A BIT OF HISTORY: VP-64 History "...Soviet Missile Tracking/Command and Control Ship Cosmonaut Vladmir Komarov taken in the Eastern Atlantic by VP-64 Crew 4 during operations out of NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal during June 1979. Photo courtesly of AW2 Andy Nazak, Crew 4..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [23MAR2009]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...The Azores and "George the Crook"..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired email@example.com [28FEB2005]
George the Crook was the proprietor of a small bar called "Cafe Azores" in Praia, just outside the base at Lajes Field, Azores. During the busy years of ASW operations out of NAF Lajes (Lajes Field) in the 70s and early 80s, it was the hangout of VP sailors, especially aircrews, who wanted an atmosphere different from the on-base clubs.
To those who were never there, the George the Crooks had a small bar with no stools (you stood and drank) and about six tables with a total of about 18 chairs. The bar was fronted with VP squadron insignia from the units that were stationed there. The walls and ceiling were covered with squadron and crew memorabilia, hand fashioned by the crews and individuals that visited the place. It was, in essence, a museum that recorded the passage of men and squadrons that passed through the Azores.
It was like a "poor man's" version of the Officers Club in Cubi Point (now in the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, FL and restored). It was brought back to the U.S. when Subic Bay was closed in 1992. In the case of the "O" club from Cubi Point, all the crew and squadron plaques were beautifully made by local Philippine artisans in Olongopo City at some expense. To the contrary, at George the Crook's most crew lists and detachment lists were hand-made by the crews themselves. Crews that I served on (VP-64 Crews 1,2,4,and 6) always posted their crew lists on part of a Budweiser box cover; alongside the Bud logo, we pasted a VP-64 squadron patch.
At the Cafe Azores, you could drink Portuguese wine, eat Portuguese cheese, and occasionally, be entertained by George and his magic tricks. However, the main purpose of visiting the Azores Cafe was the aircrew lists, deployment lists, and squadron patches posted on the bar and on the walls and ceiling of the cafe. It became kind of a ritual that, as soon as arriving crews had their aircraft secured and could get off duty, they would go down to George the Crooks, pay their respects to George, and post their current crew list on the walls. They would look up their previous crew postings, introducing the new crew members to the ritual. They also scanned the walls to see the other units and aircrews that had preceded them.
George was also the middleman when you wanted to purchase Portuguese wine (Lancers, Matues, etc.); he was cheaper than the Class 6 store at the bottom of the hill at Lajes Field. George would arrange to have it delivered to the plane just before you departed Lajes. He could arranged the purchase of scrimshaw from some of the local artists. The Azores was renowned for its intricate and detailed scrimshaw and some of the most famous artists were on Terciera, the island where Lajes field was located. The scrimshaw was delivered by George in the U.S. because it was illegal at the time to import those items. George somehow got them into the country and was very dependable on delivery.
He was a great admirer of the U.S. and made annual trips to the U.S. Coming from a small island, he was especially impressed by vastness of our western states.
In the 1970s, when the Portuguese overseas empire was coming apart and the socialist government in Lisbon had taken over, the Azores had an independence movement. George always spoke about becoming independent from Portugal; we had thought that the CIA may have sponsored the movement so that the U.S. could retain its bases at Lajes field.
Photograph "...George The Crook's Bar, Praia, Terciera, Azores - Street View..."
Photograph "...George The Crook's Bar - Praia, Terciera, Azores - 1979 - Note Squadron Insignia on Bar Face..."
Photograph "...George the Crook..."
We heard a few years later that George was very ill with cancer, and he passed away in the early 1980s. The Cafe Azores remained open, run by a young man who was said to be one of his nephews. Ask any VP sailor who was deployed, stationed at, or who passed through NAF Lajes on a RON, and you will certainly find out something interesting about George the Crook.
Photograph "...Lt. Jim Neve and AO1 Pete McCaughley of VP-64 - Crew 6, Enjoying the "Ambiance" of George the Crook's - 1979 - Note Memorabilia on Wall..."
Photograph "...VP-64 - Crew 6 Members AW2 Joe Dolan, AO1 Pete McCaughley, and AT1 Walt Eife Relaxing at George the Crooks after a Hard Week of Tracking Ivan in 1979..."
Photograph "...Azores (Hawk) Islands Patch..."
Photograph "...George the Crook's Patch..."
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-64 History of 1978 - MUC Presentation and NS Rota, Spain Deployment..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [08JUL2008]VP-64 History of 1978
MUC Presentation and NS Rota, Spain Deployment
In early 1978, the Commander of Reserve Patrol Wing Atlantic, CAPT. Donald R. Yeager, arrived at NAS Willow Grove to officially present VP-64 with the Meritorious Unit Commendation that the squadron earned during the spring of 1977. CAPT Yeager inspected the squadron in our new quarters in Hanger 175 and made the presentation with "appropriate ceremony". Squadron CO CDR Pete Oechslin was not available at that time and XO CDR Bill Stauffer stood in for him. However, for the ceremony, CDR Oechslin chose the oldest squadron member (AOCS Don Muckle of Crew 11) and the youngest squadron member (AW3 Goebel of Operations) to be presented symbolically with the MUC ribbon for the entire squadron. They came "front and center" and CAPT Yeager pinned them with dignitaries including NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania CO CAPT. Ronald Botta looking on.
While inspecting the squadron, CAPT Yeager recognized AO1 Pete McCaughley of VP-64 Crew 6 and remembered having had McCaughley in his crew when he was a young LT and Patrol Plane Commander in VP-6 at NAS Barbers Point, HI and during WestPac deployments in the 1950s.
VP-64 XO CDR Bill Stauffer and Commanderof RESPATWINGLANT,
CAPT Donald R. Yeager, Cutting the Ceremonial MUC Ribbon Cake
On 22 July 1978, a Change of Command ceremony was held in Hanger 175 during which CDR Bill Stauffer relieved CDR Pete Oechslin as CO of VP-64. CDR Ken Wall became XO of the squadron. CDR Pete Oechslin had completed a very successful 18-month tour of duty as CO and handed over a well-trained and motivated unit to CDR Bill Stauffer.
The annual 1978 cruise of VP-64 was back at NS Rota, Spain and began on 26 August and ended on 23 September. PATRON Rota was the Sea Hawks of VP-23 when we arrived in August and was the Tridents of VP-26 when we left in September. PATRON Rota squadrons were on a split deployment between Rota and Lajes and were on a turnover during our cruise there. Both VP-23 and VP-26 flew the P-3B DIFAR aircraft, very similar to our P-3A DIFAR aircraft. The "supply chain" would be a little simpler on this deployment.
The schedule called for two or three missions (Operational and training flights) daily to fulfill CTF-67's requirements and squadron crew tactical exercise qualifications. We would free-up some of the PATRON ROTA aircrews to conduct more ASW operations out of NAF Lajes under Commander, Azores ASW Sector,. CTG-84.2
On one of the early days at NS Rota, VP-64 Operations had three aircraft and crews scheduled. One was duty crew, the second was the back up crew, and the third was the standby crew. The duty crew launched as scheduled, and that left the standby crew available for assignment so the CO CDR Bill Stauffer scheduled the standby crew, which was Crew 6, to fly him to NAF Naples, Italy to pay a courtesy call on Commander, Task Force 67 (CTF-67). It was an interesting mission, and the crew had a chance to spend a "day liberty" sightseeing in Naples while the CO visited with CTF 67. Crew 6's four officers (LCDR Gareffa, LCDR DiLullo, LCDR Neve, and LT Giacin) were all of Italian heritage and they had a chance to practice their Italian and fill up on "real" Italian pasta dishes. Crew 6 logged about three hours over to NAF Naples and three hours back with about four hours liberty; They also returned with souvenirs, some of which they could 'easily load' through the aircraft door.
In September, we completed a very successful cruise and in additional to the tactical and training missions flown, we assisted in a seamless transition during the change over of the PATRON ROTA squadrons.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Awards and Rescues - Page 26 - Naval Aviation News - August 1978..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1978/aug78.pdf [09OCT2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...NAS Willow Grove - Page 24 to 27 - Naval Aviation News - July 1978..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1978/jul78.pdf [09OCT2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: VP-64 Crew 6 "...VP-64 Crew 6 (Circa 1977) at their Annual Reunion on 19 August 2008 at Horsham, PA. Front Row L to R: AO1 Pete McCaughley, AT1 Walt Eife, AWCS Larry Robideau and AW1 Joe Dolan. Back Row L to R: CAPT Lou DiLullo, CDR John Roscoe, ADCS Ed Schupp, CAPT Ken Giacin, CAPT Jim Neve, LCDR Steve Spero and AW1 Bill Restle. Mustered by phone: CAPT Joe Gareffa from Nevada and AMCS Bobby Kral from Florida..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired email@example.com [28AUG2008]
VP-64 History - 1977 - Special ASW Operations in the Central Atlantic
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-64 History of 1977 as I recall the squadron history..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [10JUN2007]
And the Annual Cruise at NS Rota, Spain in June and July
On 22 January of 1977, CDR Pete Oechslin relieved CDR Gran Fuller and assumed command of VP-64; CDR Bill Stauffer became XO. CDR Gram Fuller had completed a very successful tour with the deployment to NAS Bermuda in 1976.; many of the crews had completed enough of the crew exercises to qualify as ALFA and BRAVO crews. However, under CDR Pete Oechslin, February 1977 started the busiest year of VP-64 up to that time.
Conditions in the Atlantic Sea Frontier had changed from VP-64's deployment to NAS Bermuda in the summer of 1976. It appeared that the Soviet SSBNs in their Atlantic Patrol Box had shifted far to the east of Bermuda close to the mid-Atlantic ridge. What used to be a short transit to "on station" in their previous patrol box now became a much longer flight. Whatever the reason for the patrol box shift, RADM Myers, Director of Operations for CINCLANT ordered CTG 84.3 in Bermuda to conduct a series of four ASW operations at "extreme distances" and in ocean areas of "maximum environmental difficulty" from 13 February to 22 May 1977 to test our capability to counter this change in Soviet tactics.
To accomplish this, CINCLANTFLT chose the following squadrons to participate:
Unit A/C Wing 1977 Period
VP-8 P-3B Patrol Wing 5 February/March
VP-44 P-3A DIFAR Patrol Wing 5 March - May
VP-64 P-3A DIFAR RESPATWINGLANT February - May
VP-92 P-3A DIFAR RESPATWINGLANT February - May
VP-8 and VP-44 were the PATRON Bermuda squadrons during this period while crews from VP-64 and VP-92 were tasked on drill weekends. Since both the Reserve units and the Regular Navy units were using very similar platforms, it would be also an opportunity to gauge the performance of the aircrews in an operational environment.
Four operations were conducted during the period by CTG-84.3 with surface and air platforms.
The operations were very successful and the squadrons involved were nominated and awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation (MUC) in December 1977 . Part of the citation reads:
"Utmost in innovative thinking, planning, and analysis of intelligence data and the strategic importance of the operations demanded a continuous display of professionalism, determination, and resourcefulness by all personnel."
The success of the ASW operations was considered "Vital to National Defense and will contribute significantly to the success of future (ASW) operations".
