||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2009)|
VP-26 Unit Insignia
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Navy|
|Role||Maritime or Land based Patrol and Reconnaissance|
|Part of||Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Eleven|
|Garrison/HQ||NAS Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL|
|Commanding Officer||CDR Mark Sohaney, USN|
|Executive Officer||CDR Gregory Smith, USN|
|Command Master Chief||CMDCM Buck Taylor, USN|
The VP-26 "Tridents" are a United States Navy aircraft squadron based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida, United States. The squadron operates the Lockheed P-3C Orion patrol aircraft.
As a member of Patrol Wing Eleven, VP-26 is a Maritime Patrol Squadron with a worldwide theater of operations. Mission areas include: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASU), Anti-Morale Warfare (AMW), Command and Control Warfare (C2W), Command, Control, and Communications (CCC), Intelligence (INT), Mine Warfare (MIW), and Mobility (MOB).
VP-26 can trace its lineage back to 26 Aug 1943 when “Bombing Squadron” VB-114 was established at NAS Norfolk, VA. The Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberator, a land-based patrol aircraft, was the first aircraft assigned to the squadron. By 1944 the war in Europe was in high gear and patrol planes were needed in the Mediterranean to flush out German U-boats. That spring, the squadron changed headquarters and homeport to Port Lyautey Airfield, Morocco with a detachment at Gibraltar. The squadron's first combat patrol commenced on 18 March 1944. From 17 June 1944 to 14 February 1945 the squadron took part in the Allied landings in France. A detachment of six searchlight equipped Liberators, under the control of (Fleet Air Wing) FAW-7, deployed to Dunkeswell, England to protect the Allied fleet from U-boat attacks during the Normandy invasion. In this role it contributed to FAW-7s record of 18 U-boats attacked, of these, at least half resulted in probable destruction. By July 1944, VB-114 had a detachment of four Liberators at Lajes Field, Azores, leaving no aircraft at Port Lyautey. VB-114 flew the first combat mission ever flown from the Azores (a neutral Portuguese territory) on 1 Aug 1944. This was accomplished by an agreement with Portugal to operate under the (Royal Air Force) RAF Coastal Command and fly with both British and US markings on the aircraft. That October, VB-114s designation changed to “Patrol Bombing Squadron” VPB-114. As the war in Europe ended in May 1945, the squadron set yet another first for the US Navy by becoming one of the first units to fly Hurricane reconnaissance missions. A six-plane detachment was sent to NAS Key West/Boca Chica Field, Key West, FL proving the versatility of the command. With the exception of a three-plane detachment ordered to remain at Port Lyautey, Morocco, the remainder of the command moved to their new home at NAS Edenton, NC and transitioned from the PB4Y-1 Liberator, to the PB4Y-2 Privateer. In May and November 1946 the squadron changed its designation to “Patrol Squadron” VP-114 and then “Heavy Patrol Squadron” VP-HL-6, as well as receiving its first tail code, “HB”. January 1947 saw the squadron moving again, this time to NAS Atlantic City, NJ. 26 June 1948, VP-HL-6 took on a more compassionate mission, becoming an active participant in Operation Vittles, otherwise known as the Berlin Airlift. The squadron flew numerous missions bringing medical supplies to airfields in the Allied Zone of Occupation where they were then transferred to unarmed transport aircraft flying missions into Berlin. As the 40s drew to a close, the squadron saw its designation change to the present “Patrol Squadron 26”. It became the third squadron to bear this designation in September 1948, the first two being seaplane squadrons in the Pacific during WWII. That following March the squadron’s headquarters and homeport returned to NAS Port Lyautey. The newly named VP-26 reunited with its three-plane detachment becoming a full squadron once again.
