VP-45 History - 2013 to Present
The Pelicans were deployed from October 2019 through May 2020 to the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR) and assumed command of Task Group 72.2 (CTG-72.2) out of Kadena Air Base, Japan and a permanent detachment to Clark Air Base, Philippines. Along with conducting Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), Theater Security Cooperation (TSC), and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) missions. Though the COVID-19 pandemic certainly changed the deployment, the precise mission execution of the team was never hampered.
Immediately upon entering the INDO-PACOM region in October, the Pelicans quickly integrated into the high operational pace demanded by the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR. This high operational tempo included multiple coordinated operations such as Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama, ANNUALEX 2019, SEA DRAGON, and Joint Task Force (JTF) 519 Carrier Strike Group support. These exercises maintained and strengthened maritime partnerships, as well as enhanced maritime interoperability. Over the seven months, the Diamondbacked Pelicans built critical relationships with Air Force partners like the 909th Air Refueling Squadron. This allowed for a first-ever long-range, persistent anti-submarine warfare event that spanned half the AOR. They also strengthened TTPs with other Naval Forces that included the REAGAN Carrier Strike Group (CSG), LINCLON CSG, ROOSEVELT CSG, AMERICA Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), as well as our Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN). The Pelicans also got the opportunity to work alongside other naval forces such as the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and many other nations. “I have been consistently blown away by both the tactical and operational excellence of this team. It’s been great to have back to back deployments in C7F to become sage practitioners of disciplined lethality, operating with commander’s intent. The families and friends of our Sailors should be veritably proud of the selfless dedication and efforts of the team,” said Cmdr. Paul Nickell, former Commanding Officer of VP-45.
All said, after just over seven months on deployment, The World Famous Pelicans executed over 5,000 flight hours over 875 sorties from as far west as Diego Garcia to Northern Japan down to Southern Australia and across several Asia-pacific nations such as the Republic of Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, and to the far east at Guam where one crew located a stranded fisherman, deploying a life-raft and directing recovery ships to his location. Out the gates, Pelicans participate in a large scale exercise with a Joint Task Force in Palawan and support multiple Typhoon evacuations in the AOR. As COVID broke open, VP-45 was fortunate to be able to centralize its operations in Kadena where we, with our good friends and sister squadron VP-10, remained fully operational, providing the eyes and ears to multiple fleet commanders, rapidly providing capability anytime, anywhere in the AOR.
With a robust training cycle ahead of this deployment, the Pelicans were trained and ready to succeed. Former Skipper, Mark Zematis, established The Pelican Way that essentially drives the command towards a culture of excellence, continually setting the bar just above fingertip height, pushing every Sailor to contribute to the collective success of the command, reaching the bar, and then resetting it!
VP-45 Maintainers execute over 13,000 Pelican-Hours, ensure every mission succeeded. Led by dedicated leadership, the team has been well tuned – As one officer was overheard upon arrival to Kadena that if “what we’re doing everyday cannot be captured in the lines of the Commands Operational Excellence Principles, then we’re off course, and as each of us are leaders, we must right the ship.” Every Pelican maintainer ensured brilliance in the basics, maximized every training opportunity, and demonstrated their experienced competence of maintaining the world’s most lethal long-range ASW and Patrol Aircraft. While deployed to Kadena AB and three ASW operating detachments, the Pelicans expended 3,687 buoys, 11 EMATTS, 6 Smokes and 5 SUS. During a lifesaving mission, they also expended a UNIT PAC II SAR KIT. The Ordnance Work Center met all Commanders Guidance as to war fighting readiness with six live loads, with zero mishaps. The VP-45 AOs worked alongside VP-10 to ensure their squadron also had adequate time to train and perform loads.
The Pelicans, operated in a COVID-19 environment since January, were all hands were on deck to support these critical life-preserving protocols. The squadron has effectively been operating in a bubble since the outbreak, conducting daily screenings of all-hands.
At the holiday party mid-deployment, Skipper Nickell had a message for the command and families that best illustrates the Proud, Professional Warriors that the Diamondbacked Pelicans are. “The World Famous Pelicans are the Future of our Navy; they are warfighters that have expanded the box of our warfighting competencies this deployment. It continues to be an absolute honor and privilege to serve these warriors, to support their no-fail mission, and to witness the incredible accomplishments made by a force largely comprised of Sailors between 18 to 25 year old Patriots! With clear intent, resolve and authorities, these Sailors are the best Navy has ever had, and in these times of great power competition and operations, it is apparent they will not be defeated.”
