Federal budget belt-tightening has claimed its first victim at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
In a ceremony in Hangar 6 on board NAS Whidbey Island Thursday morning, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 2 was officially “disestablished.”
“Today we’re being asked to hang up our flight jackets and put away our tool boxes,” said VQ-2 Cmdr. Mark Stockfish.
The ceremony brings to an end 57 years of service for VQ-2, which was established on Sept. 1, 1955. The hangar was filled Thursday with personnel past and present, brought together to remember the squadron and its mission.
“We honor 57 years of a truly remarkable air reconnaissance mission,” acknowledged Air Wing 10 Commander, Capt. Peter Garvin. “VQ-2 has set a new standard. If you heard of a hot spot anywhere in the world, or those you didn’t hear of, VQ-2 was there. They met every challenge head on.”
Guest speaker for the ceremony was retired Navy Capt. Don East, who commanded the squadron from 1981 to 1982.
“This is a ceremony of mixed emotions,” East said. “Today we say farewell to an old friend.”
East spoke of writing the history of VQ-2, noting that the squadron seemed to be alive, becoming a part of everyone who ever served.
“When this ceremony is complete, it will be time to write the final chapter,” he said. “But its spirit can remain with us as long as the sun shines and the wind blows. VQ-2 will not be just history, but a legacy.”
And the former commander didn’t mince words regarding the Rangers’ disestablishment.
“What we’re losing is our team in the sky,” he said. “This act will someday be seen as a mistake.”
Cmdr. Stockfish spoke jokingly about his efforts to try to prevent the day from arriving.
“I started scheming to try to get the bullseye off our backs,” Stockfish said. “But it did us no good, as we’re standing on the dais today with the task at hand.”
With words of thanks to Capt. Garvin, Capt. East and family and friends, Stockfish also had words of praise for the men and women of VQ-2.
“The improbable happens every day,” he said. “Multi-tasking is not in your toolbox — it’s what your toolbox is made of. You are the ones that have made this squadron a success over the last 57 years.
“Look at this as an opportunity,” he continued. “In a few minutes, memories will be all we have of VQ-2. Remember the past, but do not live in it. The Ranger spirit will lead you to success.”
After reading the orders, which stated VQ-2 will officially be terminated as of Aug. 31 and its personnel consolidated into VQ-1, tradition took over. The bell was struck eight times and the squadron’s pennant was retired and presented to Cmdr. Stockfish.
“This is a sad day, but we will move forward,” Stockfish said. “Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 2, dismissed.”