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Fliers arrive by fire truck

A light indicating landing gear problems delayed — briefly — one Prowler crew’s return to families waiting at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Sunday afternoon.

Instead of climbing down from a jet to greet their families, the VAQ-139 crew jumped from a fire truck.

They’d been chauffeured from their runway landing site by emergency vehicles. Because of the warning light, the pilot made a”trap” landing. The pilot landed as if on a carrier by catching a wire stretched across the runway with the plane’s tailhook. Crash trucks and fire trucks waited on the plane’s trap, just in case.

The jet would be towed to a hangar for repairs. But the crew didn’t wait around. Their families were only a quick fire truck ride away.

To geologists studying Earth’s formation, six months barely matters. After all, wind and rain took untold eons to erode the Grand Canyon. But for families much can happen in just a few months. Babies crawl. Kids lose teeth and pedal without training wheels. Braces get put on, or removed. Sons grow tall and their voices break. Daughters learn to drive.

For VAQ-139 families, reacquainting themselves started with hugs and kisses.

“Erin’s been really excited since I told her we had three sleeps left until Daddy got home,” Heather Bergen said as she held Claire 7, months.

Erin, 3, and Allison, 7, looked forward to trick-or-treating with their father, Lt. Cmdr. Chris Bergen.

Deployment tor the Sullins family wasn’t too bad.

“We kept busy,” Tracy Sullins said while John, 7, Caroline 5, and Nathan, 3, waved welcome home signs.

They almost escaped the typical deployment hassles of car trouble and appliance breaks.

“Plumbing in the children’s bathroom backed up this morning,” Tracy laughed.

Most of the squadron’s families had to wait a while longer for their sailors to return. The first passenger plane from San Diego arrived Monday afternoon.

Halloween wasn’t over for Brandon Roy, 3, until his mom, Petty Officer 2nd Class Amber Roy, admired his Spiderman costume.

“He wants to have a party with all her favorite foods — macaroni and cheese, pizza and hot dogs,” Brandon’s grandmother Britt Koby said in Hangar 7 Monday.

Koby and Brandon took a 35-hour train ride from Los Angeles to meet Amber. Although a freight train broke down on tracks ahead of them, Koby said Brandon had a good time.

“He walked all over saying hello to people and telling them about his mom,” Koby said.

Brandon grasped a bouquet of yellow flowers for his mother.

“He picked out the flowers,” Koby said. “Brandon said they were sunshine for his mom.”

Rain didn’t keep waiting families from running out to meet their loved ones.

Brandon wasted no time whipping off his coat and hat to model.

“Just look at you,” Amber Roy marveled, her eyes shining.

The hangar emptied quickly as families hurried home to start supper and laundry augmented with hugs, kisses, and perhaps a few sea stories.

As for the jet that made the unexpected landing, Cmdr. Charles Luttrell, VAQ-139’s executive officer, said maintenance crews would get to that system later in the week. First, corrosion controls would be started on the planes which flew numerous missions.

Electronic Attack Squadron 139, the Cougars, spent more than five months in the Western Pacific.

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