Throughout 2016, the VP-45 Pelicans showed a consistent dedication to operational excellence and performance while maintaining above average qualification and maintenance standards. The Pelicans took part in two major exercises while on home cycle during June and July of 2016: SIFOREX Exercise and RIMPAC Exercise. Silent Force Exercise is an advanced anti-submarine warfare bilateral exercise held in Peru to provide training against diesel-electric powered submarines. RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime exercise with 27 nations and over 25,000 people participating. These exercises proved a vital launching point for the pre-deployment evaluations and work-ups which would dominate the first half of 2016 for the squadron.
The Pelicans underwent their annual Aviation Maintenance Inspection (AMI), Maintenance Program Assistance (MPA), Conventional Weapons Refresher Training (CWRT), Conventional Weapons Training Preparedness Inspection (CWTPI), their Fleet NATOPS inspection, Advanced Readiness Program (ARP) and Operational Readiness Evaluations (ORE) which assess the squadron’s readiness for an upcoming deployment. Once these evaluations were complete, VP-45 was ready to blaze the trail for P-8A operations in 6th Fleet.
In August 2016, the Pelicans of VP-45 began their first SIXTH Fleet deployment in the P-8A to Sigonella, Italy. As soon as the squadron settled in after turning over with Patrol Squadron Four, the Pelicans quickly took to the skies. During the eight month deployment, the Pelicans participated in a wide variety of missions to include search and rescue operations, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), surveillance and Strike Coordination and Reporting. The squadron participated in Operations Atlantic Resolve, Sea Guardian, Snap Hook, Cold Anvil, Pick Axe and Crow Bar. While conducting these operations, the Pelicans flew 591 sorties and logged 3,782.9 flight hours.
In addition to their regular missions, the Pelicans had the opportunity to participate in multiple exercises from various locations. In September, VP-45 crews flew ASW missions in support of Exercise Northern Coast from Denmark and Romania and participated in Airshows in Naples and Malta. In October, crews flew ASW missions in support of Exercise Cable Car from Scotland and participated in the airshow in Coningsby, England. VP-45’s participation in these airshows made Naval Aviation history as this was the first ever presence of the “Mighty” P-8 Poseidon within the SIXTH Fleet Area of Operations. Crews and support personnel also participated in the Mavi Balina exercise in November. These exercises gave the Pelicans several opportunities to work with foreign militaries and demonstrate the immense capabilities of the U.S. Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community.
Throughout 2016-2017, the Pelicans also demonstrated their commitment to professional development and service. Despite the challenges of their deployment, the squadron continued to excel. 62 Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, 29 Flag Letters of Commendation, 12 Safety Pros, 9 Navy Commendation Medals, 4 Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals, 3 Meritorious Service Medals and 23 Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist Wings were awarded to our Sailors for their exceptional service.
In 2013 the Pelicans of VP-45 began their transition from the P-3C Orion to the P-8A Poseidon. On January 30, 2014 the Pelicans successfully completed their Conventional Weapons Training Proficiency Inspection (CWTPI). Inspectors from Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) -11 Weapons School judged the proficiency of both Aviation Electronics Technicians (AT) and Aviation Ordnancemen (AO) through the process of wire-checking, uploading and downloading ordnance, such as torpedoes and chaff, on the P-8A aircraft. On January 30, 2014 the Pelicans successfully completed their Conventional Weapons Training Proficiency Inspection (CWTPI). Inspectors from Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) -11 Weapons School judged the proficiency of both aviation electronics technicians (AT) and aviation Ordnancemen (AO) through the process of wire-checking, uploading and downloading ordnance, such as torpedoes and chaff, on the P-8A aircraft.
VP-45 obtained Safe for Flight status following an inspection on Feb. 27 – officially completing their transition to the Navy’s new maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon. In doing so, VP-45 became the Navy’s third operational P-8A squadron, following in the footsteps of VP-16 and VP-5.
Before they could officially complete their transition to becoming an active duty squadron again, the Pelicans had to run the gauntlet of Safe for Flight, a grueling weeklong inspection by Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing-11. The inspectors checked everything from emergency drills to NATOPS jackets to make sure that VP-45 was up to fleet standards and could perform these drills safely.
