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Yellow Jackets make a buzz

Emotions were running high this weekend when Naval Air Station Whidbey Island welcomed home the Electronic Attack Squadron 138.

The “Yellow Jackets” ended their six-month deployment aboard the USS Carl Vinson in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

To set the welcoming mood, “God Bless the USA” blared from large speakers in the VAQ-138 hangar while children of all ages ran around in anticipation of their loved one’s arrival. Some young children even fell asleep while awaiting the arrival of their mother or father. Soon, children’s screaming, whooping and hollering echoed off of the hangar walls when the first aircraft carrying enlisted men and women arrived at 7 p.m. Sunday. Husbands, wives and significant others embraced their loved ones as they came off the plane.

Brandi Pinnock was one of many loved ones waiting for her sailor to return home Sunday.

“While my husband was gone I managed to lose half of myself. I went from a size 16 to an 8 by hiring a personal trainer and working out at the Navy gym,” she said. “I’m very proud of myself. What I missed most about my husband being gone was the way that he would look at me. When you are apart from your soul mate, it hurts.”

The second plane containing the rest of the crew was expected around 8 o’clock, but did not come in until around 10:20 p.m.

According to Tony Popp, public affairs officer, the cause for the delayed flight was logistics and organization problems.

Kayla Buchanan, 13, of Oak Harbor and her close friend, 12-year-old Katie Sansouci of Bellingham, waited excitedly for Buchanan’s dad to return home.

“I miss his hugs and him helping me with my homework because he is so smart,” Buchanan said. “I really just miss him being here, I’m a daddy’s girl!”

Sansouci, whose parents are best friends with Buchanan’s parents, was also thrilled about the homecoming.

“I miss Kayla’s dad not being there when I come to visit,” she said. “He treats me like I am one of his own kids.”

Jennifer Killet was also excited to see her husband Tim come home.

“He missed the birth of our daughter. We missed everything about him while he was gone,” Jennifer Killet said.

Executive Officer Comdr. Keith Holden said he was happy to have everyone home safely.

“This has been a long deployment and they have served their country honorably,” he said.

The “Yellow Jackets” consist of 28 officers and 175 enlisted maintenance and support personnel. In addition, 24 members of the Sea Operational Detachment from the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Detachment, who keep the jets in optimal condition, returned home after being away since February 1.

In all, the squadron flew 2,080 hours with approximately 1,800 of those hours in the combat environment. While flying the EA-6B Prowler, the versatile Yellow Jackets flew missions from both the Vinson’s flight deck, as well as from land bases in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Commanding Officer Bill Jensen is proud of all the hard work and effort put in by all personel.

“This was the most challenging but rewarding cruise I’ve ever been on,” he said. “We’ve put up with 110-degree weather, sandstorms in the Gulf, and still managed to fly 4 months in the skies of Iraq while proudly protecting American lives on the ground.”

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