Aviators return to Jacksonville after offering support in Philippines

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The last of 400 Navy aviators returned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Wednesday following a dynamic seven-month deployment where they performed a variety of missions across the Pacific.

When asked about their most memorable moments, most will tell you supporting the victims in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan stands out.

The VP-26 squadron was reunited with their families after the aircraft touched down in the River City.

It was the moment husbands and wives and their children have dreamed of for months -- the best Christmas present these families said they could ever receive.


This group flew over storm ravaged regions of the Philippines following the devastating typhoon.

"I'd never seen anything like that," said Lt. Fritz. "The magnitude of it wasn't apparent until we got down there. It was pretty bad."

Fritz said his team provided humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and was among the first of the U.S. Military to provide support.

"We went to remote areas that weren't able to communicate with the outside world," Fritz said. "We found helicopter landing zones to send in help as soon as possible."

The squadron that returned to Jacksonville Wednesday will be able to stay home for quite some time. It won't be deployed for another 14 months, so the aviators won't have to leave their loved ones again until February 2015.

But for some like Buck Taylor, who served the Navy for 29 years, this was the last deployment, as he moves one step closer to retiring.

"It's great to see my family," he said. "It's my last deployment ever, so this is the last time I'll have to come home to a family reunion. The seven months with the tridents, they did a great job."

About the Authors: