Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sun Sets Final Time for Sea Control Wing, US Atlantic Fleet

Two S-3B Vikings assigned to the “Red Griffins” of Sea Control Squadron Three Eight (VS-38) refuel two F/A-18C Hornets in this May 2003 file photo. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain.)

Focus on Defense:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb 3, 2009 -- One day after the disestablishment of its last squadron, Commander, Sea Control Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet followed suit with a Jan. 30 ceremony aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville.

More than 700 guests, most of whom attended the Sea Control Squadron (VS) 22 disestablishment the previous day, gathered to honor the accomplishments of the VS community for the last time.

After recognizing former Sea Control Wing commodores, Commanding Officer Capt. Evan Piritz introduced guest speaker Vice Adm. David Architzel, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

"In my career as a naval aviator, I've accumulated more than 5,000 flight hours. I'm proud to tell you that 4,300 of those hours were behind the stick of the S-3 Viking. My first deployment was with VS-30 on board USS Forrestal. That was followed by a tour as maintenance officer in VS-28 deployed on board USS Independence. Later on, I returned to VS-30 for my XO/CO tour," said Architzel.

"It's my honor to be here today and shake hands with people in the VS community whom I have admired through my entire career. My thanks go to Commodore Piritz and his staff for staging such a well-organized event commemorating the VP community's contributions to naval aviation," he continued.

After sharing some favorite sea stories from his VS deployments, Architzel asked the audience to never forget the spirit of flexibility, commitment, perseverance and adaptability that was infused into each squadron by the Sea Control Wing.

"Over more than 30 years, the versatility of the S-3 Viking was proven time and time again. There was never a time when the VP community and Lockheed could not reconfigure the Viking to successfully take on new missions."

"Our legacy runs deep, going back to World War II when German submarine wolf packs were ravaging shipping lanes between the U.S. and Europe. The Navy responded with convoy carrier task forces that tasked Grumman Avengers to spot and target enemy submarines. Most recently, four Vikings from VS-22 were tasked to spot and target enemy IEDs, as well as perform surveillance of borders and infiltration routes in Iraq. With their adaptation of LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) pods, they were able to provide full-motion video to commanders on the ground."

"It is the Sea Control Wing's enduring legacy of flexibility, commitment, perseverance and accomplishment that our Sailors, chiefs and officers will take with them as their follow-on orders take them to commands throughout the fleet. It's this legacy that will inspire our men and women to continue to make great contributions to the future of naval aviation," said Architzel.

At its peak, Sea Control Wing components included VS-22, VS-24, VS-27, VS-28, VS-30, VS-31, VS-32 and Sea Control Weapons School. The command's small but dedicated staff was charged with maintaining the material and operational readiness of the fixed-wing, carrier-based sea control squadrons.

In his closing remarks, Piritz thanked his staff officers, chief petty officers and Sailors who worked as a team with longtime civil service employees to provide squadrons with combat-ready aircrew.

"Many of our civilians have more than 20 years of providing behind-the-scenes support to the Sea Control Wing and it's squadrons. Thank you for a phenomenal job," he said.

"Finally, this is a day of conflicting emotions for most of us. If there's one feeling that rises above the rest – it's an overwhelming sense of pride. Pride in the opportunity to honorably serve. And pride in our VP community who will now embark on new adventures and challenges."

The event ended with the commodore's pennant being lowered for the last time.

(Report by Clark Pierce, Naval Air Station Jacksonville.)

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