As one war ended so a much colder one began. On 8 April 1950, a VP-26 PB4Y-2, designated “HB 7” (BuNo 59645), assigned to Detachment A, took off from Wiesbaden Air Base, West Germany on an intelligence gathering mission. At 1739 the Privateer was intercepted by four Soviet Lavochkin La-11 fighters while flying at an altitude of 12,139 ft (3,700 m) over the Baltic Sea, 8 km southwest of Liepaja, Latvia. After refusing the ”follow me” signals of the fighters the Privateer was shot down, becoming the first publicized shootdown of the Cold War. Subsequent search efforts over a period of 8 days were futile, no survivors or remains were recovered. Unconfirmed reports stated that as many as eight of the 10 missing crewmembers were recovered from the sea and forwarded to the Soviet Union for interrogation. The crew’s ultimate fates have never been determined. On 8 April 2000, Latvia’s coastal city of Liepaja unveiled a memorial to honor the 10 man crew of “HB 7”, the first but not the only Trident crew to be on eternal patrol. That summer VP-26 relocated to NAS Patuxent River, MD and changed its tail code to “EB”. The following year the squadron began transitioning to the P2V Neptune. Along with the new aircraft came a new home. On 11 Jan 1952, VP-26 moved to its present homeport of NAS Brunswick, ME, becoming the first squadron to be ordered aboard the newly re-commissioned base. With a lull in hostilities abroad, the squadron had time to hone their skills until the next call came. In October 1954, while participating in Operation LANTFLEX, VP-26s own LTjg Paddock had the distinction of disabling the Template:Uss with a small practice bomb that made a direct hit on its periscope. The Toro’s skipper presented LTjg Paddock with a mounted portion of the twisted periscope as a souvenir of his skill. As the 50s drew to a close, the squadron would set two more milestones. In 1956, while being deployed to Thule, Greenland, VP-26 became the first patrol squadron to fly all 12 aircraft over the North Pole. The following year, VP-26's tail code was changed to its present day “LK” and became the first US Navy combat aircraft to land at the newly established NAS Rota, Spain. While on deployment, VP-26 finished the decade by locating the Russian trawler that had deliberately severed the transatlantic cable in February 1959.
In March 1960, while taking part in the NATO ASW exercise DAWN BREEZE, VP-26 became the first squadron in nearly a decade to operate from the base at Lann Bihoue, France. But as tensions increased in Cuba, VP-26 was once again called to arms. During the 1962 “Cuban Missile Crisis” several squadron aircraft were deployed to NAS Key West, Florida. They arrived one day after President John F. Kennedy’s October 22, 1962 televised speech proclaiming that any nuclear missile attack from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union and would be responded to accordingly. Over 1000 hours were flown in direct support of the Cuban Quarantine. In October 1964, VP-26 supplied one aircraft and crew for a month to work with the US Army Special Forces at Pope AFB, NC. The Lockeed P2V Neptune was specially configured to be used as a high altitude jump platform for the Green Berets. Oct 1965 to Jan 1966 marked the beginning of a new era for VP-26. After fifteen years of service, the Neptune was replaced by the Lockheed P-3B Orion. On 4 January 1966, VP-26 became the Navy’s first operational P-3B squadron, when Commanding Officer CDR James H. Cullen ferried the first P-3B from Burbank, California to Naval Air Station Brunswick. On 24 November 1967, VP-26 deployed to Southeast Asia, operating from Sangley Point, Philippines and U-Tapao, Thailand. The Tridents averaged 1500 hours per month flying TEAM YANKEE and Operation Market Time combat patrols. Market Time patrols sought sea-borne infiltrators from North Vietnam trying to deliver supplies to the Viet Cong along the southern coastline. This required aircrews to fly below 1,000 feet (300 m), while using radar and their searchlight to find and illuminate suspect targets. Shortly after midnight on 6 Feb 1968, a VP-26, P-3B (BuNo 153440) flown by (Combat Air Crew) CAC 8, was lost off the coast of South Vietnam while on a MARKET TIME patrol mission. The Orion had crashed into the sea with no survivors. Less than two months later, on 1 April 1968, in the same vicinity that CAC 8 was lost, a second P-3B (BuNo 153445) flown by CAC 1 came under fire by a .50 caliber anti-aircraft gun. The P-3B was hit in the starboard wing, knocking out the #4 engine and starting a fire. All attempts to extinguish the flames were unsuccessful. Flying too low to bail out, the crew had to choose between ditching in hostile waters or attempting to make an emergency landing at Phu Quoc airfield less than 20 miles (32 km) away. Within sight of the runway, and their wing aflame, CAC 1 prepared to land their stricken aircraft. As the plane banked left onto its final approach, the starboard wing tore off between #3 and #4 engine, and the P-3B tumbled into the sea with no survivors. Upon the squadron’s return on 2 June 1968, flight crewmembers were awarded several Air Medals, Vietnam Service, and Campaign Medals. In August 1968, the squadron was awarded the “E” for Battle Efficiency from FAW-3.