This was followed by an intensive year-long Inter-Deployment Readiness Cycle (IDRC), which was later redesigned to the FRTP, to prepare for their inaugural deployment with the new aircraft which included joint and multinational exercises designed to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and its allies. As part of the FRTP, VP-45, sent aircrews and maintainers all over the globe, including Estonia, Iceland, Hawaii, Guam, Bermuda, England, Peru and Chile supporting exercises such as BALTOPS, RIMPAC, Valiant Shield, Joint Warrior, SIFOREX and Teamwork South.
From June 6 to 21, the Pelicans participated in the annual joint exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014, in the Baltic Sea Area of Responsibility (AOR). BALTOPS included 1,300 U.S. service members, along with forces from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
VP-45 also sent a one-plane detachment to participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise scheduled June 26 - Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. RIMPAC 2014 is the world’s largest maritime exercise, consisting of 23 nations, 47 ships, six submarines and more than 200 aircraft. During the almost six week exercise, VP-45 rotated four combat aircrews through a single P-8A Poseidon to take advantage of RIMPAC’s real-world training scenarios. The Pelicans worked in conjunction with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to plan a ‘coordinated time on target’ Harpoon missile shot against a surface target.
VP-45 took part in Valiant Shield 2014, a large-scale, blue-water exercise in the 7th Fleet AOR that promotes high-level joint training among U.S. military forces. The exercise focused on interoperability among U.S. military forces that enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces’ abilities to detect, track and engage units at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace when responding to a range of mission areas.
The Pelicans then participated in SIFOREX , a biennial Naval exercise that focuses on anti-submarine warfare (ASW) proficiency. Naval forces from Brazil, Colombia, Peru and the U.S participated in SIFOREX 2014, which was hosted by the Peruvian navy, and took place in the Southern Pacific beginning September 29. The exercise immediately followed UNITAS, the U.S. Navy's longest running multinational maritime exercise, where 14 partner nations cooperated in a vast array of maritime scenarios.
In October of 2014, VP-45 participated in Joint Warrior which is a semi-annual training exercise conducted off the coast of Scotland. The training, led by the United Kingdom, is designed to provide NATO and allied forces a multi-warfare environment in which to prepare for global operations. Participating countries aim to improve interoperability and prepare forces for future combined exercises. The scenarios include small boat attacks, boarding operations, air defense, anti-submarine warfare, and ship maneuverability tasks.
The Pelicans traveled to Chile in November of 2014 to take part in Teamwork South. Teamwork South is a bi-annual naval exercise hosted by the Chilean Navy to further bolster a robust relationship and mutual understanding in the region. Teamwork South is the largest naval exercise conducted by Chile and focuses on advanced naval training operations including ship handling, submarine warfare, live fire gunnery and missile drills as well as multi-level, scenario driven war gamming.
The Pelicans of VP- 45 began their seven-month deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) when the first of six P-8A Poseidon aircraft departed from NAS Jacksonville on Jan. 27 and the last aircraft departed on Feb. 7. VP-45 relieved the “Mad Foxes” of VP-5 at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan on Feb. 10 assuming maritime patrol and reconnaissance efforts in support of national interests in the 7th Fleet AOR
The Pelicans of VP-45 completed the first detachment of their 2015 deployment to Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines. From Feb. 1 - 21, the Pelicans mission supported 7th Fleet objectives around the clock to strengthen maritime partnerships while conducting routine patrols across the 7th Fleet area of responsibility. Members of Combat Aircrews (CACs) 4 and 9, along with maintenance and support personnel, executed more than 180 flight hours over the course of three weeks in support of theater operations by providing real-time intelligence of the maritime domain. Sailors from Patrol Squadron 45 participated in static P-8A displays at Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2015 (LIMA 15) March 17-21 to help strengthen military-to-military relationships and cooperative agreements with Malaysia. LIMA is a biennial event held in Malaysia since in 1991. It is a premier destination for aerospace and maritime manufacturers targeting the Southeast Asia market. The exhibition showcases technology in sea and air systems to address a wide spectrum of security challenges faced by countries in the region and around the world. The Pelicans later participated in the Australian International Airshow March 18, 2015, which is a representation of more than 27 countries and 500 aeronautical. U.S. Navy Patrol Squadron 45 participated with a P-8A Poseidon aircraft flown by Combat Aircrew (CAC) 12. This year’s airshow was the 12th such annual event staged at Avalon Airport in Victoria. The theme was “A Centenary of Anzac 1915 - 2015, Heroes of the Sky.” It marks the centenary of the formation of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) – and their landing at Gallipoli.
