“Skinny Dragons” of Patrol Squadron Four returned to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island on Oct. 11 , following a seven-month deployment to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.
VP-4 recently completed transition from the legacy P-3C Orion to the P-8A Poseidon in May 2017. Less than a year later, the “Skinny Dragons” completed workups and deployed this past spring in April, becoming the first West Coast squadron to deploy with the P-8A.
Forward deployed to Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Japan, the Skinny Dragons executed 620 operational sorties, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare. Their 12 combat aircrews logged 3,575 mishap-free flight hours and sustained a 100 percent sortie completion rate across numerous detachment sites to nine countries.
VP-4’s maintenance department exceeded expectations, logging over 29,000 man-hours of support. In addition to ensuring aircraft availability and mission readiness, their sailors generated over 8,000 sailor qualifications from the ground up following transition in order to deploy fully prepared.
Cmdr. Christopher Purcell, commanding officer of the “Skinny Dragons,” credited the tireless efforts of junior sailors with the many highlights of deployment.
“Day in and day out, I could not be more proud of how our sailors tirelessly set new standards of excellence on the flight line, on liberty and throughout the AOR,” he said. “As the capstone event to our transition, we are eager to share our lessons learned with the Whidbey Island P-8A community as we grow and exercise the capabilities of this aircraft.”
Gaining worldwide attention, VP-4 was chosen to showcase the militarized landscape amidst the artificial islands of the South China Sea, executing two airborne media engagements with BBC, CNN, ABC and the New York Times. These events underscored the U.S. Navy’s commitment to peace and stability, freedom of navigation and presence that our regional allies depend upon.
Among other exercises, VP-4 had the opportunity to participate in Exercise MALABAR in June, operating from Andersen AFB, Guam, strengthening interoperability with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force and Indian Navy Maritime Patrol crews. Additional detachments to the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Guam and Diego Garcia gave junior sailors a chance to experience culture and demonstrate the operational agility of the P-8A.
The Skinny Dragons return to NAS Whidbey Island happy to rejoin family and friends. After a warm homecoming with loved ones and members of the community, members of VP-4 look forward to celebrating this historic deployment and sharing their stories from this West Coast milestone deployment.