2020 & Prior
The Patrol Squadron FOUR FIVE (VP-45) Pelicans of NAS Jacksonville, Florida were initially commissioned as Patrol Squadron 205 (VPB-205) on 1 November 1942, at NAS Norfolk, Virginia. Through the 1940s the squadron was very active; the Pelicans changed homeports 12 times in three years, and while stationed in Bermuda in September of 1948, they were designated as VP-45.
VP-45 deployed to Cuba in 1962 for operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and as a result, received the Battle “E” and CNO Safety Award for outstanding performance. The squadron became part of Fleet Air Wing ELEVEN in 1964, bringing with them the first P-3 aircraft to NAS Jacksonville while earning a second Battle “E” and CNO Safety Award.
The squadron began its transition to the upgraded P-3C Orion in 1972. During their deployment to Sigonella in 1973, the Pelicans were the first squadron to fly the P-3C in the Mediterranean and were awarded the Captain Arnold J. Isbell Trophy for excellence in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). During deployments to Keflavik, Iceland in 1974 and Sigonella in 1975, the Pelicans conducted ASW operations and surface surveillance while participating in several NATO and SIXTH Fleet exercises. As a result, the squadron was awarded the first of its five SIXTH Fleet “Hook ‘em” Awards for ASW excellence.
In September 1984, VP-45 began a split deployment to Rota, Spain, and Lajes, Azores. During the five months that followed, VP-45 was awarded their third Battle “E” for overall operational excellence.
While on deployment in 1993, Pelican aircrews once again demonstrated their versatility by participating in both operations DESERT STORM and SHARP GUARD. During this period, the Pelicans received the Golden Wrench Award for outstanding maintenance and the Captain Arnold J. Isbell trophy for ASW excellence.
In 1994, the Pelicans were the first VP squadron to bring the Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM) to the Mediterranean. They also fired the first Maverick Missile in the Mediterranean in 1994. For outstanding performance throughout the year, the VP-45 Maintenance Department received the Golden Wrench Award.
Throughout the 1990s, the Pelicans provided superior support throughout the Mediterranean and Atlantic in Anti-submarine/Surface Warfare, Overland Reconnaissance, and Strike missions. In 2000, the squadron was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their success while deployed. They also earned the 2000 Golden Wrench Award, Captain Arnold J. Isbell Trophy and the Southeast Region Navy Community Service Award (two consecutive years).
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Pelicans deployed in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. During this period, they were awarded the Arleigh Burke Trophy and the CNO Personnel Excellence Partnership Award.
The squadron departed for a split site Puerto Rico/Keflavik deployment in February 2002 and received the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award as well as the Captain Arnold J. Isbell Trophy. The command also won the Command Retention Excellence Award, a second consecutive CNO safety award, and a second consecutive CPRW-11 nomination for the Golden Wrench Award.
Puerto Rico/Keflavik deployment in February 2002 and received the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award as well as the Captain Arnold J. Isbell Trophy. The command also won the Command Retention Excellence Award, a second consecutive CNO safety award, and a second consecutive CPRW-11 nomination for the Golden Wrench Award.
In June 2005, the squadron completed its rigorous Inter-deployment Readiness Cycle (IDRC). Fully qualified and eager to deploy, VP-45 set a new precedent as the first East coast VP squadron to deploy to FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleet. Simultaneously forward deployed in five countries, the Pelicans flew over 3,000 hours in direct support of Operations IRAQI and ENDURING FREEDOM. During their CENTCOM deployment, the Pelicans established the MPRF’s new CENTCOM operational hub at Al Udeid Air Base and became the first VP squadron to establish and operate from a forward deployed base located at Ali Air Base, Iraq. For their outstanding performance, the Pelicans were awarded the Battle “E.”
Between October 2006 and April 2007, the squadron surged nine combat aircrews to the FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleets where they executed 546 combat flight hours in support of operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM. During the 2006/2007 IDRC, the Pelicans revolutionized the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force by developing and leading the transition to the Warfare Development and Consolidated Maintenance constructs.