Even as the Bermuda operations were being conducted, the squadron was preparing for the deployment to NS Rota, Spain on 18 June through 17 July 1977. The schedule was for Wing B (even-numbered crews under the XO CDR Bill Stauffer) to cruise the first two weeks followed by Wing A ( the odd-numbered crews under CO CDR Pete Oechslin). Five P-3A DIFAR aircraft would be flown to NS Rota, Spain for the month. Certain TAR cadre would spend the entire time at NS Rota, Spain to provide continuity during the changeover. The plan was to conduct two to three training and operational flights (under CTF 67) each day. In order to maximize the deployment time, scheduled drills and deployment orders were issued for the period of 15 to 17 July 1977 to expedite cruise check in and early deployment to overseas bases (NS Rota, Spain) for certain aircrews.
The squadron started arriving at NS Rota, Spain on 18 June 1977. An advance party had all preparations made for berthing, ramp parking spots, and nose dock maintenance facilities. Our host squadron was the Red Lancers of VP-10 from Patrol Wing 5 who flew the P-3B Orion. We had arrived on cruise near the end of the fiscal year (in those days, it was 1 July to 30 June). We were flush with fuel chits while the regular Navy was short near the end of their budget year. Our unofficial slogan was "Have money, can fly" and we started our ambitious schedule.
On the first day of arrival at NS Rota, Spain, CTF-67 sent a request for two aircraft and three aircrews to be sent to NAF Sigonella, Sicily, Italy for operations in the Southern Mediterranean Sea. At that time, CTF-67 assigned PATRON ROTA to the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea west of Sardinia. PATRON SIGONELLA patrolled the Mediterranean Sea east of Sardinia. This would be in support of PATRON SIGONELLA, which at that time was the Mad Foxes of VP-5 and Patrol Wing 11 who flew the P-3C Orion. On 21 June, a detachment under LCDR Ken Wall, consisting of crews 6, 10, and 12, along with support personnel and two aircraft, flew to NAF Sigonella where they remained until 29 June. They conducted a wide range of maritime patrol missions, accumulating a total of 170 flight hours during the 8-day detachment. The NAS Sigonella detachment returned to NS Rota, Spain on 30 June and continued training and operational flights until the Wing B deployment was completed.
Wing A deployed following Wing B and continued the three-missions-per-day routine until 17 July 1977. They completed a successful cruise improving squadron readiness and supported VP-10 (which was on a split-deployment between NS Rota, Spain and NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal) in flying tactical missions in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. VP-64 was the first reserve squadron deployed during the 1977 season. They were followed by RESPATWINGLANT squadrons in the following order: VP-66, VP-68, and VP-62. VP-64 received a favorable write up in the "The Jack Tar", the NS Rota, Spain Newspaper regarding the squadron's deployment.
Also, 1977 was the year that VP-64 and VVP-66 moved into their new facilities at Hanger 175. VP-64 was quartered in the north end of Hanger 175 and VP-66 was in the south end. The new hanger was located just south of the NXX Control Tower and Hanger 80, and had a spacious new ramp and shiny new facilities. The hanger could hold two P-3s for each squadron. On the first deck were the paraloft, maintenance control, aircrew locker room, and work centers 210, 220, ordinance shop etc. On the second deck were personnel, the CO's office, operations, aircrew training, safety office, etc. A new quarterdeck was created that featured our new Condor logo and a squadron display area. We were spoiled; it was quite a change from old Hanger 15 where everything was ancient and well worn.
In December of 1977, the CNO approved VP-64 for a Meritorious Unit Commendation for our participation in the ASW operations on Feb to May 1977. It was the first unit citation ever given to a reserve unit and the first one ever for drill-weekend tactical operations. We proudly painted the ribbon under our Condor logo over the north entrance to Hanger 175 and on the sides of our aircraft just aft of the side number on the bow. The official presentation of the MUC to squadron was made in the spring of 1978 upon a visit from the Commodore of RESPATWINGLANT.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Meritorious Unit Citation awarded to VP-8, VP-44, VP-64, and VP-92 for ASW operations with CTG 84.3 out of NAS Bermuda in the spring of 1977. The citation on the second page was given out in December of 1977..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired email@example.com [15MAY2007]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "Ruby Hunter (red hot) mission that Crew 6 of VP-64 flew during our deployment to NS Rota, Spain and NAS Sigonella, Sicily in June/July of 1977..." Contributed by AWCS Larry Robideau Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [27MAR2005]Reconnaissance Mission - 6th Fleet
Patrol Squadron Sixty Four (VP-64) was deployed to Naval Station Rota Spain during June and July of 1977 for its annual cruise, attached to CTG 84.3 for operations in the Mediterranean theater. At that time, VP-64 was under command of CDR Pete Oechslin and flew the P-3A DIFAR aircraft. During the later part of June, a two-aircraft detachment (DET), along with three Combat Air Crews (CACs) was sent to NAS Sigonella, Sicily, and attached to CTF 67 where it augmented PATRON SIGONELLA. which at that time were the Mad Foxes of VP-5 from CPW-11. The DET conducted eight days of intensive operations where it flew seventeen highly-successful operational sorties accumulating over 170 flight hours.
The VP-64 DET was commanded by OinC LCDR Ken Wall and included Crew 6, Crew 10, and Crew 12. The DET was immediately integrated into the flight schedule and began flying missions the day following its arrival. One of the more interesting missions drawn by Crew 6 was a daylight surveillance/reconnaissance flight to reconnoiter the Soviet fleet anchorages in international waters off Hamamet Tunisia, Solum Libya, and Kithera Greece.
According to the mission brief at the ASWOC, we were to take pictures, observe and record any unusual activity, and cover the areas surrounding the anchorages for submarine and ship movement in or out of the anchorage area. The briefing petty officer said that Hamamet and Kithera should not be a problem, but that Solum would be dangerous because of the Libyan air base nearby which was likely to launch interceptors (MIG-23 Flogger Bs) on us if our approach to the anchorage was detected too early. We were told not to enter Libyan air space and maintain a separation of at least 12 miles off shore. Libya claimed sovereignty over waters a lot further out than 12 miles in the Gulf of Sirte and the Gulf of Solum.
We were told that because of the state-of-the-art ASW equipment on our P-3A DIFAR aircraft, it could not fall into Libyan hands because of their close ties with the Soviet Union. For that reason, a EP-3E from Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron Two (VQ-2) would rendezvous with us after completing the Hamamet anchorage reconnaissance and provide "top cover" for us during our penetration of the Gulf of Solum anchorage and to collect ELINT. This would include monitoring Soviet and Libyan radar emissions and Libyan radio transmissions to and from the Libyan air base located near the gulf of Solum. The VQ-2 EP-3E crew would alert us when they detected activity that would endanger us and recommend the best course to exit the area. This would require close coordination between the flight crews of our aircraft and the VQ-2 aircraft for the covert rendezvous and also subterfuge (disguising part of our flight under cover of a commercial air liner) and stealth (maintaining EMCON (no electrical-radio-navigation emissions from the aircraft)) during the initial low-level approach to Solum.
At that time, CAC-6 consisted of the following:
We took off "zero dark early" that morning and headed southwest towards the Hamamet anchorage and reached there just as dawn was breaking. As we approached, SS3 Joe Dolan did an ESM sweep and detected no unusual emissions; he then turned up the radar and detected several small contacts in the anchorage. We then flew over the anchorage and we took pictures of the four ships there and detected no unusual activity and no sub or ship movements. The "Foxtrot" SS briefed to be in the anchorage was still tied up along side the auxiliary.
PPC LCDR Joe Gareffa
2P LT Ken Giacin
TC LCDR Lou DiLullo
NAV LT Jim Neve
FE AE1 Bobby Kral
COM AT1 Walt Eife
SS1 AWCS Larry Robideau
SS2 AW3 Rudy Artau
SS3 AW2 Joe Dolan
ORD AO3 Fallon
IFT AT2 Al Bunting
After finishing at Hamamet, we climbed out over the Straits of Sicily and headed toward the eastern Mediterranean at about Angels 21 on an indirect route to the Gulf of Solum. At this point, we assumed the call sign of a commercial air liner and contacted the Malta Center, checked in, and continued flying due east under control of the Malta Center as a commercial flight. We were joined up (in trail by about 200 miles) by the VQ-2 aircraft (an EP-3E that was to give us "high cover") and continued for about two and a half hours until we reached a point just past the island of Crete. At this point, we made a rapid descent to 300 feet, turned off all electrical and electronic equipment that would produce electronic radiation and, at about 325 knots, turned towards the anchorage at the gulf of Solum which was about 250 miles to the south southwest (about 205 degrees true).
On the run in towards Solum, our SS3, AW2 Joe Dolan, was monitoring the ESM equipment during the approximately 40-minute period. After about 35 minutes, AW2 Joe Dolan reported a "hump" (radar signal) followed shortly after by an "acquisition" and "lock-on". PPC Joe Gareffa responded "lets not get dramatic, Dolan" over the intercom. At that instant, the flight station got a message from the VQ-2 aircraft advising us that we were being painted by that same fire control radar. At this point, we broke EMCON, turned up our radar, radar altimeter, and climbed from 300 feet to 1000 feet; AW2 Dolan reported after a quick radar sweep of the area that the anchorage contained approximately 11 contacts at a range of 20 miles. The targets were in three rows. The Soviet FC radar had achieved a lock on at about 28 miles, with us approaching at 300 feet.
Reconnaissance Track of Ruby Hunter Mission - 1977
We then closed on the anchorage rapidly and went between the most-easterly and middle rows of ships. AT1 Walt Eife reported visually that we were being tracked by missile batteries on a guided missile cruiser; he said that he would watch for signs of smoke, indicating a launch. We began taking photos of the ships with the flight station and observer stations checking the ships and deck activity. We then did a quick reconnoiter of the perimeter of the anchorage to see if there were any ships or submarines entering or leaving the anchorage. We returned and made a second pass between the middle and western rows of ships making the same observations as on the first pass. Our maneuvers required us to avoid approaching the land side (Libyan air space), thus putting us in the area a little longer than desirable. We made another pass with the same observations; our pass was cut short by a communication from the EP-3E that aircraft (probably MIG-23s) were launched and were coming to intercept us.
We climbed out and left the vicinity post haste. We found out later that two F4 Phantoms from an aircraft carrier in the area were sent to intercept the MIG-23s and cover our departure from the area. We resumed using our original call sign and safety-of-flight rules as specified in the preflight briefing. We then proceeded to the Kithera anchorage, about 350 miles to the northwest. At Kithera, we found three small Soviet ships; we took photos, and the flight station and observation stations looked for unusual activities. Nothing unusual was observed. We left Kithera on the approximately 450 mile trip back to Sigonella.
After arriving in Sigonella and post-flight of the aircraft, we were debriefed in the ASWOC. After debriefing the enlisted crew (sensor operators), one of the ASWOC petty officers seemed curious that we were not anxious or concerned during the Salum leg of the flight. I said "no pucker factor at all". At the time, I didn't know what prompted him to pose that question. However, later we found out that a USAF C-130 had been intercepted by Libyan fighters the previous month and created a serious situation for U.S. forces in the area. We had our second debriefing at the enlisted club, and discussed what we had done and the implications raised by the debriefing petty officers.