On May 14, Cmdr. John Weidner relieved Cmdr. T. J. Grady as commanding officer of VP-45 at a change of command ceremony held at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, that featured an address from guest speaker Capt. Sean Liedman, commodore of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 11. Cmdr. Grady commanded the P-8A Poseidon squadron of 286 Sailors, since May 2014. During his tenure as commanding officer, aircrews and maintainers successfully detached to Estonia, Iceland, Hawaii, Guam, Bermuda, England, Peru and Chile, among others, in support of Exercises Baltops, Rimpac, Valiant Shield, Joint Warrior, Siforex and Teamwork South. Grady has most notably led the Pelicans in their current inaugural P-8A Poseidon deployment, being only the third operational squadron to complete the transition from the P-3C Orion.
CNN’s Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto, joined Capt. Mike Parker, commander Task Force Seven Two (CTF-72), and Combat Air Crew 11 of VP-45 on a mission in the South China Sea May 20, to report on China's rapid land reclamation activities in the contested Spratly Islands. The Pentagon’s decision to declassify aspects of the routine surveillance flight followed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Beijing amid escalating tensions between the United States and China on the issue. Territorial disputes with five other nations in the region conflict with China’s claims — Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and the Philippines all claim sovereignty over various parts of the Paracel and Spratly Islands.
On July 2015, the new commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, joined a surveillance mission over the West Philippine Sea on Saturday as part of his four-day visit to the country. As part of his visit to the Philippines, Adm. Scott Swift took part in a seven-hour maritime surveillance mission to witness firsthand the full range of the Poseidon’s capabilities.
September 2015, the VP-45 Pelicans see the last of their members return from their 7th Fleet deployment where the crews executed 665 sorties totaling 1,644 operational flight hours, including 219 hours of submerged contact in support of commander, Task Force Seven Four. VP-45 executed 10 detachments to 10 nations spanning the Pacific Command area to include the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
A few months later the Pelicans took ten members from to Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Bristol, Tenn., on Sep. 29 to meet and speak to more than 200 Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) students about the Navy and its newest maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon. The visit was organized by retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Chris Fain from Sullivan North High School Navy JROTC, Kingsport, Tenn., and included students from Cherokee High School Navy JROTC, Rogersville, Tenn., Daniel Boone High School Marine Corps JROTC, Gray, Tenn., North Laurel High School Navy JROTC, London, Ky., Sullivan East High School Navy JRTOC, Bluff City, Tenn., Sullivan North High School and Unicoi County High School Air Force JROTC, Erwin, Tenn.
The leadership of Patrol Squadron 45 hosted Gary Kessler, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Air Programs) (DASN Air), during an Oct. 22 visit to Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing (CPRW) 11 where he learned about the Navy's new maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon. As DASN Air, Kessler is the principal advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN (RD&A)) on matters relating to aircraft (manned and unmanned), air-launched weapons, cruise missiles, airborne sensors and avionics.
Sailors from Patrol Squadron 45 participated in the Dubai Air Show (DAS 15) from 8-12 Nov. 2015 to strengthen military-to-military relationships and reinforce ties with allies of the region. DAS is a biennial event held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates beginning in 1986. It has now become one of the biggest aerospace events in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The exhibition showcases technology in air systems around the world and provides individuals in the aviation industry a place to connect with Middle Eastern clients. DAS 15 featured technologies in commercial aviation, military aviation, business aviation, unmanned aerial vehicles and space technologies. The Pelican’s P8-A Poseidon was just one of over 1,100 exhibitors from 61 countries, over 66,000 trade visitors, a $37.2 billion order book and 150 aircraft.
Patrol Squadron 45 welcomed Rear Adm. Dave Kriete, commander, Submarine Group Nine (COMSUBGRU 9) aboard NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., Dec. 9 2015 to discuss, tour, and fly the P-8A Poseidon. COMSUBGRU 9 is headquartered at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Silverdale, Wash. Kriete is responsible for the training, readiness, logistical, administrative and personnel support of all U.S. ballistic missile (SSBN) and guided missile (SSGN) submarines in the Pacific Northwest. The VP-45 aircrew provided Kriete a ground tour of the Poseidon before departing on a crew training flight to demonstrate the capabilities and characteristics of the aircraft.