From June to December 2007, the squadron completed a multi-site deployment to Italy, El Salvador, and Djibouti in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, ACTIVE ENDEAVOR, JOINT GUARDIAN, CARIB SHIELD, and CAPER FOCUS. The Pelicans flew an unprecedented 5,200 mishap free flight hours contributing to the interdiction of over 57 metric tons of narcotics with an estimated street value of over 1.8 billion dollars. During this period, the command was awarded the CFFC Retention Excellence Award and was the CPRW-11 nominee for the Battle Efficiency Award.
OM, SOUTHCOM, CENTCOM, and PACOM Theaters supporting the ongoing efforts in the Global War on Terrorism. Additionally, VP-45 actively participated in Defense Support to Civil Agencies following Hurricanes Ike and Gustav and played significant roles in Homeland Defense Operations, including the Presidential Inauguration. From June to December 2009, the squadron completed a split-site deployment to Kadena, Japan and Comalapa, El Salvador in support of Commander SEVENTH Fleet, UN Security Council Resolution 1874 against North Korea and Operations CARIB SHIELD AND CAPER FOCUS. Post-deployment the Pelicans flew 149 hours supporting U.S. and international efforts in operation UNIFIED RESPONSE in relief efforts for Haiti. Enroute to 41 years and 250,000 mishap-free flight hours the squadron was awarded their second consecutive CNO Safety “S” Award for FY2010. The Pelican aircrews also supported SIXTH and FOURTH Fleet combined ASW training during Exercise JOINT WARRIOR in Kinloss, Scotland and SIFOREX in Lima, Peru. These accomplishments combined with victories in CPRW-11 ASW RODEO and CPRG FLEET ASW CHALLENGE lead to VP-45 being awarded the U.S. Atlantic Fleet Battle “E” for 2010.
From May to December 2011, the Pelicans completed a tri-site deployment to Sigonella, El Salvador, and Djibouti, participating in a wide variety of missions including counter-drug operations, Naval Gunfire Support, surveillance and Strike Coordination and Reporting in support of Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, and counter-piracy operations in the Horn of Africa. The squadron also participated in Operations CAPER FOCUS and CARIB SHIELD from El Salvador. Additionally, the Pelicans participated in multiple Theater Security Cooperation and Engagement exercises, including ASW missions in support of Exercise SEA BREEZE, from Odessa, Ukraine, and Exercise BREEZE, from Burgas, Bulgaria. In August, crews participated in airshows in Moscow, Russia and Malta. VP-45’s participation in the Russian airshow made Naval Aviation history as this was the first ever presence of the “Mighty” P-3 Orion within Russian borders. Crews and support personnel also participated in several joint exercises including JOINT WARRIOR 11-2 in Scotland, TEAMWORK SOUTH in Chile, GRAMPUS in France and Portugal, NORTHERN COAST in Germany and JUNCTION RAIN in Dakaar Senegal.
From December 2012 to June 2013, the Pelicans completed a successful deployment to SEVENTH Fleet, executing an unprecedented 98% sortie completion resulting in ASW Prosecutions that have not been attempted in the AOR in recent years. The Pelicans were instrumental in giving support for Operation GUARDIAN and TYHPOON BOPHA Humanitarian Assistance. The Pelicans also participated in several joint exercises including Exercise COBRA GOLD in Thailand and TAMEX in Australia. In March, the squadron had the privilege of showcasing the P-3 Orion at the LIMA Exhibition in Langkawi, Malaysia. In June 2013, the Pelicans finished their “sundown tour” of the P-3C Orion and returned home to NAS Jacksonville.
From July 2013 to February 2014, the Pelicans completed a challenging and rewarding transition from the P-3C Orion to the P-8A Poseidon, earning “Safe for Flight Certification” thus becoming the third squadron to successfully transition the P-8A Poseidon.