Even after some 25 years, many situations and events of that DET, above and beyond that Ruby-Hunter mission, remain vividly in my mind. Among them are:
- There was a problem with the base water system that lasted for the entire time we were there. The water hours mandated to alleviate the situation meant that we were not able to shower for days and we used sonobouy shipping containers (filled with water during the permitted periods) to flush the toilets.
- I remember the "Sandeman" logo that VQ-2 had on the tails of their EP-3Es. The mysterious dark caped figure in the logo was borrowed from the Sandeman Sherry winery in Jerez, a city near Rota, where they were stationed.
- Libya was ruled by Quaddafi back then, and still is. We have challenged him several times since then and given him cause not to antagonize us and to cut back on his terrorist activities. He has been keeping a low profile.
- PATRON SIGONELLA was limited in the missions they could fly because it was the end of the fiscal year (in those days the FY was 1 July to 30 June) and they were short on funds for fuel. The three VP-64 crews in the DET flew 17 operational missions in eight days of at an average of 10 hours per mission. We picked up the slack.
- Members of the Air Crews that participated in the NAF Sigonella DET got Letters of Commendation placed in their files. Patron 64 was also awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation (MUC) ribbon in December 1977 for our ASW operations from NAS Bermuda in 1976 serving under CTG 84.3.
- PPC LCDR Joe Gareffa flew an excellent mission profile, hitting the waypoints on time, rendezvousing and coordinating with the EP-3E, and making the stealthy approach to the Gulf of Salum anchorage. I personally felt that LCDR Gareffa should have been recognized for his outstanding performance with an Air Medal or similar award. But to CTF 67, Patron Sigonell, and the ASWOC, this mission must have been considered a typical Recon mission with nothing exceptional occurring. The debriefing petty officers for the sensor operators evidently did not think it was "typical".
Letter of Commendation Awarded to Crewmen Participating In The NAF Sigonella Detachment - June/July 1977
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-64 History - 1976 - First Atlantic Deployment to NAS Bermuda..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired email@example.com [29MAY2008]
The year began with CDR Gran Fuller as CO of the squadron and many of the aircrews approaching ALFA and BRAVO status as the readiness of the squadron continued a steady improvement. One of the prime motivations to the aircrews was that when they achieved ALFA status, they could have a three-day boondoggle to anywhere they wanted. Every aircrew was conducting extra drills, training flights, and weapon-system trainer periods in ResAswTacEast to complete the 38 individual, team, and crew exercises needed.
One of the first crews, Crew 6, achieved ALFA status (having a readiness qualification of 99 percent) in 1976 and chose to go to Hawaii for three days over the July 4th weekend. The trip was not without its difficulties. The crew, with an extra pilot and three passengers, had to change a radome at NAS Moffett Field, California when their's was damaged by hail during a storm passing over the Rocky Mountains near Denver. However, VP-91 had a spare and it was changed quickly and the trip remained on schedule. The crew flew into Hickam AFB on Oahu and stayed at the Hale Koa (Military Hotel) on De Russy Beach, next to Waikiki Beach. Such incentives were out of vogue a few years later when justification had to be made for every cross-country trip. Pilot training was not enough.
Previously, all VP-64 cruises were to NS Rota, Spain and operations with CTF-67. This year, the squadron would cruise to NAS Bermuda for the first time. This was part of an ambitious schedule tht would put four squadrons of RESPATWINGLANT at NAS Bermuda to fly 50 percent of the ASW missions from July through December. PATRON BERMUDA at that time was Bandits of VP-11 who flew the P-3B DIFAR aircraft; this would enable them to conduct missions elsewhere. Initially, VP-62 would be at NAS Bermuda for six weeks, followed by VP-64, VP-66, and VP-68 in that order.
The proximity of NAS Bermuda to NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania and the training facilities of RESASWTACEAST gave VP-64 great opportunity. Aircrews were scheduled for pre-deployment "brush up" courses (OP-11 series ) at RESASWTACEAST that gave them the latest tactical information and target intelligence. Aircrews were staged out of NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania and briefed and debriefed at the NAS Bermuda TSC. The aircrews then remained at NAS Bermuda for the remainder of their cruise. Rotation of aircrews and support personnel was simplified by the short transit. Aircrews got a lot of on-top time tracking Soviet SSBNs in their Atlantic patrol box near Bermuda.
However, one problem arose during the first week of the deployment. Bermuda is notoriously famous for its Mopeds; a small dangerous motorbike. Moped rentals at the NAS Bermuda were probably the worst maintained Mopeds on the island. Compound this with the fact that Bermudians drive on the wrong side of the road, and you have a .recipe for disaster. During the first two weeks of the deployment, VP-64 had 22 casualties (some very serious) due to Moped accidents. AO1 Pete McCaughley of Crew 6 broke his leg at Shark's Hole Hill. The squadron held a safety stand down to stop the carnage. After the safety stand down, the squadron only had two more casualties for the remainder of the cruise.
For the past year, a new Condor logo for the squadron designed by LCDR Mike Holland was awaiting approval by the CNO. Final approval came on 14 June 1976. The squadron began to place the logo on the tails of their aircraft. Our new squadron flag also contained the new symbol, and new Condor patches were added to our flight suits and flight jackets. Condor stick-on symbols were placed on books, charts, and appeared in clubs and bars wherever a squadron member traveled. The new Condor patch was a very big morale builder, thanks to LCDR Mike Holland..
The New VP-64 Condor Tail Logo
Note that the Squadron Number (VP-64) is embedded in the Body of the Condor
The New VP-64 Squadron Logo and Patch
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Bermuda - Page 28 - Naval Aviation News - December 1976..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1976/dec76.pdf [07OCT2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Six-Week Stay In Bermuda - Page 26 - Naval Aviation News - October 1976..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1976/oct76.pdf [07OCT2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-64 History - 1975 - NS Rota, Spain Deployment..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [28FEB2009]Circa 1973
The year began with our CO John Mitchell and XO CDR Pete Oechslin preparing the squadron for another Rota deployment in the second quarter (May and June). Although senior officers, CDR John Mitchell and CDR Pete Oechslin were still flying as PP2Ps in their aircrews and working hard to master the P-3A and become PPCs.
When the first wing arrived in Rota on 17 May, VP-11 was the resident Patron Rota and was on a split Rota/Lajes deployment. The VP-11 Bandits flew the P-3B DIFAR aircraft which was similar in performance to the P-3A DIFAR aircraft used by the Condors and with a great deal of the ASW package (AQA-7) identical.
VP-64 would be operating under CTF-67 with most of its operational flights in the Mediterranean Sea west of Sardinia and in the eastern Atlantic. Wing A (odd-numbered crews) deployed first and the even-numbered crews deployed on the second two week period. This cruise was mostly a training cruise with only a few crews far enough advanced to conduct ASW tactical missions. We flew a variety of maritime patrol missions, and occasional ASW mission, and a great many training missions. The cruise was a success with a great deal of flight hours and a lot of crew exercises completed.
Following the May/June deployment, the squadron held a change of command ceremony on 13 July during which CDR Gran Fuller became CO of VP-64 and CDR Pete Oechslin continued on as XO. Under CDR Fuller, VP-64 began to achieved preeminence in the P-3 VP ASW community in 1975 and 1976 even though the squadron transition to the P-3A DIFAR was years later than VP-62, VP-67, VP-68, and VP-91. Four factors made this possible:
To speed the transition to the P-3A DIFAR aircraft and its associated tactical exercises, air crews were given an additional 48 drills over and above their basic 48 drills. These extra drills were used to conduct Weapons Systems Trainer (WST) exercises at RESASWTAC and to participate in flight operations related to operational readiness. Also, RESASWTAC made a wide range of basic schools and refresher courses available classes, such as the OP-11 series refresher courses and the Anti-Submarine Classification and Analysis Center (ASCAC) OP-21B course.
- The dedication and hard work of the squadron members.
- The location of the RESASWTAC facilities close at hand on the Willow Grove NAS.
- The nearby location of the Johnsville Naval Air Development Center ( NADC) in Warminster, PA with its attendant research and development companies.
- A three-day boondoggle incentive anywhere the crew desired for each crew that achieved Alfa or Bravo status.
Probably, the greatest and longest-lasting influence that affected the success of VP-64 was the proximity of the Johnsville NADC. The symbiotic relationship between the NADC, the research and development companies that supported the NADC, and the squadron played a key role in the rapid rise in VP-64's readiness. Many members of both VP-64 and VP-66 worked in the development companies on new ASW devices and tactics that were eventually incorporated into the P-3 series aircraft. In doing so, they brought their technical and tactical expertise to the squadron as flight officers and as senior petty officers and passed their knowledge along to their individual aircrews enabling the crews to successfully complete the individual, team, and crew exercises needed to achieve ALFA status.
CDR Fuller worked as a principal engineer at Pacer Systems Inc. when he became CO of the squadron. In addition to CDR Fuller, the following squadron members worked for Pacer Systems Inc. over the years while in the Naval Reserve and serving with VP-64:
Bill Demaio AWCM Jack Savage AWCM Bob Boyer AVCM
Pat Webb AWC Dan Plowman AWC Ron Pisechko AW1
Butch Wren AW1 Mike Brentlinger AW1 Dave Goble AW1
Brian Gale AW2 Eric Haas CAPT Dave Bennett CAPT
James Lillis CDR Vinnie Bellezza CAPT Mark Skolnik CDR
Bill Schmidt CDR Mike Egnotovich CAPT Ray Simeon CDR
Russ Allen CDR Jon Barkee CDR Bala Lemak LCDR
Gerry Wild LCDR Bob Shinskie LCDR Jack Flatley LT
Joe Pluto LT Dave Hough AWC Chuck Eddleman AWC
Also, RBC Inc. Was attached to development at Johnsville NADC and included the following who were members of VP-64:
Larry Staudmiester CAPT John Chick CAPT
Ken Stepanuk LT Henry Ozborne AT1
Mike Ferry AW1
Others who worked for the government at Warminster NADC who also contributed to the success of the squadron were AWCS Pete Woodside, LT Joe Camioni, and AWC Pete Richards.
In great part because of this symbiotic relationship, VP-64 became the preeminent Naval Reserve squadron in ASW and every other aspect, as indicated by the following:
As you can see, with this pool of talent, it was easy to understand why VP-64 achieved top ranking in readiness early and maintained it over the years, even after the NADC was moved to PAX River.
- In 1977, VP-64 was awarded its first Meritorious Unit Commendation, first for a Reserve squadron, for ASW operations while assigned to TG 84.3 at NAS Bermuda.
- In 1985/86, under CO Ken Barausky the squadron won the Noel Davis "Battle E" trophy, the AVCM Donald M. Neal Aircraft Maintenance Award, was nominated for the CNO Aviation Safety Award, and qualified all seat positions for 1985 / 1986, and finally, the ASW "Hook ‘em" Award..
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-64 History - 1973 Transition to the P-3A DIFAR Aircraft..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired email@example.com [17MAY2008]Circa 1972
In 1973, our Commanding Officer was CDR Ed Neuman. VP-64 was scheduled to begin transition to the P-3A DIFAR Orion in June 1973. During April, the squadron's twelve SP-2H aircraft disappeared from the parking ramp around Hanger 15 and in their place was a solitary P-3A "bounce bird" (a stripped-down version of the P-3A used exclusively for pilot and flight engineer training). For the final quarter of the fiscal year (at that time, it ran from 1 July until 30 June), we had just one aircraft and all most of us aircrewman could do is admire it. The flight crews (pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers) would be using it to re-qualify (if they had previously been qualified in the P-3A) or to learn how to fly this "high performance" aircraft if they had no previous experience in the P-3A.
