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Two squadrons return to NAS Whidbey in time for Christmas
The weather outside wasn’t frightful, just chilly, but two different gatherings at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station last week were definitely delightful.
Two different squadrons, Patrol Squadron (VP) 40 and Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141 had homecoming celebrations last week.
The final airlift for VP-40 personnel returned to Hangar 6 Wednesday, Dec. 7. The Fighting Marlins deployed to Okinawa, Japan on May 12, and spent the last six months demonstrating their expertise in anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
While Navy personnel were obviously busy doing their jobs during their deployment, the same was true of the families left behind.
“It’s been really busy,” said Victoria Propes, wife of Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) Second Class Ben Propes. The couple has two daughters — Autumn, 3, and Summer, 2.
“Grocery shopping was probably the hardest,” Propes laughed when asked about the most difficult thing she encountered during the six months as a single parent.
“The (separation) was easier because with Skype now, they get to see him and talk to him,” she continued.
But even with the convenience of Skype, time away is still time away and deployed parents miss special events whether they like it or not.
“She missed our son’s birthday,” said Orlando Franco, who was there with 4-year-old Diego, awaiting the arrival of Aviation Machinist’s Mate Second Class, Thalia Franco. “She misses him a lot. It will be nice for her to be home in time for Christmas.”
Shadowhawks come home
On Thursday afternoon and evening, the Shadowhawks of VAQ-141 returned from a seven-month deployment on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 72), supporting Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. The Shadowhawks were the first squadron to deploy on an aircraft carrier with the EA-18G Growler.
Samantha Jackson said a newly formed Family Readiness Group within the squadron proved to be very helpful.
“Having a group of people who are going through the same thing you are is so comforting,” said Jackson, who is the president of the FRG. Jackson said this was the fifth deployment in 11 years of marriage to Aviation Structural Mechanic (Equipment) First Class Jacob Jackson.
“It helps keep you strong,” she added.
“It keeps you busy, too,” agreed FRG vice president Crystal Foster. Foster’s husband is Aviation Ordnanceman First Class Phillip Foster.
The homecoming event was doubly festive, as the jets arrived at approximately 4 p.m., followed shortly after that by the airlift for maintenance personnel and 10 members of the Sea Operational Detachment from Fleet Readiness Center Northwest who also provide technical support.
It was the last homecoming for Frances Dennis, whose husband, Aviation Electronics Technician Second Class Steven Dennis, with SEAOPDET, will be retiring after 20 years in the Navy.
“I was worried we’d have to do our first Christmas without him,” Dennis said, “so we’re excited.”