During the early 1970s VP-26 earned the Navy Unit Commendation, Chief of Naval Operation’s Safety Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation and an U.S. Atlantic Fleet Citation for Aviation Safety. The squadron deployed to Naval Air Station Bermuda in 1971 and to NAF Sigonella, Sicily in 1972. VP-26 was named the Fleet Air Wing Atlantic recipient of the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for 1972. After spending all of 1973 at homeport NAS Brunswick, Maine, VP-26 split-deployed to NAS Rota Spain and NAF Lajes Azores January to June, 2004. As a result of the squadron’s tactical efforts throughout 1973 and 1974, Patrol Squadron 26 was awarded the CAPT Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy for excellence in anti-submarine warfare. In 1975, the Tridents became involved in the celebration of America’s 200th birthday. As well as flying a 13-starred tail cap on their aircraft, over 100 men and women from VP-26 undertook the exterior renovation of the [Pejepscot Museum] in Brunswick, Maine. This effort earned VP-26 the honor of being designated a Navy Bicentennial Command. As the Fleet's only active duty Bicentennial Squadron, the 1976 split-site deployment to Rota, Spain and Lajes, Azores gave VP-26 the opportunity to display its Bicentennial colors throughout the Mediterranean, Europe and the North Atlantic. As a result of this successful deployment, the squadron received the Golden Wrench Award for superior achievement in aircraft maintenance and readiness, and the CAPT Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy for 1976. September 1977 found the Tridents deployed to several strategic locations throughout the North Atlantic. Although primarily based in Bermuda and Lajes, VP-26 maintained detachments for varying lengths of time in the Panama Canal Zone, Ascension Island, Guantanamo Bay, Iceland, and Puerto Rico. Coordinated operations highlighted this deployment as Trident aircrews participated in numerous ASW exercises with NATO and Allied Naval Forces. Returning to NAS Brunswick in early 1978, the Tridents were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation, both the Silver and Golden Anchor Awards for retention excellence and the CNO Aviation Safety Award for operations conducted throughout 1976 and 1977. In March 1979, VP-26 began transitioning from the P-3B to the P-3C Update II. On July 26, 1979 VP-26 accepted the first of the squadron’s Update II aircraft, and in December 1979 had the honor of receiving the 500th production P-3.
In early March 1980, the squadron deployed to Kadena, Okinawa Japan while maintaining a detachment in Diego Garcia. This marked the first time since 1967 that an East Coast patrol squadron deployed to Southeast Asia. The detachment at Diego Garcia was in response to the Soviet build up of military forces in the Persian Gulf. Earlier that year President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the "Carter Doctrine", declaring that the U.S. was willing to use military force if necessary to prevent "an outside power" from conquering the Gulf. Throughout the deployment the Tridents operated out of the Philippines, Middle East, and the West Coast of Africa. The squadron returned to Brunswick in September and received the Navy Expeditionary Medal for its activities in the Indian Ocean. In May 1981, VP-26 became the first squadron to deploy the new Harpoon missile capable P-3C to the Mediterranean Theater. The Harpoon missile system was incorporated specifically to eliminate Soviet surveillance trawlers in the event of war. The Tridents returned home in Oct to receive the 1981 CNO Safety Award. On 1 July 1982, VP-26s Special Projects detachment (Old Buzzards) broke away and became a squadron of its own. The newly formed squadron was established “Special Projects Patrol Squadron” VPU-1 after being a VP-26 detachment since 1969. Also in July 1982 the Tridents deployed to Keflavik, Iceland. Three crews were subsequently detached for three months to the Western pacific to augment WESTPAC Harpoon capabilities. Before leaving Keflavik VP-26 crews had operated from Bodo, Andoya and Stavanger, Norway, Thule, Greenland; Machrihanish and Kinloss, Scotland; Mildenhall and St. Mawgen, England; Valkenburg, Netherlands; Nordholz, Germany; Rota, Spain; Lajes Field in the Azores; Misawa and Kadena, Japan; Cubi Point, Philippines; and U-Tapao, Thailand. Returning to Brunswick in December 1982 VP-26 became the first occupant of the newly built Hangar #5. In November 1983 VP-26 deployed to Bermuda, with detachments to Lajes, Azores and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, where they averaged over 1,000 flight hours per month for three consecutive months. VP-26 