With only one aircraft, most of the squadron members on flight orders were scrambling to get their two hours of flying so they could get their flight pay for the quarter. Some were resorting to the desperate measure of getting their flight time on helicopters. Some of the Crew 5 enlisted men (AD1 Dave Heron, AT1 Dave Lachman, AO2 Dan Mahr, AW2 Jim Armstrong, and AW2 Ed Yoder) got their flight time in a Marine CH-53 moving cargo to various stations.
At that time, my company (Sperry Corp.) sent me on assignment to Salt Lake City for 10 days. My workplace in SLC was at the Salt Lake City International Airport which was also the headquarters of the Utah Air National Guard. On a Saturday, my day off, I went to the Utah ANG operations and asked if there were any flights that I could catch to get my flight time in for the quarter. They said that they had a refueling mission by a KC-97 that was to refuel four F-105s going cross-country and to check with the mission commander, a LtCol. Jake Garn. Col. Garn agreed to let me go on the mission. It was an interesting trip, and I was in the back with the boom operator during the refueling. We logged 4.5 hours and LtCol. Garn signed my flight transmittal sheet. LtCol. Garn was a former USN P2V-5 Neptune pilot who transferred to the ANG. He was mayor of Salt Lake City at that time and became governor of Utah. Later, he was Senator Garn from Utah and an astronaut. Another story of a P2V sailor who made good.
NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania began making improvements to the Hanger 15 area to accommodate the larger aircraft. Parking spots along the taxi way between the east end of the old cross runway (6-24) and the Hanger 15 were enlarged and reconfigured. Eight spots were on the east side of the taxi way were assigned to VP-64 and seven spots on the west side were assigned to VP-66. A parking area was also created on the south side of the old cross runway (6-24), east of the main runway, that could park another seven aircraft as needed. There was also a spot just outside the Hanger 15 doors for each squadron.
As the P-3As were delivered to the squadron, a problem soon became apparent. In 1973, the overhead timbers in Hanger 15 cracked and a heavy-timbered support system was installed to ensure that the roof was safe. Hanger 15, as big as it seemed, could not easily accommodate the new aircraft. The vertical stabilizer (tail) was too tall to allow access to the hanger. Also, the MAD boom projection also presented a problem. Both problems were solved with a little creativity by the maintenance department. The P-3A could be brought into the hanger if the nosewheel was jacked up slightly to lower the vertical stabilizer. Also, if the aircraft was brought in on an angle, the MAD boom would just fit into the hanger and the door closed. Removing the aircraft quickly in an emergency would have presented some problems, though. Both VP-64 and "brand X" would have to live with this inconvenience until a new hanger (Hanger 175) could be built and that wouldn't be until 1977.
For the transition, our CO CDR Neuman developed a three-stage approach. Initially, emphasis would be placed on getting the flight crews (PPCs, 2Ps, FE and Observers) trained and qualified. Simultaneously, using the Naval Air Reserve Detachment (NARDET) as a starting point, the sensor operators and other aircrewmen would receive a concentrated and detailed introduction to the aircraft systems during a two-week ACDUTRA period; this would be followed by a systematic training regime using the facilities available on the NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania (RESASWTAC) and an internal squadron training program conducted by senior petty officers with experience in the devices, tactics, and aircraft. The third phase was to qualify support personnel in the procedures necessary to maintain the aircraft and its systems. The task was daunting, but we had an excellent plan and a lot of enthusiasm (not to mention a large number of personnel with P-3A experience) and began our transition with few qualms.
The transition to the P-3A DIFAR aircraft for most SAR members of VP-64 began in June, 1973 with the squadron cruising at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. All the aircrewmen embarked on an intensive two-week program to learn the aircraft and its systems. The transition from a piston-driven aircraft to a turbojet (propjet) aircraft seemed difficult to some of us. A few of the older P2V flight plane captains like TARs Ed Schupp, and Norm Hazelet and SARs Mike Hayes, Russ Arbuckle, and Dave Heron merely looked it as just another aircraft (and maybe a more-forgiving one at that). Many of us were contemplating how we could get this great "liberty wagon" to transport us to distant and exotic places. Other reserve squadrons (VP-62, VP-68, and VP-91) had already made the transition successfully to the P-3A DIFAR and we were confident we could do so too.
The transition team was the NARDET at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The instructors kept using the terms like "high performance" and "state of the art platform" to pump us up for the enormous amount of information we would have to digest in the two short weeks we would be at NAS 'PAX' River, Maryland. The acoustic operators (SS-1 and SS-2) completed a course called "P-3A/B Retrofit DIFAR AQA-7 (V)". This was the device that gave the US Maritime Patrol forces the edge over the Soviet Union's submarine forces during the late 1960s The regular Navy VP squadrons were being equipped with P-3Cs and the integrated A-New System that were just coming off the Lockheed assembly lines. We would be getting state-of-the-art equipment; the AQA-7 was a generational leap over the AQA-4.
The AQA-7 combined integrated digital signal processing with an airborne computer to provide delayed, time-compressed signals. This allowed detection of targets whose sound levels were below the ambient noise levels of the ocean. New, directional sonobuoys permitted tracking of submarines from high altitudes so that the target would not know that they were being tracked. All these advantages and the roomier platform of the P-3A made it a much more comfortable and satisfying environment in which to work.
For the acoustic operators, the intensive two-week program comprised 102 hours of training under the able instructors AW1 Stewart and AW1 Jim Cordray that challenged our capabilities to the utmost. As a final exam, the SS-1 and SS-2 operators were given a weapons system trainer exercise (final test) that involved three Soviet submarines simultaneously (a Foxtrot diesel-electric, a Echo class type II SSGN, and a Yankee class type III SSBN). We had to locate, track, localize, achieve attack criteria for all three of them concurrently. It required a great deal of dexterity and "knobology" to stay ahead of the three separate threats. After the three-hour plus test was over, we were exhausted both mentally and physically. At one point, one submarine was brought directly into an occlusion zone under a sonobuoy where it stopped; this momentarily confused almost everyone. After the last class, the acoustic operators (AWC Larry Robideau, AW1 Bill Restle, AW2 Jim McIlvain, AW3 John Harrell, and two others) got a couple of cases of beer and debriefed the cruise in AW1 Jim Cordray's trailer at the NAS campground. Jim Cordray and AW1 Stewart reminded us that we had just taken the first steps on a journey that would require us to continually train and study to master our acoustic equipment.
After VP-64 acquired the P-3A DIFAR, the entire aircrew structure changed. Many of the young Lieutenants that joined the squadron over the past few years had flown in the P-3s. They had retrogressed in the Reserve program qualifying in the SP-2Hs. They now had the opportunity to re-qualify in the P-3As. This resulted in radical crew changes. PPCs in the SP-2Hs became 2Ps in the P-3As and junior Lieutenants with previous P-3A experience quickly regained their skills with the new aircraft. One of the aspects that the enlisted crewmen found was that there were two acoustic sensor seats in the P-3A DIFAR and only one non-acoustic seat; this was the reverse of the SP-2H. This was because in the P-3A DIFAR, they had combined several non-acoustic seat functions and had increased the acoustic sensor capabilities fourfold as compared to the SP-2H; the SP-2H operator could monitor 4 lofar channels while the P-3A DIFAR two operators could monitor 16 lofar channels.
The SP-2H radiomen also made the transition to the P-3A communicators (COM) seat at PAX River. ATC Clyde McFee, AX2 Jake Kriebel, ATC John McMullen, AT1 Walt Eife, AT1 Dave Lachman, AE1 Pederson, AX3 Joe Brown, AT2 John Mutch, ATC Bob Williams, and all the others spend their two-week ACDUTRA learning their equipment and learning how to use a keyboard and terminal. Also, they were introduced to the crypto equipment and the security procedures that accompany its use. They all participated in a 5-hour flight to familiarize themselves with the location of their "black boxes" and the power distribution and circuit breaker locations.
At some point during the transition at PAX River, every aircrewman took part in a 5-hour P-3A familiarization flight. With the comfortable interior and ergonomics of our new equipment, we easily became firm believers in the new aircraft and we were left with only nostalgia for the ancient and venerable P-2 Neptune series in which we had logged so many hours.
The following list of my new crew, Crew 6 indicates the position compared to the SP-2H:
P-3A DIFAR Crew 6 SP-2H Neptune Seats
PPC LT Gareffa PPC
2P LT Spero 2P
3P LT Lynch -
NAV LT Neve NAV
TC LT DiLullo TC
FE AD1 Ed Schupp PC
FCO AT1 Walt Eife COM
SS-1* AWC Larry Robideau Jezebel*
SS-2* AW1 Bill Restle -
SS-3**AW2 Joe Dolan Jul/ECM**
ORD AO1 Pete McCaughley ORD -
* Acoustic Operators
** Non-Acoustic Operators
The long transition to the P-3A DIFAR had only just begun. It would be almost two years before the majority of aircrews were trained up and had completed the 38 individual, team, and crew exercises that would earn them the coveted ALFA status. For Crew 6, it culminated in a successful TORPEX when we flew to NAS Jacksonville, Florida, loaded a Mark 46 torpedo (with a dummy warhead) and flew down to the Bahamas to the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) range off Andros Island. We detected, tracked, and successfully attacked a Los Angeles class SSN (using an augmentor that simulated a Soviet SSBN) in the test range. We had achieved ALFA status; we were among the best. Our reward?...A four-day trip to Hawaii which we scheduled over the Fourth of July holiday in 1976, the 200th birthday of the US.
A BIT OF HISTORY: Photo that AT1 Walt Eife "...VP-64 1972 - Soviet Kresta - Class Guided Missile Cruiser on Patrol in the Mediterranean Sea..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [04DEC2006]
Photo taken From SP-2H Neptune Port-Aft Observation Station by Crew 13 During a Reconnaissance Flight out of NS Rota, Spain in May, 1972. At that time, Crew 13 consisted of:
PPC LT Chuck Leshe Radio AT1 Walt Eife
2P LT Quackenbush Jez AW1 Bill Restle
NAV LCDR Redmond Julie AE3 Reiley
TACCO LT Lou Dilullo Mad AE3 Bob Kuna
FPC AMS1 Van Frassen Ord AO1 Pete McCaughleyf
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-64 History - Deployment to NS Rota, Spain in May of 1972..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired email@example.com [30OCT2006]
Patrol Squadron 64 deployed to NS Rota, Spain under Commanding Officer CDR Ed Neuman in an unusual manner in 1972. Because of the problems that occurred during the RESFORONS first deployment in 1971, planning for the 1972 deployments involved an innovation that would boost the actual time that the squadrons were at deployment site by about 20 percent over the 1971 deployment. In the 1971 deployment, the squadrons spent a minimum of three days to fly their SP2Hs to NS Rota, Spain. To solve this problem, plans were made for each squadron to be deployed from May through October would provide one SP2H aircraft to be pre-positioned at NS Rota, Spain for the duration of the RESFORNS deployments. Squadrons scheduled for deployment were:
Side Number Squadron Month
LU VP-64 Condors May
LX VP-90 Lions June
LZ VP-94 Crawfishers July
PL VP-67 Golden Hawks August
PG VP-65 Tridents September
LV VP-66 Flying Boxcars* October
* Later known as the Liberty Bells
A maintenance cadre would be stationed at NS Rota, Spain for the duration of the reserve force deployment to service the aircraft, along with the maintenance personnel of the individual squadrons as they were deployed with their units. This provided a continuity in the maintenance program and also resulted in an improvement in the supply chain when obtaining spare parts for the SP2H aircraft.