From October 2014 to September 2015, the Pelicans completed a deployment in Okinawa, Japan. VP-45’s aircrews executed 665 sorties totaling 1,644 operational flight hours, including 219 hours of submerged contact in support of Commander, Task Force SEVEN FOUR. Seamlessly executing 20 detachments to 10 nations spanning the PACOM area of responsibility, the Pelicans’ Surveillance and Reconnaissance in the South China Sea gained the world’s attention during 60 dedicated missions and ensured the highest levels of government were kept informed of strategic changes in the South China Sea. Amidst five typhoon evacuations, the Pelicans achieved a 99% mission completion rate with no interruption to planned exercises, operational tasking or detachments.
Additionally, the Pelicans were hand chosen to provide a timely and flexible response to PACOM tasking and detached to Subang, Malaysia to execute reconnaissance in the Strait of Malacca to support efforts during the Rohingya refugee crisis. Pelican aircrews coordinated directly with the nations of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia to provide maritime domain awareness to coalition partners across 500,000 square miles of sea space, ultimately resulting in a positive resolution to the crisis. By their truly distinctive achievements and unfailing devotion to duty, the officers and sailors of Patrol Squadron Four Five reflected credit upon themselves and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
From 2016 to 2017 VP-45 deployed to SIXTH Fleet based out of NAS Sigonella. Upon returning home, VP-45 continued on in preparation for an upcoming FOURTH and SEVENTH Fleet deployments. During the home cycle the squadron became one of the first Maritime Patrol Squadrons to begin Air-to-Air refueling allowing for an expanded Maritime Patrol capability in all operating areas. During the year the Pelicans completed 3.436 flight hours, 128 deployed sorties and 796 flight hours in direct support of CTF 67, CFT 72, and Wing 11. The squadron also participated in several exercises including Dynamic manta, Noble Dina, Joint Warrior, Formidable Shield, Bold Alligator, and HST COMTUEX.
In 2018, VP-45 completed a split site deployment cycle between FOURTH and SEVENTH Fleets where they conducted ASW exercises and counter narcotics exercises and flew 442 sorties encompassing over 3,204 flight hours in direct support of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing ELEVEN, Task Force SEVEN TWO and Joint Interagency Task Force South. Upon returning from deployment the Pelicans began the workup cycle once again completing 392 sorties covering over 1449 flight hours in preparation for future deployments. The Pelicans participated in JOINT WARRIOR, MCSOFEX, OP TUI MOANA, PSI PAC SHIELD, OP ISLAND CHIEF, CARAT INDONESIA, FAW-1 CMPOP J, KAKADU 18, UNITAS, VALIANT SHIELD, and COMTUEX. The Pelicans continued to the IDRC for an upcoming deployment to 7th fleet in late 2019, they have continued to improve on the Air-to-Air refueling capabilities, and getting crews qualified to further improve the Maritime Patrol Recon Force Capabilities.
From October 2019 to June 2020, the Pelicans deployed to the 7th Fleet AOR and assumed command of Task Group 72.2 homebased out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. While deployed, VP-45 was the first ever squadron to have an AAS Global Force Management requirement and were the first squadron to successfully conduct an AAS detachment in the 7th Fleet AOR. By the end of their deployment, the Pelicans completed over 5,000 flight hours during more than 875 sorties, spanning over seven nations and 10 detachment sites across Southeast Asia and South Pacific. Upon returning from deployment, 12 Combat Air Crews trained on the software upgrade FR-75 FIT. Furthermore, the Pelicans worked relentlessly to qualify and sustain eight AAS/AAR crews with four operational AAS aircraft for their 2021 deployment. By the end of 2020, the Pelicans tallied 785 sorties encompassing 4,363 mishap-free flight hours flown at a completion rate of 93.3%.
2021 - present
"The World Famous Pelicans" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 returned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville Oct. 4, following a six-month deployment to the 7th Fleet area of operations.
VP-45, consisting of 304 personnel and seven P-8A Poseidon (P-8A) aircraft, deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan in May 2021 and assumed command of Task Force 72.2, which is responsible for conducting Anti-Submarine Warfare, Theatre Security Cooperation, and Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance operations in 7th Fleet.
The deployment was led by the squadron’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Charles Larwood and Cmdr. Seth Eisenmenger, the executive officer at the time, who ‘fleeted up’ as CO during the deployment.