again deployed to Kadena, Japan in January 1985. During this time VP-26 operated with units of the Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, and on several occasions operated simultaneously from every Seventh Fleet deployment site. In June 1986 VP-26 deployed to Rota, Spain and Lajes Field, Azores. While conducting operations throughout the Mediterranean and North Atlantic, aircrews visited France, the United Kingdom, Greece, Senegal, Iceland, Bermuda, Italy, and Gibraltar. While at home in 1987 the squadron maintained a busy operational tempo with detachments to Jacksonville, Bermuda, Iceland, Lajes[disambiguation needed], Ascension Island, Puerto Rico, and Greenland. VP-26 attained a 100% sortie completion rate during its detachments. In November 1987, the Tridents deployed to Keflavik, Iceland. While on deployment, the crews achieved an impressive ASW mission record against Soviet submarines. The deployment was rounded out by the reception of another Golden Wrench Award and a second Battle “E” for the year of 1988. In June 1989, VP-26 deployed to Rota, Spain and Lajes, Azores for another record setting deployment, accumulating over 5,400 flight hours in six months. The squadron also supported sixteen operational detachments to England, Ascension Island, Sicily, Turkey, and Africa, at one point maintaining a detachment for 11 consecutive weeks. The highlight was an unprecedented six weeks in NSA Souda Bay, Crete supporting Sixth Fleet operations. The squadron was then awarded its third Battle “E” Award.
With the disintegration of Yugoslavia, VP-26 saw three consecutive deployments to Sigonella, Sicily. Detachments were sent to Saudi Arabia to monitor the United Nations embargo against Iraq. Over the Adriatic Sea VP-26 enforced the embargo against the former Yugoslavia in the first continuous armed patrols in the Mediterranean since World War II, carrying live torpedoes and Maverick missiles. The squadron also was among the first to conduct Electro-Optic surveillance patrols overland and to visit emerging Eastern European democracies. On 7 November 1990, VP-26 departed NAS Brunswick to conduct a unique tri-site deployment, distributing Trident aircraft in Key West, Florida; Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; and Lajes Field in the Azores. While performing narcotics detection and monitoring operations out of Key West and Roosevelt Roads Trident aircrews located two suspicious vessels which were seized and confirmed to have held a total of over 1300 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of over $30 million. VP-26 returned to Roosevelt Roads for a two-month detachment in August 1991 for continued narcotics detection and monitoring operations in support of the nation’s “War on Drugs”. The squadron's 10 May 1992 split-site deployment to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Sigonella, Sicily earned the Tridents a Meritorious Unit Commendation for operations in the Adriatic Sea, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean. VP-26 was the first P-3 squadron to fly missions in the Adriatic Sea during Operation MARITIME MONITOR. Additionally, the Tridents accomplished the first ever Portuguese-United States joint minex in the MAP/CIS joint exercise.
VP-26 was awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation for meritorious service in support of Operation DESERT CALM, United Nations sanctions against the former Republic of Yugoslavia, and operations with deployed Marine Amphibious Readiness Groups and Carrier Battle Groups from September 1993 to February 1994. The Tridents flew over 620 armed sorties during this time, including daily Maverick Surface Unit Combat Air Patrol, in support of Operation SHARP GUARD, amassing 4,800 flight hours. Making its mark once again, VP-26 completed the first ever live Maverick warshot by an operational P-3 squadron. In October 1994 VP-26 magnificently demonstrated the concept of "fly and train as you would fight" by flawlessly executing a formation (Mining Readiness Certification Inspection) MRCI. This was the first MRCI flown in close formation by any VP squadron in the previous five years. In December 1994, Team Trident was called upon to conduct a SAR effort 950 miles (1,530 km) off the coast of New England. The 450-foot (140 m) Ukrainian freighter, “Salvador Allende” had been taking on water in stormy seas. VP-26 flew over 85 hours in six days in support of this effort, during which two people were rescued after their vessel sank. In January 1995, the Tridents returned to Sigonella for their third consecutive Mediterranean deployment. VP-26 flew over 5,000 hours and 468 armed sorties in support of operations SHARP GUARD and DENY FLIGHT.
