JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There was an emotional homecoming two months overdue for a squadron at Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Wednesday.
The “Red Lancers” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 10, based at NAS Jacksonville, returned home on Wednesday afternoon. Their return was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic after the secretary of defense on March 25 issued a 60-day stop movement order.
“It was tough on a lot of folks initially, but everybody stayed motivated. We executed mission as normal," said Cmdr. Russ White, (VP) 10 executive officer. "Once we got past the shock of the fact that we were gonna get extended, everybody operated just normally for deployment, and we kinda just stopped worrying about it.”
The squadron operated in 10 different countries around the globe in support of the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. The “Red Lancers” executed more than 9,000 sorties and put in more than 4,500 hours of flight time.
When they finally arrived back home in Jacksonville, the greeting was a little bit different. Normally, on the tarmac, families will be waiting for loved ones waving flags. That wasn’t the case Wednesday when families weren’t allowed on base due to coronavirus restrictions and even the squadron personnel had to exit through a base gate. They weren’t allowed to go in the hangars for the same health concerns.
But when the sailors exited into the outside parking lot, they were greeted by hundreds of socially distanced loved ones who were excited to see members of the squadron return.
That included Lt. Matthew Girgenti who greeted his wife and young daughter, Penelope, who were waiting at their car.
“Left her when she was 2 months,” said Girgenti. “Surreal, and honestly, can’t wait.”
Girgenti and other members of the squadron told News4Jax that the initial order in March was difficult because they knew their mission was going to be extended 60 days. But they got back to work and just stayed on mission.
“It’s been a little stressful, but exciting at the same time, so get home safe and sound,” said Girgenti.