Deploying squadron personnel would be brought in either by VR squadrons, charter flights, or commercial flights - whichever was the most efficient at the time. This would make air crews available for assignment when they initially arrive, after a familiarization briefing.
For VP-64, the first reserve squadron to be deployed in 1972, the plan was to send the first echelon via commercial transportation as follows:
1. Motor coach (three buses) to Kennedy International Airport, NY.
2. PanAm Airways to Malaga, Spain via Boeing 747.
3. Motor coach (three buses) to NS Rota, Spain.
Our military reserve ID cards (the red ones) served as our passports for the trip. The transport manifests documented each person on each leg of the trip. Some of the more resourceful aircrewmen brought along coolers (jugs) with an assortment of mixed drinks but most of these were exhausted before the first bus reached Kennedy International Airport.
We left NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania in the late morning and arrived at Kennedy International after about a 2 ½ hour ride; we were deposited outside the PanAm overseas terminal. As we exited the buses, we were told the gate and the time of the PanAm 747 departure, which was in the late afternoon. The number and variety of bars in the PanAm terminal was a concern because of the difficulty it might cause in keeping the "troops" together and getting them aboard the 747.
We boarded the PanAm 747 in the late afternoon. The flight would take about 7 hours and we would cross five time zones (Zulu plus 5 hours to Zulu ) and arrive in Malaga in the morning about 7 AM. When we arrived in Malaga, we cleared customs and immigration as a group and were escorted to three buses chartered to take us to NS Rota, Spain. After we loaded our gear and held muster, we were driven westward along the "Costa Del Sol" through the resorts of Torremolinos, Marbella, Estepona, and to Algeciras. After leaving Algeciras, we traveled overland to Puerto de Santa Maria and then NS Rota, Spain. It was about a 3 ½ hour trip and we made one stop west of Marbella.
We checked into the same barracks that we had used in 1971 and had the same nose docks for the maintenance departments. Along the parking ramp were six SP2H aircraft with the tail codes of the squadrons that were to cruise there in 1972. There were four of the aircraft that had the side numbers 13, including the one that VP-64 had contributed to the pool. It didn't make for any confusion because we naturally referred to the tail code along with the side numbers when referencing an aircraft, or in some cases, we referred to the Buno. We wondered what the Soviet ships would make out of several "No. 13s" tracking them sequentially over a long period of time.
The next day, we attended a cruise briefing in the base theater the same as we did in 1971. It was just a refresher for most of us, but there were a few new crew members and a few who didn't make the 1971 cruise. Among the new items briefed were the new rules of engagement for surveillance missions involving Soviet warships and merchantmen. Evidently, some previous missions had overflown the targets at low altitudes, flew close along the sides, cut across their bows, and even opened bomb bay doors on overflights. I don't know how much of this was truth or fiction, but the new rules of engagement for us in 1972 provided minimum standoff distances while rigging and photographing the targets and for overflights (top down photos).
We were to be tasked with two missions daily to fulfill ASW missions for CTG-84.3 (Commander Task Group 84.3 ASW Mediterranean) and reconnaissance and surveillance missions for CTF-67 (Commander Task Force 67 Sixth Fleet) requirements; these would be primarily maritime surveillance flights. Other flights would be scheduled for the crews to complete exercises and improve their readiness standing. At this time, the Soviet Union was increasing their presence in the Mediterranean Sea, having friendly relations with Libya and Egypt and providing military armaments to those nations.
One of the tactics used by the Soviet Union to move submarines into the Mediterranean was to mask the submarines with other vessels acoustic signatures to make it more difficult for US ASW forces find and track the submarines. The narrow Strait of Gibralter allowed US forces to screen vessels entering the Mediterranean Sea.
LU-13 Photo Courtesy of AT1 Dave Lachman
LU-13, VP-64's Contribution to the Four 1972 NS Rota, Spain Deployment No. 13 Side Numbers.
Crew 5 Members - AW2 Jim Armstrong, AW2 Fred Lemire, ADJ2 Dave Heron, and AT1 Dave Lachman.
Crew 5, at that time, consisted of the following:
PPC LCDR Oescheslin JEZ AW2 Fred Lemire
2P LT Cogan JUL AW2 Ed Yoder
3P LT Royal FCO AT1 Dave Lachman
NAV LT Dunaske MAD AE2 Jim Armstrong
TAC LCDR Plotts ORD AO2 Danny Mahr
FPC ADJ2 Dave Heron
Crew 5 Photo Courtesy of AT1 Dave Lachman
Crew 5 Members AW2 Jim Armstrong, AW2 Fred Lemire, ADJ2 Dave Heron, and AT1 Dave Lachman in NS Rota, Spain 1972.
During this cruise, the average aircrew ended up with between 60 and 80 flight hours. This was below what we usually recorded for a 2-week cruise (70 to 100 hours) because we didn't log the transit time between NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania and NS Rota, Spain. The 1972 cruise to NS Rota, Spain was the last deployment by VP-64 with the SP2H Neptune aircraft. VP-64 was scheduled to transition to the P-3A DIFAR aircraft in June 1973 at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. We did continue to train and maintain our proficiency in the SP2H, passing our annual NATOPS checks and our individual seat checks.
On our return from NS Rota, Spain, on a charter flight, Customs officials were at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania to check us through the process and make our return easier. The aircraft that we provided in the deployment pool, side number LU 13, would not be returned to the squadron until October when VP-66 completed their 1972 cruise.
In 1972, the Operations department welcomed TARs AW1 Joe Brinkley, AW2 Paul Hines, and AW2 C.D. McGuire who helped us through the NATOPs qualifications for 1972. AW2 McGuire had come from VP-62 in NAS Jacksonville, Florida which had just completed its transition to the P-3A DIFAR; He would be with us as we (VP-64) were scheduled to start our transition to the P-3A DIFAR in 1973.
A VP-64 SP2H Aircraft With Crew 11 Finishing Their Pre-Taxi Check List Prior to a Flight in the Spring of 1972 at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
Flight Plane Captain ADRC Mike Hayes in the Foreground Photo Courtesy of AO1 Jeff Doherty
Crew 11 at that time consisted of the following:
PPC LT Bud Bauder JEZ AW1 Don House
2P LCDR Coleman JUL AT2 Kerner
NAV LT Jannik FCO AX3 Jake Kriebel
TAC LCDR White MAD AMS2 Willie Beier
FPC ADRC Mike Hayes ORD AO3 Jeff Doherty
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Joint Exercise - Page 18 - Naval Aviation News - July 1972..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1972/jul72.pdf [27SEP2004]
Circa 1971 - 1995
A BIT OF HISTORY: "..Navy Squadrons - Squadron Deployments.." WebSite: GoNavy.com http://www.gonavy.jp/ [27NOV2011]
Patrol Squadron SIXTY-FOUR (1971 - 1995) 17KB
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania Welcome Aboard 1971 Brochure - Patrol Squadron 64 Page 16-17, 2007..." [05SEP2007]
PATRON SIX FOUR was established in November 1970 under the new Naval Air Reserve Force concept. The primary mission of the command is to continually improve training and readiness through tactical flights and scheduled ground training in anti-submarine warfare. In the event of mobilization in a national emergency, the command will be available for immediate employment as an aviation squadron. Under the 2-2-12-3 organizational concept, PATRON SIX FOUR reports directly to the Chief of Naval Operations via Commander Fleet Air Reserve Wing Atlantic and Commander Naval Air Reserve Force.
PATRON SIX FOUR's manpower allowance has a unique and distinct combination of active duty and selected air reserve officer and enlisted personnel to perform the mission of the squadron. The commanding officer and executive officer billets are filled by selected air reserve officers with an active duty officer-in-charge who administrates the squadron as a whole in the absence of the commanding officer and executive officer. The squadron has three departments Administration, Aircraft Maintenance and Operations.
The Administration Department is responsible for the overall administration and personnel needs of the squadron. The Aircraft Maintenance Department is responsible for the operational readiness and availability of the 12 SP-2H ASW aircraft assigned to the squadron. The Operations Department is responsible for the coordination and scheduling of the training of squadron personnel in order to maintain the highest practicable degree of readiness.
PATRON SIX FOUR is home-based at the Naval Air Station, Willow Grove, Pa. It is located on the west side of Hangar 15 south of the Main Gate.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-64 History - 1971- Deployment to NS Rota Spain..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [06OCT2006]
In early 1971, VP-64 was preparing for a May deployment to NS Rota, Spain. At this time, our CO was CDR J. W. Danaher and our XO was CDR Alecxih. It was less than 6 months since the squadron was established and the various departments were still adjusting to their new roles in their half of Hanger 15 at the south end of NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. VP-66 occupied the other half of Hanger 15. Among the other RESPATWING squadrons scheduled to be deployed to NS Rota, Spain from May through November 1971 that flew SP-2H aircraft were:
Side Number Squadron Base
LU VP-64 Condors NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
LV VP-66 Flying Boxcars* NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
PG VP-65 Tridents NAS Point Mugu, California
PL VP-67 Golden Hawks NAS Whidbey Island, Washington
LY VP-92 Minutemen NAS South Weymouth, Massachusetts
LZ VP-94 Crawfishers NAS New Orleans, Louisiana
* Later known as the Liberty Bells
The overseas deployment for the Condors was a difficult effort. VP-64 flew the SP-2H (an old aircraft that was out of the inventory of the regular Navy) that had a cruising speed of 180 knots. The longest over-water flights that we ever made were to NS Roosevelt Roads, PR which took about 8 ½ hours. The Loran navigation system was obsolete and difficult to use; it also was not very effective with many areas of weak signal coverage. Our navigators used to take sun and star shots from the bubble dome over their station using a sextant to double-check our posits. MacDill used to keep our safety-of-flight status on those trips. Going across the "pond" would be the longest over-water flight for most of the members of our squadron.
The plan was to take six SP-2H aircraft and aircrews in the first echelon with additional personnel and spare parts that we could carry. The remainder of the squadron would be transported in C-118s of VR-52 who would arrive in advance of the squadron aircraft and aircrews. SP-2H flights to NS Rota, Spain would be made in three legs. They were NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania to RCAF Greenwood, NS; RCAF Greenwood, NS to NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal; NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal to NS Rota, Spain. Crews chosen to take the SP-2Hs to Spain were Crews 1, 5, 7, 10, 11, and 13, Other aircrews in the second echelon would fly over to NS Rota, Spain with the VR-52 C-118 transport aircraft and, after their two-week deployment, would fly the six aircraft back to NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
Support at NS Rota, Spain for VP-64 and the SP-2H aircraft was almost nonexistent. VP-5 and VP-11 would be the Patron Rota squadrons during RESPATWINGS deployment. At that time, VP-5 flew the P-3A and VP-11 flew the P-3B DIFAR aircraft. The resident reconnaissance, VQ-2 flew several aircraft types, including the EP-3A, a modification of the P-3A. The reserve squadrons could expect little support because the NS Rota, Spain maintenance system did not have any of the parts we were likely to need in their inventory. VP-64 would have to depend on the spare parts we brought along with us and on the ability of VR-52 to deliver parts as needed. As a last (but forbidden) resort, we could create a downed aircraft as a spare-parts locker (hanger queen) until our deployment was over and we returned to the US.