From July 1995 to February 1996 the Tridents began a seven month transition to the P-3C Update III aircraft. In August 1996 VP-26 continued to set records during their tri-site deployment to Iceland, Puerto Rico, and Panama. The Tridents achieved the highest drug interdiction rate ever with more than $1.9 billion in cocaine and marijuana busts. Cocaine busts alone were in excess of 38 metric tons, equivalent to over 20% of estimated US consumption. The crews in Keflavik, Iceland had the highest total contact time on “real world” submarines of any US Maritime Patrol Aircraft squadron in the last 4 years. VP-26 was also the first US military unit invited to participate in the Norwegian national exercise FLOTEX 96. The squadron was then awarded its fourth Battle “E” Award for 1996.
The Tridents returned home to Brunswick, Maine in January 1997 for another successful home cycle. The Tridents began preparations for their future deployment to Sigonella in February 1998. Tridents flew over 180 flights in Operations JOINT FORGE in support of the United Nations and Implementation peacekeeping forces on the ground in Bosnia-Herzogovinia. Tridents logged the historic 500th flight in support of operation DELIBERATE GUARD. The Tridents returned home in August 1998 and began an Inter-Deployment-Training-Cycle (IDTC). During the IDTC the Tridents prepared for the next deployment, training both maintenance personnel and aircrew. As the IDTC drew to a close in July 1999, the Tridents were ready for the upcoming deployment. For this “Millennium” deployment, the Tridents were split between Keflavik, Iceland and NS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. Those Tridents deployed to Iceland supported NATO operations throughout the Atlantic. The Tridents traveled to such places as Andoya, Norway; Kinloss, Scotland; Lan Bihoue, France; Rota, Spain; and Sigonella, Sicily. The Tridents of the Caribbean were busy, tracking suspected narcotics traffickers both in the air and on the sea. VP-26 conducted many detachments to Manta, Ecuador to carry the counter-narcotics mission to the Eastern Pacific.
The crowning achievement of the Trident’s “Millennium” deployment was the attainment of 275,000 mishap-free flight hours in over 38 years (2000)—a worldwide record which encompasses all types of aviation, civilian and military. In preparation for its next Mediterranean deployment, VP-26 trained all twelve aircrews in the new P-3C Update III AIP (Anti-surface-warfare Improvement Program) aircraft. By providing the P-3C with state-of-the-art improvements in Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence; surveillance and survivability, AIP advances maritime patrol into the 21st century. The squadron received its first AIP aircraft in September 2000. VP-26 also conducted extensive in-house training for all its crews to properly use the SLAM Missile, Maverick Missile, and Online Harpoon.
In February 2001, the Tridents returned to Sicily. Deployed Tridents supported the United Nations operations Deliberate Forge and Joint Guardian and participated in several multinational exercises throughout Africa and Europe. Over the course of the six months in Sigonella, the Tridents flew more than 5000 mishap-free operational hours, achieving a 93 percent sortie completion rate. They made operational detachments to 15 different countries including: Rota, Spain; Souda Bay, Crete; Nordholtz, Germany; Visby, Sweden; Nîmes, France; Kinloss, Scotland; Malta, and Turkey. Tridents flew a variety of operational missions over the Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, North Sea, and the Mediterranean. These missions included: support for two US carrier battlegroups and various NATO surface combatants, overland reconnaissance in support of NATO Stabilization Forces (SFOR) and NATO Kosovo Forces (KFOR), and over 20 multinational exercises with 24 nations. On August 10, 2001, the Tridents of Patrol Squadron 26 arrived back at their home base of Brunswick, ME, in preparation for a highly charged interdeployment cycle. Following the events of September 11, VP-26 moved to a heightened state of readiness. The squadron supported the war on terrorism by taking part in various Homeland Defense operations. VP-26 did everything from locating and identifying high interest merchant shipping traffic approaching the US to observing potential terrorist targets on American soil. Tridents continued their efforts on the war on terrorism into 2002. On June 8, members of VP-26 took the opportunity to reflect on past tragedies with a visit to “Ground Zero”. Eleven Tridents were promoted there, exemplifying their commitment to the protection of US citizens and their Allies.
