Thursday, February 21, 2008

A month later, VC-6 unit’s homecoming just as sweet

Photo by Rick Thompson
To cheers, hugs, handshakes and camera flashes, members of VC-6 make their way through the crowd at BWI Airport Feb. 5.
A month later, it was the same happy story: a VC-6 platoon — Alpha this time — returning from a six-month deployment in Iraq. At BWI Airport Feb. 5, they were greeted by family and volunteers from Operation Home (Maryland). Signs covered every wall in welcome.

Even before the members of VC-6 came through the doors after clearing customs, other uniformed servicemen and women were cheered as they came out into the crowd.

It was just after 4 p.m. when the returning VC-6 platoon entered as a group to even louder cheers and a welcome from a contingent of officers and enlisted Sailors from Pax River. The VC-6 detachment is based at Webster Field.

Alpha was one of two platoons serving in support of Army units, and the second to be relieved by another VC-6 platoon. The two replacement platoons will return from Iraq in June and July, and VC-6 itself will decommission in August.

Lt. Cmdr. Lance Collier, officer in charge of the VC-6 detachment, said the Sailors were flying the Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) ‘‘providing imagery to battlefield commanders in support of an Army request for forces. The Army had a need and the Navy was able to meet it for the year-long mission.”

As they return from Iraq, the men of VC-6 will have done their last for that unit. ‘‘They will come back here for a short time, just for the time it takes for post-deployment leave and taking care of personal and family business,” said Collier. ‘‘They will then press on with a new set of orders in other Navy units.”

While VC-6 is based in Norfolk, the Webster Field detachment is going out with flags flying. The Army’s Department of Evaluation and Standards reviewed all the contingents flying the Shadow UAV in Iraq, and the best two weren’t Army at all: they were the two VC-6 platoons.

That got them a ‘‘Bravo Zulu” from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead. ‘‘Your Sailors are heralded at the highest levels of the Army and Navy,” wrote Roughead. ‘‘Their precise employment of unmanned aerial vehicles in support of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and other missions greatly contributes to the success of the joint fight.”