"VP-45 is no stranger to the Pacific or the Geo Political intricacies of the region", said Eisenmenger. "We proudly represented American values in the region and reinforced the importance of international law through operations that ensured freedom of movement in the maritime domain. It is inspiring that we not only provided regional stability but had a positive impact on the global stage."
VP-45, often referred to as "The World Famous Pelicans", was an essential asset in 7th Fleet, accomplishing over 440 sorties, totaling 2,750 flight hours, leading to increased cooperation with our partners and providing a forward presence which ensured a free and open Indo-Pacific. Equipped with the Advanced Airborne Sensor, they provided a unique product that is highly valued within and outside of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community.
Significant joint training occurred on June 4th, when the Pelicans hosted members of the III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, who conducted training to familiarize themselves with the P-8A Poseidon’s weapons systems and aircraft hazards.
On June 7th, VP-45 held its 79th change of command ceremony, during which Eisenmenger relieved Larwood as commanding officer and Cmdr. Stephen Bruner became the new executive officer.
"My first impressions of VP-45 were that everyone on the team displayed refreshing, well-placed pride—pride in the mission, and pride in each other," said Bruner. "The genuine care and ownership I observed in VP-45 immediately put me at ease, and I knew then that even with the burdens of deployment, COVID, and dynamic tasking, the Pelican team would not let the mission or each other fail."
As to highlight the dynamic and fast-paced environment, VP-45 conducted a search and rescue mission on the same day as the change of command, which resulted in the successful rescue of a lost mariner. On July 14th, VP-45 joined Talisman Sabre, a large-scale, bilateral military exercise between Australia and the U.S. involving more than 17,000 participants from seven nations. The biennial event is designed to strengthen relationships and interoperability with allies and partners as well as enhance the U.S. military’s ability to address the full range of potential security concerns in the Indo-Pacific.
The next major milestone was the 25th iteration of Malabar, an exercise off the coast of Guam. Beginning August 24th, its primary focus was on advanced maritime tactics as well as improved interoperability between the four major naval forces in the Indo-Pacific region, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Indian Navy (IN), and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF). Participation in exercises such as Malabar are critical for the U.S. and its allies to maintain and improve a united maritime front.
Throughout the entirety of its deployment, VP-45 continued to execute missions that were critical to America and its allies’ interests. This included conducting 52 live weapon carries, dropping 4,250 sonobuoys, and receiving over 1.5 million pounds of gas in air-to-air refueling.
Operating out of nine different detachments required a dedicated maintenance department. VP-45’s pivotal role in 7th Fleet could not be accomplished without the 88,844 maintenance hours from 164 Sailors who worked endlessly to ensure the aircrews were able to accomplish missions on station.
As VP-45 returns home and the Sailors reunite with their loved ones they will take a moment to reconnect and become acclimated. Eisenmenger considered the squadron’s new priorities for home cycle.
"Transitioning from the operational tempo of a deployment into a work up cycle does have its challenges but this team has built a solid plan to meet the requirements,” said Eisenmenger. "Once the team returns from some well-deserved time off, our focus returns to building the combat force ready to execute our Nation’s needs."
Bruner looked to the future, bearing in mind the lessons of this deployment.
"We continue to take care of each other while we re-build the next deploying maintenance and aircrew teams that will honor and swell the winning Pelican reputation," Bruner said.
Bruner also highlighted the ‘Pelican pride’ as the core of each Sailor of VP-45, which he says represents the perseverance and unequivocal devotion to duty that the Sailors display and allows VP-45 to be the best patrol squadron in the United States Navy.
"I’m most proud of the dedicated VP-45 Sailors, who, together, consistently muster the pride and put forth the effort to win—no matter the conditions or complexity," said Bruner. "The Pelican Sailors bring it, always. They are the strong foundation of the squadron and reliably deliver superhuman results every single day."
Eisenmenger is looking to the future and says his Sailors are the key to continuing a great tradition.
“The Pelicans have a long standing history of operational excellence and the team we have now whole heartedly embraces this legacy and continues to hold the standard,” he said.