In August 2002, VP-26 began its six month, split-site deployment in NAS Keflavik, Iceland, and NS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. Tridents embraced the challenge of a long-distance working environment that would spread them across 6,200 nautical miles (11,500 km) and seven time zones, from Souda Bay, Crete to Manta, Ecuador. Aircrews took part in missions ranging from armed SUCAP in the STRoG to SRO to the "Wars on Drugs and Terrorism". Efforts in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific led to Tridents’ interdiction of 12,641 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of over $3.4 billion. VP-26 also played a major role in the introduction of AIP to the SOUTHCOM AOR. The squadron executed over 5000 flight hours, including 83 ASW events, and was nominated for the 2002 Phoenix Award for Maintenance Excellence and the 2002 Battle Efficiency Award. At top of its military achievements, VP-26 provided "Community Support" through "Manta Santa" (200 families clothed, 1678 children received toys, and $800 donated for a local pediatric hospital), "Sisters of Mother Teresa" aid in Reykjavik, and multiple "Adopt-a-School" affiliations.
On 4 April 2003, Team Trident bore witness to its 57th change of command as CDR Matthew J. Carter relieved CDR Sean S. Buck as Commanding Officer of Patrol Squadron 26. In attendance were friends and family of Team Trident and members of New York City Fire Department, Ladder 10, with whom VP-26 has an affiliation. The firefighters presented the command a cross, fabricated of steel from the World Trade Center, as well as a photograph of the tragedy. On April 7, the Tridents were called back into action. Two crews and maintenance support personnel departed for the Mediterranean to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. “The CNO recently told the entire Navy to ensure we are combat ready at all times and ready to enter the fray when called. VP-26 followed that order by augmenting forward-deployed units. The Trident worked side-by-side with crews from five VP squadrons supporting two carrier battle groups. VP-26 commenced their detachment in Rota, Spain, and then later in Sigonella, Sicily, they flew armed support for supply boats transiting the Strait of Gibraltar. While in Sicily, the Tridents flew multiple missions supporting of both the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-72) Carrier Battle Groups. Shortly after arriving at Naval Station Rota, Spain, VP-26 personnel discovered that a mobile field hospital had been built to receive wounded coming from Operation Iraqi Freedom. The facility began receiving its first wounded war fighters on March 29. Although well-equipped to provide medical support, the hospital needed toiletries, uniform items, underclothes and other basics. Many wounded patriots arrived with only the clothes on their back. As a result, Operation Rota Comfort began. Knowledge of the need for supplies passed by word of mouth, and as word spread, a generous outpouring of support evolved into Operation Rota Comfort. The response on NAVSTA Rota was outstanding. Members of VP-26 immediately joined the effort and sent an appeal to friends, family and to Team Trident remaining in Brunswick. Within 48 hours, over one thousand dollars had been pledged to the cause. The money provided shoes, shirts, underwear, and over six thousand minutes of phone cards to men and women in the hospital in Rota. Team Trident raised an additional $1,700 in supplies and funds. On Friday, April 18, a crew from Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron TWO (VQ-2) transferred the supplies overseas.
On April 16, the Tridents officially assume the duties of the Ready Squadron. In addition to homeland defense duties (when required), the Tridents provided mechanical support to planes arriving from other bases, as well as ground logistics for the associated aircrews. From May to June 2003, members of VP-26 worked with Habitat for Humanity - Bath Brunswick Area (HFHBBA) to provide suitable living quarters for a family in Bowdoinham. At the house in Bowdoinham, Tridents worked alongside volunteers from the Bath and Brunswick area as well as other members of the NAS Brunswick community. Volunteers provide most of the labor, and individual and corporate donors provide money and materials to build Habitat houses.
