Lancers come home

Lt. Cmdr. Steve Shauberger greets his wife, Keri, and 8-month-old son Eli on the tarmac at NAS Whidbey Island March 18. Shauberger was deployed with VAQ-131, which just returned from a six-month deployment on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Kathy Reed/Whidbey Crosswind

Gray skies didn’t dampen the spirits of families and friends awaiting the homecoming of electronic attack squadron (VAQ) 131 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island March 18.

The “Lancers” just completed a six-month deployment on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn in the North Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf and maritime security operations for the 7th Fleet. The squadron provided Electronic Attack support to U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Excited children burned off energy in a bounce house or amused themselves at a craft table set up in the hangar as they waited, then lined up patiently as the squadron’s arrival drew closer. Gail Tabor and her three children came up with some creative ways to count down the days of the long separation from their husband and father, Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Tabor.

“We made a picture book and read it every night, and every night Madison, 2, would kiss her daddy goodnight,” she said. “And we made a ‘daddy chain’- everyone was so happy when we ripped off that last link.”

Keri Shauberger was there with her 8-month-old son, Eli. Her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Steve Shauberger, hadn’t seen them since Eli was 8 weeks old.

“It’s hard being apart, and not being able to take care of things here,” he admitted. “It doesn’t get easier, you just get more practice at it.”

While deployed VAQ-131 aircrews flew over 140 combat sorties and 772 hours in support of OEF and OND. Maintenance crews performed 25 hours of maintenance for each hour of flight time.