The Pelicans of Patrol Squadron 45 conducted the first burial-at-sea in a P-8A aircraft. James Lincoln "Linc" Sparks Sr., a deceased former naval flight officer and member of VP-45 was laid to rest on January 8, 2015. The burial-at-sea ceremony is an honored tradition dating back to World War II. It’s available for active duty members of the uniformed services, retirees and honorably discharged veterans, Military Sealift Command U.S. civilian marine personnel and their family members. It helps to recognize service members and the sacrifices they have made.
VP-45 Pelicans are under the current leadership of Commanding Officer, Commander Mark E. Zematis, and Executive Officer, Paul J. Nickell.
VP-45 COMMAND HISTORY - Pre 2013
Patrol Squadron FORTY-FIVE (VP-45) home ported at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, was initially commissioned Patrol Squadron TWO ZERO FIVE (VP-205) on 1 November 1942 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia. The squadron was soon ordered to San Juan, Puerto Rico where it received a full complement of 13 PBM Mariners for its mission of anti-submarine patrol and convoy escort over Atlantic and Caribbean waters.
During 1944, VP-205 moved successively to NAAF/NAF Port of Spain, Trinidad, British West Indies, NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then back to NAS Norfolk, Virginia for refresher training at NAAS Harvey Point, Hertford, North Carolina. The squadron was redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 205 (VPB-205) and joined the Pacific Fleet at NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, at the end of 1944. In 1945, VPB-205 carried out missions of ASW, surveillance patrols, and search and rescue from Tanapag, Saipan; Chim Wan, Okinawa; and Wakayama, Japan. The squadron returned to NAS Norfolk, Virginia in October 1945 for training and overhaul, and moved to NAS Bermuda in April 1946. Its designation was changed to VP-MS-5 in 1946, and then to its present designation as VP-45 on 1 September 1948. VP-45 subsequently had changes of homeport back to NAS Norfolk, Virginia to NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone in 1951, when it transitioned to P5M Marlin seaplanes and back to NAS Bermuda in 1956.
VP-45 took part in numerous Caribbean operations with seaplane tenders, was airborne on all "Mercury" space shots as part of the Bermuda Recovery Unit, and became part of ASW Task Group DELTA in September, 1961. The early efforts of Task Group DELTA resulted in significant developments in ASW tactics, sensors and related equipment. VP-45 then left Task Group DELTA at the end of 1962 to deploy to Guantanamo Bay for ASW and shipping surveillance in connection with the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In September 1963, VP-45 established detachments at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland and NAS Jacksonville, Florida to commence transition to the P-3A Orion aircraft.
On 1 January 1964 the squadron changed homeport to NAS Jacksonville, Florida and became part of Fleet Air Wing ELEVEN. VP-45 was fully operational in the P-3A by May 1964, and detached five aircraft to NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada for deployment operations of ASW surveillance and ice reconnaissance until February 1965. After a short period at home, the squadron deployed to NAS Adak, Alaska in July 1965 to operate under the control of Commander Alaskan Sea Frontier, and returned to NAS Jacksonville, Florida in January, 1966. In July 1966, VP-45 returned to NAS Bermuda with a six-plane detachment during which time it carried out ASW operations in the central Atlantic.
From January to June 1967, the squadron continued to participate actively in support of Atlantic Fleet operations. It sent the first P-3A to the Joint Anti-Submarine School at Londonderry, Northern Ireland, sent a detachment to Panama and operated a three-plane detachment at Ascension Island. In June, VP-45 again deployed to NAS Bermuda with a three-plane detachment at NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, and returned to NAS Jacksonville, Florida in December 1967.
In May 1968, VP-45 responded when the first word was received concerning the tragic loss of the nuclear submarine SCORPION. The squadron flew extensive search and rescue missions from Bermuda and Lajes, Azores. In December 1968, VP-45 departed NAS Jacksonville, Florida for a six-month deployment in support of U. S. combat operations in Southeast Asia. Under the consecutive operational control of CPW-10 and CPW-8, the squadron carried out operations from bases at NS Sangley Point, Philippines and U-Tapao, Thailand. The squadron's primary mission was coastal surveillance patrols in conjunction with operation "Market Time". All VP-45 crews were awarded at least two Air Medals in addition to the Vietnamese Service Medal and Vietnamese Campaign Medal.