In August 2003, Patrol Squadron 26 surpassed 41 years of mishap-free flying, an outstanding record recognized by both the Navy and by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This makes the Brunswick-based squadron the safest organization throughout all military and civilian aviation. Team Trident has flown over 296,000 hours without a mishap, a commendable achievement and testament to the hard work of over 5400 current and former Tridents. The clock began following an incident in 1962, when a P-2E Neptune caught fire and exploded during a ground maintenance engine check. According to the Safety Center report, the cause of the explosion was the “main primer line of the impeller section was improperly connected.” No deaths or injuries resulted, and members of VP-26 have worked vigilantly to prevent another incident. On September 17, Combat Air Crew One (CAC-1) flew to Jacksonville, FL to participate in a Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) event with the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Carrier Battle Group. The following day, they were joined by a second Trident aircrew, CAC-5, and a maintenance detachment. Their involvement in the exercise, which had been moved off the coast of Florida due to Hurricane Isabel, lasted two weeks and included over 75 flight hours between the two crews. On September 19, 2003 Patrol Squadron 26 gathered to commemorate the missing crew of “HB 7” in a solemn POW/MIA ceremony. Following an old maritime tradition, a ship’s bell was struck once as the name of each missing crewmember was read. The ceremony concluded with the presentation of a memorial frame containing charcoal rubbings from the monument of names of “HB 7” crewmembers, and artwork of the monument and plane. The Commanding Officer, CDR Matthew J. Carter, accepted the commemorative work on behalf of the command.
By the start of 2004, VP-26 was ready for deployment, and at the end of January VP-26 relieved VP-45 in Sigonella, Italy to perform various operations. In March, CDR Frank W. Doris relieved CDR Matthew J. Carter as the 58th Commanding Officer of VP-26. For the entire deployment VP-26 flew in Operations DELIBERATE FORGE and JOINT GUARDIAN in Kosovo and Bosnia. In addition, the squadron flew escort missions through the Straights of Gibraltar, escorting USNR ships, ensuring the sea-lanes of communication and commerce remained open. During February and March, Tridents participated in Exercise DOGFISH, a multi-national ASW exercise. In April, CAC 4 conducted a successful Search and Rescue event, saving the lives of over 80 people whose ship had sank. Later, two crews went to the Persian Gulf to participate in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Also, in May and June, they flew in Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR in support of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
Patrol Squadron 26 was relieved by VP-16 in Sigonella and returned to NAS Brunswick in the beginning of July, with most of the squadron personnel returning home on July 4. During the remainder of 2004 VP-26 continued training. Once again VP-26 surpassed 42 years of mishap-free flying, totaling over 303,420 hours in August. In September, one crew detached, for six days to NAS Jacksonville, participating in the JTFEX. With Hangar 6 still under construction, Tridents moved in with VP-92. The composition of two squadrons in one hangar proved to be beneficial because VP-26 became the test squadron for Active/Reserve Integration. In December, two crews from VP-92 joined VP-26 as the first reserve crews to be part of an active squadron. Throughout the year, VP-26 earned several awards, including the Global War on Terrorism Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, and two crews earned the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. The squadron again won the Golden Anchor Award for Retention Excellence.
As 2005 came to a close VP-26 again deployed to NAS Sigonella in Sicily and Comalopa Air Base in El Salvador, providing support for Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR as well as multi-national exercises in Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, France, Crete, Ghana, and Germany, as well as hosting Naval Forces from around Europe for Operation NOBLE MANTA and Caribbean Anti-Drug Operations. March 2006 saw the change of command with CDR Gregory Cozad relieving CDR Thomas Kollie. The Tridents returned to Brunswick in June 2006. The Squadron was awarded the Armed Forced Service Medal for their actions.
In 2007 VP-26 surpassed 410,000 hours of mishap-free flying. An interdeployment training cycle with surge detachments to the Fifth Fleet AOR consumed most of the year. CDR King relieved CDR Cozad as Commanding Officer in May 2007. In December the Tridents deployed to the Fifth Fleet AOR in support of the "Global War on Terror", operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM, as well as anti-piracy operation in the Horn of Africa. March 2008 saw CDR King relieved by squadron executive officer CDR Westerkom.
During its history, VP-26 has enjoyed success in many areas. The Tridents have been recognized with five Battle Efficiency “E” Awards, three CAPT Arnold Jay Isbell Trophies, two Golden Wrenches for maintenance excellence, two Navy Unit Commendation, ten Meritorious Unit Commendations, one Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation, three Navy Expeditionary Medals, one Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service and Expeditionary Medals, three Joint Meritorious Unit Citations, NATO Medal (Kosovo), the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Anchors for retention excellence and six Chief of Naval Operations Safety Awards.
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended that Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine be closed, that Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing FIVE be inactivated, and that VP-26 be moved to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, joining Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing ELEVEN. That homeport change was executed in January 2010.
- 1971-74 deployments in personal diary notes of squadron member Lt(JG)John S. Niles.
- Navy News Stand: VP-26 Holds Change of Command