The deployment began in the early afternoon of 1 May 1971 when our six SP-2Hs departed NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania and landed at RCAF Greenwood, NS. On the approximately 3-hour flight, equipment checks detected many problems the communications gear and other electronic systems. Immediately after landing, all the "trons" (ATs and AXs) among the air crews were mustered under AT1 Dave Lachman and AT1 Walt Eife to service the aircraft before the next leg of the trip. RCAF Greenwood did not have any aircraft similar to ours so the maintenance performed did not involve switching "black boxes" The maintenance personnel of the resident RCAF squadron opened their shops to us and helped us out as best they could. A great deal of corrosion was found among the electrical connections to the navigation equipment and communications gear. The equipment was disconnected, dismounted, and the connections thoroughly cleaned. After a late-night effort by the "trons", all the aircraft were prepared for the second leg of the trip to NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal.
We departed RCAF Greenwood the next morning, singly, with our communications gear working properly. Loring AFB was maintaining our safety-of-flight and our posit, estimated way-point reports were made to them. Our departure time was such that we would get to NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal in the early hours of the morning. It wold be about a 12 hour great-circle route and we would lose two hours crossing time zones. (RCAF Greenwood was on Atlantic Time (Zulu - 3) and NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal was Zulu - 1). The crossing to NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal was uneventful with all aircraft arriving safely. One aircraft had an engine problem that had to be fixed before they continued on to NS Rota, Spain. All the aircrews (except the "mechs" ) retired to the club where drinks flowed freely even though it was 3 O'clock in the morning local time. The mechs worked on the engine of the down SP-2H to prepare it for final leg of trip after a RON.
The next day, five of the six SP-2Hs were able to depart NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal for NS Rota, Spain. The sixth aircraft was left at NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal with a crew and maintenance personnel to fix the engine. The down aircraft wouldn't make NS Rota, Spain until two days later after repairs were made. The five SP-2Hs that did depart on time made the 5 ½ hour uneventful flight during which the aircraft were flying singly, but in close proximity to each other. As we approached NS Rota, Spain, several of the aircraft decided to fly in formation over the base and peel off for landing in a show of "airmanship". I don't know if anyone in the resident squadrons at NS Rota, Spain were impressed, but I heard that a diplomatic "Faux Pas" was committed because a flight of more than one aircraft was considered a "show of force" and should have occurred only after permission was obtained. Permission was not obtained, so the blunder caused us embarrassment before we had landed and even begun our deployment.
We landed, and ground support personnel who flew over on VR-52 C-118 aircraft were there to park us and help us unload our gear. Master Chief Mummert, who was part of the advance party, and Senior Chief Muckle had secured us a barracks near the galley and not far from the flight line for the VP-64 personnel. The air crews were given the upper deck with one crew to each cubical while the "ground pounders" had the bottom deck. The squadron was assigned two nose dock hangers (structures that protected the nose and engines when maintenance was performed) and storage and maintenance spaces in the nose docks. The maintenance facilities were a lot better than the "Tent City" we worked out of when we were deployed to NS Roosevelt Roads, PR in the 60s. The one drawback of the quarters was the noise from engine testing (both SP-2H recips and P-3 jetprop engine run ups) that the night check crews performed into the late hours of the night. However, we did get used to that.
The next morning, all the VP-64 personnel attended a briefing in the movie theater on the base. They explained what as expected of us, the areas where we would operate, the kind of missions we would be tasked with by Tactical Support Center Rota (TSC Rota). One good feature of operating out of Rota was that it would not take long to get to stations. Most of our operating areas were about an hour away and we could spend at least 10 hours on station. This was quite a contrast to deployments where it would involve transit times of up to six hours to and from an assigned station further out in the Atlantic.
Most of our missions were maritime reconnaissance flights because of the nature of our capabilities. Compared to the currently deployed VP forces (they were equipped with P-3A/B DIFAR aircraft), they were much better equipped to conduct most ASW flights (we were capable of working conventional Diesel Direct drive and Diesel Electric drive submarines like the Whiskey, Juliet, Zulu, and Foxtrot classes). This comparison makes it obvious:
Feature SP-2H P-3A/B DIFAR
Acoustic Operator Stations 1 2
Gram Recording Displays 4 8
CRT Displays 0 8
Sonobouys Monitored 4 16
Directional Lofar Capability No Yes
Signal Integration Time 0 20 Minutes Max.
Signal Frequency Range 10 to 250 Hz. 10 to 2400 Hz.
Tape Recording Channels 2 24
We also had a brief "primmer" on the facilities of the base and the town of Rota. We were also told of the La Guardia Civil (the guys with the funny hats and the submachine guns); We were told that they, singularly, had the power to summarily arrest, try, convict, and punish. General Franco, "El Jeffe" of Spain, was the" man" and he tolerated no miscreants.
The day after our arrival, the first VP-64 flight schedule was posted in the squadron spaces and in the barracks. The ambitious schedule over the deployment would require two sorties per day to satisfy Sixth Fleet (CTF-67) requirements. We would also conduct additional test flights and training missions on a daily basis.
We went to the TSC for our mission briefs. The TSC was in a secure, fenced-in area just outside our nose dock facilities. The motto of TSC Rota was "Gatekeepers of the Med" because of its vital location. It was "point man" in the Sixth Fleet's Mediterranean patrol, tracking the increasing deployments of Soviet surface and submarine units into the area from their Northern Fleet and Baltic Sea bases. Later, in 1974, a Anti Submarine Warfare Operations Center (ASWOC) was added to TSC Rota. This computerized command and control complex improved the abilities of detecting and tracking submarines in the difficult Mediterranean environment.
While operating out of NS Rota, Spain, we learned that the Mediterranean Sea was just a general description of one of our operating areas. It included many other seas within it, including the Alboran Sea, the Tyrrenian Sea, the Adriatic Sea, the Ligurian Sea, among others. We wold be operating in the Mediterranean Sea out to about 10 degrees East Latitude (Sardinia) and the eastern Atlantic Ocean, out to about 15 degrees West Latitude off the coasts of Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. Patron Sigonella (NAS Sigonella, Italy) had responsibility for the Mediterranean Sea east of Sardinia. In the early and mid 1970s, it was a very busy time for CTF-67 with many Soviet warships and submarines deployed in the area.
One typical mission (by Crew 7) was a surface surveillance flight in the Alboran Sea, a narrow body of water on the eastern approaches to the Strait of Gibraltar. During this mission, we discovered one of the peculiarities of operating in the litoral environments within and close to a nation's territorial waters. Our mission brief said we were to depart NS Rota, Spain in the early morning and climb out over the Gulf of Cadiz to about 8000 feet in a southwesterly direction. Once clear of Cadiz, we would fly south-southeast to the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar (referred to as the STROG by the local sailors). At this point, we would turn east and fly down the middle of the strait with the sun in our 12 O'clock position maintaining our altitude.
The strait is only about 8 miles wide at its narrowest point, and any deviation would put us in either Morocco's territorial waters (to the south) or Spain and Gibraltar (to the north). Under the rules of engagement, we were not allowed to conduct any operations within the strait and had to maintain our altitude. It was a beautiful view with the brown hills and the Riff Mountains of Morocco on the starboard and green hills of Spain and the impressive Rock of Gibraltar on our port side. Surface traffic in the strait was very heavy and we made a special note of traffic heading eastward into the Alboran Sea (Mediterranean) where we would be patrolling for the next 10 hours or so.
After traveling about 15 minutes, we cleared the strait and entered our patrol area. We made a rapid, spiral descent to an altitude of about 1000 feet and began our surface surveillance. We used our APS-20 B/E radar to create a surface plot of all the ships in the area. The Alboran Sea was like the open end of a funnel with all the west-bound traffic channeled in toward the Strait of Gibraltar and all the east-bound traffic fanning out from the strait. We spent the rest of our on-station time shuttling back and forth among our radar contacts looking for targets of interest (Soviet warships or Soviet Block merchant shipping west-bound, possibly heading for Cuba or points in southwest Africa). It was a very busy time for our Navigator and Tacco. Overall, we checked out more than 30 vessels during the mission and found only one Soviet merchantman which we photographed and rigged.
When we left station and returned to NS Rota, Spain, we had logged nearly 12 hours of flight time. We were very light and the PPC and 2P were discussing how short a distance it would take us to land. So, they decided to land, reverse props, and turn on the first taxi way entrance; I don't know the distance, but it seemed to be very short. As I remember, the runway at NS Rota, Spain was oriented 28-10 and 12,000 feet long, and one end was just over a little rise and not in view of the tower. We landed, turned onto the taxiway at the first turn off; the tower called us to find out where we had gone and at that point, we just came over the rise on the taxi way and were taxiing slowly up to our ramp.
One of the highlights of the cruise was a visit to NS Rota, Spain by U.S. Under Secretary of Defense David Packer. One of our crews(Crew 10) landed in the afternoon after a long flight (about 8 hours) and taxied to a parking spot on the ramp; They were met by the VP-64 OD. He informed them that they were to stand by the aircraft after the post flight and before debriefing. It seemed that Deputy Secretary David Packer (former CEO of Hewlett-Packard) was on a tour of U.S. Military installations in Europe and was having lunch with the Base Commander and Commander, Task Group 84.3 (CTG-84.3). After a late lunch, they would hold an inspection on the flight line of one crew from each squadron (the current Patrol Squadron VP-5, the resident reconnaissance squadron VQ-2, and the currently-deployed reserve squadron VP-64 in front of their aircraft. All the other aircrews of VP-64 were scattered around the base in training classes, on liberty, or otherwise not available as a crew. This crew was it; as smelly and as bad as they looked (and you can imagine what a hot, 8-hour plus flight could do to a body in the SP-2H), they tried to look as military as possible. We were not used to such attention.
Deputy Secretary Packard and the other dignitaries would have to be satisfied. The inspection entourage (including the Naval Base Commander and CTG-84.3) walked the ramp for the inspection. Deputy Secretary Packard shook hands with every one of the aircrewmen and thanked them for their service. CTG-84.3 told the Deputy Secretary that we would be going back stateside the following week as part of the reserve squadron rotations. VP-64's crew did stand out from the VP-5 and VQ-2 aircrews; they were older than the regular Navy aircrewmen and our aircraft was a generation behind.
The cruise ended up being successful and we got a lot of flight time; however, a lot of that time was in transit to NS Rota, Spain. Our method of deployment needed to be improved. A more efficient way of getting SP-2H aircraft and crews to a deployment site would have to be found to make the best use of our 30-day active duty for training (ACDUTRA).
The following is a crew list for VP-64 dated 2 October 1971 (the cruise was in May 1971). This crew list is very close to those who made the deployment in May 1971.