Resuming normal operations in NAS Jacksonville, Florida in June, 1969, the squadron deployed four months later to NS Rota, Spain operating with a four-plane, six-crew detachment. The detachment augmented SIXTH Fleet ASW forces in the Mediterranean, participated in several exercises, and conducted numerous patrol operations. The squadron returned to NAS Jacksonville, Florida in July 1970.
In October 1970 the squadron deployed to NAS Sigonella, Sicily. During the four month deployment, VP-45 conducted ASW and surface surveillance operations for Commander, Antisubmarine Warfare Forces SIXTH Fleet. The squadron flew numerous operations during the Jordanian crisis, and logged over 3500 flight hours. The squadron was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its participation during the Jordanian situation. In December 1971, the squadron conducted a four month split deployment between NS Rota, Spain and NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal and operated detachments from Souda Bay, Crete; Sal, Cape Verde Islands; and NAS Sigonella, Sicily.
In April 1972, VP-45 began transitioning to the P-3C Orion, a computerized, more sophisticated version of the P-3A. Transition was complete in October 1972, and the squadron gained immediate operational experience with detachments to NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal in December, 1972 and January, 1973. In October 1973, the Pelicans completed a five month deployment to NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal, and were the first P-3C squadron in the Mediterranean. VP-45 was later awarded the Arnold J. Isbell Trophy for excellence in anti-submarine warfare for the NAS Sigonella, Sicily deployment.
In July 1974, VP-45 deployed to NAS Keflavik, Iceland and conducted flight operations in the North Atlantic. The squadron was relieved on 12 December 1974 and returned to NAS Jacksonville, Florida. The Pelicans deployed to NAS Sigonella, Sicily in August 1975, and conducted ASW operations, surface surveillance and participated in several NATO and SIXTH Fleet exercises. The squadron was awarded the first SIXTH Fleet "Hook 'Em" Award for ASW excellence in the Mediterranean, and logged nearly 6000 flight hours during the five month deployment.
Beginning in July 1976, VP-45 participated in UNITAS XVII, an annual U. S./South American naval exercise which required the Pelicans to operate detachments from NS Roosevelt Roads, PR, NAF Natal, Brazil, Uruguay, NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela under the operational control of Commander, U. S. South Atlantic Force. In December 1976, a month after termination of UNITAS XVII, VP-45 deployed again to NAS Keflavik, Iceland, conducting surface surveillance and ASW operations in the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea. The squadron was relieved in May 1977 and returned to NAS Jacksonville, Florida to prepare for its upcoming deployment to NAS Sigonella, Sicily in early 1978.
In September of 1984, VP-45 began a split deployment to NS Rota, Spain, and NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal. During the five months that followed, VP-45 was awarded their fourth “Hook ‘em” award and third Battle “E” for overall operational excellence. The Pelicans deployed to NAS Sigonella, Sicily in July 1987, flying over 4,500 hours of high tempo operations in direct support of the SIXTH Fleet. The Pelicans then returned home to Jacksonville where they became the first active duty patrol squadron to retrofit the P-3C baseline aircraft with the advanced Update III package.
In 1992, VP-45 embarked upon a split deployment between Keflavik and Jacksonville, aggressively participating in carrier battle group operations and coordinated shallow water ASW with several NATO countries. During the deployment, the squadron surpassed 155,000 hours of mishap-free flying and achieved a phenomenal 99 percent sortie completion rate. Another multi-site deployment followed in 1993, with the aircrews showing their versatility by participating in both operations DESERT STORM and SHARP GUARD. The Pelicans received the Golden Wrench Award for outstanding maintenance and the Captain Arnold J. Isbell trophy for ASW excellence.
The Pelicans deployed to NAS Sigonella, Sicily in 1996 and again set new standards for maritime patrol aviation by participating in 18 exercises and detaching to five locations throughout Europe and the Middle East. The squadron demonstrated the multi-mission capability of the P-3C, flying both tactical reconnaissance missions overland Bosnia and blockade support missions in operation SHARP GUARD.
Returning to NAS Sigonella, Sicily in 1997, the Pelicans flew over 5000 hours with a 98 percent sortie completion rate. The sorties flown supported 18 detachments from 10 different locations, including three weeks of SAR contingency operations out of Namibia. The Pelicans were the first VP squadron to bring the Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM) to the Med, and fired the first Maverick Missile there since 1994. The squadron continued to set high standards for on-station presence and performance, both over land in operation DELIBERATE GUARD and in a remarkable 28 exercises in support of the SIXTH Fleet. For outstanding performance throughout the year, the VP-45 Maintenance Department received the Golden Wrench Award for 1998.
