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Whidbey Island crews enjoy unique homecoming

Despite a chaotic homecoming of VAQ-138 Yellow Jackets, loved ones were still able to find each other through the crowds. - K.C. Pohtilla/Whidbey News-Times
Despite a chaotic homecoming of VAQ-138 Yellow Jackets, loved ones were still able to find each other through the crowds.
— image credit: K.C. Pohtilla/Whidbey News-Times

Enlisted members of a squadron based at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station got an unusual homecoming Monday.

Instead of returning to base in a transport airplane, maintenance and support personnel with VAQ-138 Yellow Jackets walked off the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to the waiting arms of their families. In addition, new fathers from all the different squadrons were allowed to exit the ship early.

It made for a wonderfully chaotic scene of hugging and kissing on the small pier. At least one young sailor proposed to his girlfriend amid the happy pandemonium.

On Sunday, the scene was much more relaxed — but no less happy — at the homecoming event at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station for Yellow Jackets officers. Families of the crews of four EA-6B Prowler jets ran to the airplanes soon after they landed.

The Yellow Jackets next task will be to transition from the 40-year-old Prowlers to the new EA-18G Growlers.

VAQ-138 left Whidbey on Jan. 18 to provide tactical jamming support to Carrier Air Wing 9 and Carrier Strike Group 3 for various exercises and training operations during the deployment. They participated in the Exercise Foal Eagle off the coast of South Korea, demonstrating a committed alliance between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea and playing an integral role in the electronic warfare training of the ROK Navy.

The Yellow Jackets enjoyed several port visits: Hong Kong; Sasebo, Japan; Busan, Korea; Pattaya Beach, Thailand; Singapore; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During the last two weeks they joined with the U.S. Air Force to participate in the annual training exercise Northern Edge 2009 off the coast of Alaska.

During the deployment, the Yellow Jackets flew 420 sorties, logging over 580 hours with 440 carrier landings and achieved a 95 percent sortie completion rate. Credit for their success, Navy officials reported, is due in part to the high caliber, hard-working maintenance personnel who work diligently to ensure everyone’s safety and readiness to fly.

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