On 13 November 1971, CDR Ed Neuman assumed command of VP-64. Shortly after, he modified the squadron wing assignments and the following personnel were assigned to Wing A (and, odd-numbered crews 1 through 13) in this directive.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Selected Air Reserve - Page 32 to 33 - Naval Aviation News - January 1971..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1970s/1971/jan71.pdf [17SEP2004]
Circa 1970 - 1978
A BIT OF HISTORY: " CD-ROM: Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons Vol. 2 Stock No. 008-046-00195-2 The History of VP, VPB, VP(HL), and VP(AM) Naval Historical Center, Department Of The Navy, Washington, D. C...." [16JUN2000]Circa 1970
CHAPTER 3 Patrol Squadron (VP) Histories VP-64 168KB
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Brief history of VP-64 for 1970. I have included two crew pictures (they are already in the crew history section of VP-64) to illustrate the change in attitude before VP-64 and after it was formed. I have also included a list of the SARs assigned to the squadron at the start (plank owners)..." Contributed by ROBIDEAU, AWCS Larry Retired email@example.com [19SEP2006]Modification of inactive duty for training orders...
On 1 November 1970, VP-64 was established at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, using selected personnel from VP-66W-1, VP-66W-2, and VP-66W-3 and from three fleet support units (VP-21W-4, VP-26W-5, and VP-23W-6) that were already at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The squadron consisted of 323 enlisted men and 60 officers. There were 249 enlisted Selected Air Reserves (SARs) and 74 enlisted Training and Administration of Reserves (TARs). The TARs were full-time active duty reservists. There were 14 aircrews formed of which 12 were SARs and 2 were TAR personnel only. This flexible organization allowed the squadron to conduct normal operations (training, test flights, etc.) during the week when there were usually no drilling SARs on duty.
The newly-created, structured, squadrons (VP-64 and VP-66, which was established at the same time as VP-64) were headquartered in Hanger 15 which was located at the south end of the field. Hanger 15 was a large wooden structure with doors that were operated manually at the East and West end of the hanger. It had maintenance and administration spaces located in two-deck structures at the other two sides of the hanger. Roof supports divided the hanger into two bays; each bay could accommodate two P2Vs (SP-2Hs) comfortably. VP-64 was assigned the spaces and hanger bay on the north side of the hanger while VP-66 was assigned the spaces and hanger bay on the south side of the hanger. VP-66 was formed using personnel from similar support units from NAS New York, New York (NAS Floyd Bennett Field, New York), which had been relocated to NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. The members of VP-64 soon referred to VP-66 as "Brand X" and a friendly rivalry developed between the two units across Hanger 15 and years later, along side each other in newly built Hanger 175 where they both moved in 1977.
VP-64 was assigned twelve SP-2H (P2V-7) aircraft and the tail designation of LU (Lima Uniform). The squadron painted the LU on the tail slightly offset as an indication of their individuality. VP-64 and VP-66 divided the parking spots on the ramp for their 24 aircraft in a way that was equitable for each squadron (distance to maintenance, etc.). Some of the parking spots were on the old cross runway (6-24) that was no longer used. Thus began the first time that VP-64 functioned as a squadron(comparable to fleet squadrons) with the department heads assuming all maintenance, training, operations, administrative, and safety duties of a regular squadron. (Previously, NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania had provided the aircraft and much of the flight training, maintenance support, etc.)
The squadron was divided into two wings for drill purposes. Wing A included the odd-numbered aircrews and was under the Commanding Officer, CDR J. W. Danaher. They drilled on the first weekend of the month. Wing B included the even-numbered aircrews and was under the Executive Officer, CDR Alecxih. They drilled on the third weekend of the month.Aircrew members were given an additional 48 drills to maintain their proficiency. These crews came in on off-weekends to perform these extra drills for flight training missions, weapons system trainer (WST) periods and similar exercises.
The aircrews, who had been flying together for many years in VP-66W-1, VP-66W-2, and VP-66W-3 retained many of their original members during the transition to VP-64; however, there were a few a new officers assigned to the crews My old crew, VP-66W-3, Crew 3 became VP-64, Crew 7, which was typical of the transition, consisted of:
VP-64 Crew 7 VP-66W-3 Crew 3
PPC LCDR McManus PPC CDR Bill Oehrle
2P LT Bailey 2P LT Ziercecki
NAV LT Guerin NAV LT Hayes
JEZ AW3 Jim McIlvain Jez AXC Larry Robideau
Julie AW3 Ron Smith Julie ATR3 Preston Moyer
MAD AE2 Andy Nazak MAD AE2 Andy Nazak
ORD AO3 Bob Maywhort Ord AO1 Joe Hughes
PC AMS2 Dave Hughes PC ADR2 Sam McNulty
Radio ATC Clyde McFee Radio ATC Clyde McFee
A whole new attitude seemed to invest members of VP-64. New issues of flight gear were distributed to almost all fight crews. Green Nomex flight suits replaced the orange and tan ones. A view of crew photographs previous squadrons (VP-66W-1, VP-66W-2, and W-3) reveal a disparity of flight equipment including a variety of helmets, flight suits, and flight jackets. Equipment such as flight equipment bags and helmet bags were unavailable to aircrewmen until the creation of VP-64. Pictures of those earlier crews appeared to be a disorganized scramble while later VP-64 crew photographs display a marked improvement in military bearing and appearance. No longer were the reserves being treated like an orphan; the coffers were opened and many aircrewmen even got a leather flight jackets.
VP-66W-3 Crew 3 VP-66W-3 Crew 3 - Late 1960s Note the Assortment of Flight Suits
VP-64 Crew 6 VP-64 Crew 6 - Middle 1970s Note the Uniformity in Appearance
The training routine continued in a manner similar to that which was in effect for VP-66W-1, VP-66W-2, and VP-66W-3. This included night LIGHTEX exercises to Tangier Island, in Virginia, ROCKETEX exercises, JEZEX exercises, MADEX exercises, SNIFFEX exercises, and ship rigging and photographing missions were conducted in the operating areas (warning areas) off the New Jersey coast. The "roof top" facility at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania was a radio station that broadcast simulated ASW missions to aircraft orbiting over the NAS; these missions aided team coordination in solving ASW problems. There were Weapons System Trainers located behind RESASWTAC where tactical crews and flight crews could conduct simulated ASW exercises including search, localization, tracking, and attack phases. Another training resource available to the squadron were the OP-5 (80 hours) and OP-11 (40 hours - refresher) courses that RESASWTAC made available for squadron sensor operators.
Roof-top flights were generally started about 1630 hours and continued to about 2000 hours on Saturday nights. The flight crews then logged several night landings doing touch-and-go landings and finishing about 2100 hours. There were also evening flights with minimum crews to give flight crews night landings and other routines so they could maintain their currency. This made some enlisted aircrewmen late for the Saturday night muster at the enlisted club. We always had a pitcher of beer ready for them after they landed.
Operations in the warning areas off New Jersey became a standard routine. We would leave NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, proceed to Sea Isle, NJ, and go "feet wet" on the 135 radial out of Sea Isle to the operating area. When we operated outside the CONUS Air Defense Zone (ADZ), we had to enter at the correct point or we would be intercepted by USAF fighter aircraft as we approached the coast. I remember at least one occasion that we were met by a F-102 (I think it was a F-102) who made a visual identification of us and didn't have to shoot us down. If our Navigator got us lost, it would have been embarrassing to say the least. We would return from Sea Isle, proceed to Coyle Field (a satellite field of McGuire AFB about 35 miles North West of Atlantic City, then to North Philly airport, and then to NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
The first winter (Dec. 70 to Mar. 71) was a very cold one, and getting flight time required using pre-heaters during the preflight and exerting a great deal of effort just to get a SP-2H in the air. Since the squadron drew several members from NAS Niagara Falls/Syracuse areas, we continued the airlift that left NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania on Friday evening to pick up squadron members on a round robin flight to Syracuse and Buffalo and back.. On Sunday afternoon, we had another round robin flight to return the members. This Sunday night flight was sometimes uncertain and sometimes left a crew and aircraft to RON (remain overnight) with a problem at one of the stops. If you were a SAR and had to go to work on Monday morning, you sweated out the flight. In the winter, even after launching, the aircraft heaters were often unusable so it required the aircrew to dress accordingly (long underwear, thermal gloves, etc.).
In 1970, at the time that VP-64 was formed, the regular Navy VP squadrons required that all sensor operators (in the P-3s - SS1, SS2, and SS3) to be in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Operator rating (AW). At this point, VP-64 had a variety of ratings operating their SP-2H sensor stations (MAD/trail, Jezebel, Julie/ECM). We had AT, AX, and AE, ratings flying in those sensor seats. New aircrewmen that were sensor operators coming in from the fleet and B schools were in the AW rating. This inconsistency was resolved a few years later when all sensor operators who were qualified were permitted to make a lateral transfer to the AW rate. If they did not want to change, they could revert to the department where they were assigned and work in their own original specialty. AT and AX ratings were later given the opportunity to train for the Radioman (COM) seat and the In-Flight Tech (IFT) seat in the P-3A if they wished to continue in a flight status. I, personally, didn't change from AXC to AWC until 1 March 1972, almost 18 months after the squadron was formed.
So, 1970 closed with two months worth of experience for VP-64 under its belt. The squadron was slowly taking shape. Word was received from Reserve Patrol Wing Atlantic (RESPATWINGLANT) that VP-64 would be conducting its first Active Duty for Training (ACTDUTRA) cruise with their SP-2Hs in May 1971 in Rota, Spain. VP-64 would be the first of the newly formed wing to be deployed with SP-2Hs. At that time, the Black Hawks of VP-68 in NAS Patuxent River, Maryland had already moved up to the P-3A and would be cruising at NAF Lajes, Portugal. Also, VP-62 was beginning transition to the P-3A and would not cruise overseas in 1971. Four short months to prepare for our first European Deployment.
The initial draft of 249 SAR enlisted men for VP-64 (plank owners) was prepared in a directive and distributed to affected personnel on 5 October 1970 informing them that they had a pay billet in the squadron. The following is a copy of the original letter heading with a list of those in that initial draft of enlisted personnel, reproduced with the Service Number left out for personal security reasons. Note that the letterhead (NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania); subsequent squadron directives would be made under the Patrol Squadron Sixty Four letterhead. All AW ratings were on flight orders (DIFOT); other ratings in aircrew positions that were authorized for DIFOT have a designation (AC) after their name and rating.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Land-based Naval Reserve Patrol Squadrons..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/avh-vol2/chap3-11.pdf [13SEP2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...PATROL SQUADRON 64 COMMAND HISTORY..." Contributed by LCDR T. D. Smyers firstname.lastname@example.org [28SEP99]
Under the command of CDR Daniel W. Hudson, the Condors of Patrol Squadron 64 (VP64) are part of a proud Naval Aviation tradition. This year marks their 29th anniversary as a fully manned and equipped maritime patrol (MPA) squadron.
The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) commissioned VP-64 on November 1, 1970 at Naval Air Station Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. Originally flying the SP-2H Neptune aircraft, the Condors transitioned to the Lockheed P-3A Orion in 1973 and then to the P-3B modification in 1990. Currently, the Squadron operates an enhanced P-3C Update II aircraft. The Condors can be rapidly deployed worldwide to counter virtually any maritime threat. The P-3C Orion is equally at home tracking submarines as it is conducting long-range ocean surveillance and can also provide Search and Rescue at a moment's notice.
