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Whidbey ready to welcome home the Patriots

The “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140 return to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station next week after a seven-month deployment aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan.

Four EA-6B Prowler jets arrive midday on Monday, July 26 followed by 180 maintenance and support personnel that evening.

The Patriots left Norfolk, Va., on Jan. 2, making a nonstop transit to the North Arabian Sea and arriving on station by the end of the month to commence combat missions with Carrier Air Wing Seven, providing non-kinetic fires in support of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coalition forces engaged in direct combat with the enemy.

The squadron logged 227 combat sorties and 1,459 combat flight hours, achieving a stellar 100 percent combat mission completion rate, a feat that has not been accomplished in five years. As a result, they received several recognition awards during the 2010 cruise to include the Naval Air Forces Atlantic Fleet Battle “E” and Safety “S” for 2009 that recognize the hard work and sacrifice of the Patriot men and women.

Other cruise milestones included shipboard visits from Hollywood director James Cameron and the cast of the hit movie “Avatar” in January, and in April, The Legends of Aerospace Tour came aboard with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, Steve Richie and Gene Cernan.

The Patriots also made port visits Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Bahrain; Antalya, Turkey; and Naples, Italy.

Also coming home are 20 members of the Sea Operational Detachment from Fleet Readiness Center Northwest who provide technical support to keep the jets in top condition.

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