Returning home to Jacksonville in August, the squadron began another rigorous Inter-deployment Training Cycle (IDTC), which included transitioning to the latest P-3 upgrade, the Aircraft Improvement Program (AIP) modification. With the transition complete in August 2000, VP-45 took AIP back on deployment to Sigonella, Sicily. Highlighted by 24x7 armed surface combat air patrol, VP-45's deployment encompassed over 84 armed missions in support of SIXTH Fleet contingency operations. The Pelicans provided superior support throughout the Mediterranean in Anti-submarine/Surface Warfare, Overland Reconnaissance, and Strike missions. 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 for the second consecutive year.
After the terrorist attacks in September 2001, VP-45 flew long-range reconnaissance missions along the U.S. East Coast in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The Pelicans were awarded the Arleigh Burke Trophy and the CNO Personal Excellence Partnership Award for 2001. The squadron departed for a split site Puerto Rico/Keflavik deployment in February 2002 and operated from multiple detachment locations spanning three continents. During this deployment, the squadron was involved in the largest maritime drug interdiction in SOUTHCOM history, totaling more than $12.4 billion. The Pelicans received the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award and the Captain Arnold J. Isbell trophy in 2002.
Returning from deployment, the Pelicans qualified 12 aircrews three months ahead of schedule, an unprecedented feat. By expeditiously certifying aircrews during the Inter-deployment Training Cycle, VP-45 had the flexibility to fully support National Training Continuum and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Four Pelican aircrews were detached prior to and during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM receiving 10 Navy Commendation Medals and 14 Navy Achievement Medals for exceptional skill and courage. In February 2004, the Pelicans returned home from NAS Sigonella, Sicily completing a challenging Mediterranean deployment operating from eight different countries directly supporting the Global War on Terrorism. The squadron received the Command Retention Excellence Award, a second consecutive CNO safety award and a second consecutive CPRW-11 nomination for Golden Wrench Award.
In June 2005, the squadron completed its rigorous Inter-deployment Readiness Cycle. 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 Fleets since the Vietnam Era. Operating out of sixteen countries throughout the deployment, the Pelicans flew over 3800 hours in direct support of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM and were the first to establish a detachment in Iraq while capturing the battlespace in real time for the troops on the ground and Theater Commanders. Additionally, VP-45 established a new Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance hub at Al Udied Air Base, Qatar. For their outstanding performance, the Pelicans were awarded the 2005 Battle “E” and Arliegh Burke Award.
In 2009, the Pelicans executed a challenging multi-site deployment operating in both the PACIFIC and SOUTHERN Command’s Area of Responsibility. While on deployment, VP-45 executed 500 missions and 11 detachments encompassing 3,321 mishap-free flight hours in support of SEVENTH Fleet operational tasking and FOURTH Fleet counter-drug operations. During this time, VP-45 crews flew the most successful and longest ASW prosecution of an out-of-area deployer in the SEVENTH Fleet AOR, conducted maritime counter-proliferation and interdiction operations in support of United Nation sanctions against North Korea and assisted in the seizure of over 20 metric tons of illegal narcotics. Shortly after returning from deployment, VP-45 supported the nation of Haiti during post-earthquake recovery efforts. The Pelicans maintained their impressive safety record flying over 5,200 hours mishap-free through dedicated maintenance and by the book procedures, culminating in the squadron being awarded the CNO Safety “S” Award for the second consecutive year. The Pelicans were recognized for their hard work and set as the benchmark with the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle “E” for 2010.
Pelicans completed their Inter-deployment Readiness Cycle with victories for Combat Aircrew One in the Maritime Patrol Aviation Fleet Challenge for 2011 and the coveted Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11 ASW Rodeo award for second quarter 2011. In May, they headed out for a successful tri-site deployment to Comalapa, El Salvador; Djibouti, Djibouti; and Sigonella, Italy. The deployment supported U.S. Navy Fifth and Sixth Fleets involvement in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Unified Protector, Operation Active Endeavour, Operation Carib Shield, and Operation Caper Focus. Of note, these operations lead to the unseating of Libyan dictator, Momar Qaddafi, the seizure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics bound for the U.S., and the prevention of piracy around the Horn of Africa. Under CDR Ditch’s leadership, Patrol Squadron 45 flew 568 sorties, which resulted in the execution of 5435 mishap-free, combat flight hours.