VP-64 is manned by 128 active duty and 181 selected reserve men and women. Most reservists left active duty with three to five years of naval service and have voluntarily continued to serve their country. A combination of experience, continuous proficiency training and operational active duty periods provide the Department of Defense with a fully trained and equipped patrol squadron.
The Condors boast a superb tradition of safe operational effectiveness in a variety of missions all over the world, including anti-submarine (ASW), surface surveillance, counter-narcotics and United Nations (U.N.) embargo missions. Operational sites include Venezuela, Panama, Puerto Rico, Iceland, Sicily, Portugal, Bermuda, Brazil, Great Britain, France and Crete. In 1977, the Condors became the first Reserve patrol squadron to receive a Meritorious Unit Commendation for outstanding performance in ASW operations.
Taking on the role of Fleet contributory support in 1992, VP-64 has demonstrated superb operational diversity. In 1993, responding to the call for enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, VP-64 joined Operation Maritime Guard and became the first Reserve MPA squadron to fly fully armed missions since World War II. In 1994, the Condors flew in support of Operation Support Democracy and the Haitian blockade. In 1995 and 1996, despite the rigorous demands of aircraft transition, VP-64 provided Fleet contributory support to NATO's Northern Viking in Iceland and Coiled Cobra in Sicily while simultaneously flying counter-narcotics missions in the Caribbean. In 1997, the Condors became the first Reserve squadron to conduct a split-site deployment to both Iceland and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico crews operated with the Navy's newest P-3C Counter-Drug Update. The Condors dropped 60,000 pounds of ordnance in 1998 including the first live Maverick shot by a Reserve patrol squadron. VP-64 has compiled a remarkable safety record completing over 28 years and 99,000 hours of accident-free flying.
Throughout its storied history, Patrol Squadron 64 has received almost every award recognizing outstanding maintenance, operational and administrative excellence. In 1984, the Squadron was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation, the ASW Top Blood Hound Award and the Retention Excellence Award. In 1985, The Squadron was chosen as the recipient of the prestigious Noel Davis Battle "E" Award and the AVCM Donald M. Neal Aircraft Maintenance "Golden Wrench" Award. In 1986, the Condors were nominated by COMRESPATWINGLANT for the CNO Safety Award and were awarded the Commander, Sixth Fleet "HOOK'EM" Award in recognition of ASW excellence. In 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993 and 1994, VP-64 was the proud recipient of the Administrative Excellence Award. 1991 saw the arrival of the "Liberty Bell" Torpex for ASW excellence in a competitive environment and the Retention Excellence Award.
In 1995, the Condors were commended by the Secretary of the Navy for operations in support of U.N. sanctions against the former Yugoslavia. 1996 brought the CNO Safety Award to VP-64 in recognition of its outstanding safety record. The Condors earned another Noel Davis Battle "E" Award in 1997, as well as the "Golden Helm" Award for retention excellence. In 1998, VP-64 earned the CNO Aviation Safety Award. These awards signify consistent top-notch dedication by all Condors to the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment.
The men and women of Patrol Squadron 64 are proud of their contribution to the preservation of national security. All Condors are dedicated to maintaining the squadron's high state of readiness to provide critically needed Fleet contributory support or rapid mobilization should the need arise.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...VP-64 "CONDORS"..." http://www.navy-reserve.org/magazine/9805/nra9805b.html [02MAY99]
The CONDORS of Patrol Squadron SIX FOUR (VP-64), commanded by CDR Dave Montgomery, have a proud tradition in the history of Naval Aviation and Fleet Support. From 1970, flying the SP-2H Neptune, to the present multi-mission role flying the P-3C Update II, the Condors have continued to exemplify pride, professionalism and safety in all endeavors.
VP-64 was commissioned on November 1, 1970 at NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania by the Chief of Naval Operations. Operating with a complement of 114 Training and Administration of Reserve (TAR) and 220 Selected Reservists, the Squadron initially flew the SP-2H "Neptune". In 1973, the squadron transitioned to the Lockheed P-3A "Orion" aircraft followed by another transition in 1990 to the P-3B TACNAVMOD. The Squadron recently transitioned to the versatile P-3C Update II aircraft.
The CONDORS have a proud tradition of total mission accomplishment, and over the years, have performed a variety of missions all over the world. The CONDORS have provided Undersea Warfare (USW), Surface Surveillance, Counter-Narcotics and United Nations (U. N.) embargo support operating from Venezuela, Panama, Puerto Rico, Iceland, the British Isles, Portugal, Brazil, Sicily, France and Crete. In 1977, the CONDORS became the first Reserve patrol squadron to receive a Meritorious Unit Commendation for outstanding performance in ASW operations.
The CONDORS assumed the role of Fleet Contributory Support in 1992 and began to prove their flexibility in any assigned mission. In 1993, responding to mission requirements to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolutions in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, VP-64 proved vital to the support of Operation Maritime Guard where the CONDORS became the first Reserve MPA squadron to fly fully armed missions since World War II. In 1994, VP-64 flew in support of Operation Support Democracy to uphold the Haitian blockade, and again, in 1997, the CONDORS became the Reserve's first squadron to conduct a split-site deployment to both Keflavik, Iceland and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. While on this deployment, the CONDORS once again completed another first by fully qualifying the Reserve's first aircrews on the Navy's newest P-3C Counter-Drug Update (CDU) aircraft.
The CONDORS, throughout their storied history, have received almost every award in recognition of outstanding operational, maintenance, administrative and retention excellence. In 1984, the squadron was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation for drug interdiction flights, the Blood Hound Torpedo Delivery Award, and the Retention Excellence Award. In 1985, the Squadron was chosen as the recipient of the prestigious Noel Davis Battle "E" Award, the AVCM Donald M. Neal Aircraft Maintenance "Golden Wrench" Award and the CNO Safety Award. In recognition of USW excellence, the CONDORS were awarded the Commander, Sixth Fleet "HOOK'EM" Award. In 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993 and 1994, VP-64 was the proud recipient of the Administration Excellence Award, and, in 1991, the Retention Excellence Award. 1991 also saw the arrival of the "Liberty Bell" to VP-64, for USW excellence in a competitive environment. In 1995, VP-64 was commended by the Secretary of the Navy for their contribution to the U.N. sanctions against the former Yugoslavian Republic. 1996 brought the CNO Safety Award to VP-64 in recognition of its outstanding safety record. 1997 again brought the Noel Davis Battle "E" Award in recognition of the squadron's outstanding readiness and operational success as well as the Retention Excellence Award in recognition of the squadron's outstanding people programs.All members of the CONDOR family are proud of the long list of exceptional accomplishments. The squadron's tradition of teamwork, pride and professionalism made these milestones a reality. The successes achieved were a result of the continuous outstanding support by all CONDORS; past and present. The CONDORS look forward to many exciting and productive years in the future.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...This year marks Patrol Squadron 64's twenty-fifth anniversary as a maritime patrol squadron. VP-64 was commissioned on November 1, 1970 at Naval Air Station Willow Grove, Pennsylvania by the Chief of Naval Operations. The squadron originally flew the SP-2H "Neptune" aircraft. In 1973 VP-64 transitioned to the Lockheed P-3A "Orion", in 1990 to the P-3B, and currently the squadron is flying the P-3C Update II. The "Condors" can be rapidly deployed to any point in the world and operate from virtually any airfield, in any weather, and over any ocean. The P-3C can track submarines or conduct long range ocean surveillance, and provides search and rescue capabilities at a moment's notice. VP-64 is manned by 114 Active Duty and 220 Selected Reserve men and women. Most reservists are personnel who left active duty with three to five years of naval service, and have voluntarily chosen to continue to serve their country. A combination of experience and continuous proficiency training, coupled with active duty training periods, provide the Department of Defense with a fully trained and equipped patrol squadron. Patrol Squadron 64 has been operationally employed side by side with fleet counterparts at such overseas sites as Bermuda; NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal, Azores; and Rota, Spain in direct round-the-clock support of ASW operations. Patrol Squadron 64 aircrews and support personnel have operated from detachments in Venezuela, Panama, Puerto Rico, Iceland, the British Isles, Portugal, Brazil, Sicily, France and Crete. The squadron was awarded the "Meritorious Unit Commendation" in 1977, a first for a reserve patrol squadron, for outstanding performance in ASW operations during one such detachment. Taking on the role of "Fleet Contributory Support", 1992 began a new era for the "Condors". Assuming new and greater responsibilities has brought VP-64 to the forefront of real world operations. Detachments in support of Counter Narcotics operations and maritime enforcement has highlighted recent operations. During 1993, responding to heightened tensions for the enforcement of U.N. Security Council Resolutions in the Mediterranean and Adriatic, VP-64 was a vital part of NATO exercises. In "Operation Maritime Guard" the "Condors" became the first reserve MPA Squadron to fly fully armed operational missions since World War II. During 1994, missions were flown in "Operation Support Democracy" to support the Haitian Blockade. In spite of the rigorous demands of transitioning in 1995, the "Condors" provided peacetime contributory support to NATO in Iceland (Northern Viking), Sicily(Coiled Cobra) and counter-narcotics operations. The "Condors" were involved in several drug busts, including the largest cocaine seizure ever by the Navy. The squadron is justifiably proud of its remarkable safety record throughout this period. The "Condors" have amassed over 84,000 accident free flight hours spanning a 25 year period. In 1984, the squadron was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation for drug interdiction flights, the Blood Hound Torpedo Delivery Award, and the Retention Excellence Award. In 1985, the squadron was chosen as the recipient of the prestigious "Noel Davis Award" (Battle "E"), and the AVCM Donald M. Neal Aircraft Maintenance Award (Golden Wrench) and was nominated by COMRESPATWINGLANT for the CNO Safety Award in 1986. In recognition of ASW excellence, the "Condors" were awarded the Commander Sixth Fleet "HOOK EM" Award. In 1986, the squadron received the Association of Naval Aviation "Outstanding Achievement Award", stating "In an extremely competitive environment it is very difficult for any unit not only to win recognition as a top squadron, but to stay on top. VP-64's achievements over the past several years clearly indicates the depth, strength, and staying power of it's professional capabilities". In 1987, 1989, 1990, 1993, and 1994, VP-64 was the proud recipient of the Administration Excellence Award, and in 1991 the Retention Excellence Award. 1991 also saw the arrival of the "Liberty Bell" to VP-64, for ASW excellence in a competitive environment. In 1995, the Condors were commended by the Secretary of the Navy for their contribution to the United Nations sanctions against the former Yugoslavian Republic. These awards signify dedication and professional efforts put forward by all "Condors". The "Condors" of Patrol Squadron 64 are proud of their contributions to the preservation of the security of the nation. They are dedicated to maintaining the squadron's high state of readiness should the need for rapid mobilization arise and for the constant needs of the fleet via our peacetime contributory support. ..." http://www.spawar.navy.mil/nr/cnarf/crpwl/vp64/html\hist.htm
A BIT OF HISTORY: 1970-1995 Silver Anniversary Patch [15FEB2000]
"VP-64 History Summary Page"