available some 1,200 miles north of Aden in Bahrain in the form of flight crews from VP-40. The first VP-40 aircrew landed less than 12 hours after the blast, while four additional aircrews landed in Aden within 24 hours of the explosion.
At that time, VP-40 was operating three detachments in the C5F area of responsibility: Combat Aircrew Six (CAC-6) was flying in Bahrain; CAC-5 was on ready-alert status in Masirah, Oman; and CACs Two, Eight, and Nine were performing routine operations in Doha, Qatar. Before the official word of the terrorist attack on the Cole had even reached the squadron, VP-40 received orders to evacuate Doha, Qatar so that its Marine Corps security forces could be used to respond to an undetermined crisis in Yemen. In an extraordinary team effort led by LCDR Greg Clark, Officer in Charge, VP Detachment Doha, AOCM Steve Olsen, and CWO4 Frank Basaca, the squadron shut down the detachment, evacuated all personnel, recovered two aircraft, and launched a total of four flights in less than three hours.
CAC-6, flying routine operations from Bahrain, was diverted to Doha, and CAC-5, the Masirah ready-alert crew, was launched to aid in the Doha evacuation effort. They quickly pre-flighted two aircraft, loaded the aircraft with people and equipment, and flew from Qatar to Bahrain. Once on deck in Bahrain the crews and maintenance personnel downloaded all equipment and passengers, and prepared to go to Yemen. CAC-6, led by Plane Commander LT Jay Schultz, made two additional trips to Doha to ensure that all of the necessary personnel were evacuated. Still, squadron members were unaware of the tragedy that had occurred in Yemen just five hours earlier that day.
As the aircraft arrived in Bahrain, crews were informed that many of them would be going immediately to Yemen. While maintenance personnel coordinated fueling efforts and moved large amounts of evacuated equipment, the aircrew prepared to fly to an unknown country. Less than three hours from the time the original evacuation order was issued, the squadron launched its first flight from Bahrain to Yemen. CDR Bernie Ryan, VP-40 Commanding Officer, and members of CAC-9, led by LT Mark Sibon, flew the first P-3C. The small group that arrived represented the first Americans to arrive in Yemen to aid the Cole and her crew.
In Feb. or March 2002 VP-46 was deployed to the Far East in support of the Seventh Fleet.