The first wave of P-8A Poseidon aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 4’s “Skinny Dragons” departed Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) for Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan on April 2, commencing a scheduled deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).
This inaugural deployment marks the first time VP-4 will operate internationally with the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. VP-4 underwent a platform transition from the P-3C Orion along with a duty station change from Marine Corps Base Hawaii to NASWI between September 2016 and May 2017. During the transition, VP-4 Sailors executed over 3,000 flight hours, 20,000 simulator hours, and 55,000 hours of maintenance training.
VP-4 was certified “safe for flight” in the P-8A on May 5, 2017 by Commander, Naval Air Forces. This culminating moment signified the end of the squadron’s intensive training on the new aircraft and officially established VP-4 as the first P-8A squadron on the West Coast.
“I am very excited about the upcoming deployment to 7th Fleet as it is the culmination of over 18 months of dedicated effort from every Skinny Dragon,” said VP-4 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Bryan Hager. “VP-4 has concluded the first Fleet Response Training Plan in preparation for the West Coast's inaugural P-8A deployment.”
Hager said the training and preparation that VP-4 received will ensure the squadron’s safe and efficient operation in theater.
“Our Sailors are eager for this this deployment,” said VP-4 Command Master Chief Teresa Carroll-Gillis. “We have a very important mission both in the air and on the ground and I look forward to witnessing the success of our VP-4 Sailors as they earn qualifications while on deployment. I am certain that we will do well and a big part of that is due to our supportive Skinny Dragon Families. We have a very robust Family Readiness Group and an outstanding Ombudsman team that has worked very hard to ensure our families are ready.”
After a demanding home cycle, the Skinny Dragons look forward to putting their extensive training into practice in the 7th Fleet AOR. This first P-8A deployment begins a new and exciting chapter in VP-4’s illustrious history as an elite maritime squadron.