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Circa 1996

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: VP-68 History ThumbnailCameraVP-68 History "...VP-68 acoustic pre-flight, circa 1996. Not sure (can't remember...getting old too!) who the SS-1 is in the pic. I think this was taken before we went to Kef in early '96..." Contributed by DROUSE, AW2 Edward jedrouse@netzero.net [01JAN2005]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...COMMAND COMPOSITION AND ORGANIZATION..." Contributed by AWCS Richard Fickling, USNR Ret. p3css1@aol.com


The mission of Patrol Squadron 68 (VP-68) was to attain and maintain the highest possible personnel and material readiness for immediate employment in the event of war or national emergency and to perform Peacetime Contributory Support as an integral part of the total force. In the final days of training for these roles the 219 men and women of Patrol Squadron Sixty-Eight maintained and operated five Lockheed "Orion" P-3C UPDATE II.5 aircraft for training and operational missions in support of fleet operations in the Atlantic ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.

VP-68 has been formally disestablished. Prior to that it was homeported at NAF Washington, D.C. which is contiguous with Andrews Air Force Base. The squadron operated under the operational and administrative control of Commander Reserve Patrol Wing Atlantic. The "BLACKHAWKS" of VP-68, with tail code "Lima Whiskey", were composed of 150 Selected Reservists supported by an active duty contingent of 69 Training and Administration of Reserve (TAR) personnel. The squadron was organized into Port and Starboard wings, consisting of Administrative, Operations, Safety/NATOPS Training and Maintenance Departments which supported 14 combat Aircrews of 12 personnel each.

The "BLACKHAWKS" were last commanded by Commander J. A. Lemmons, United States Naval Reserve.

"The Final Year"

During the final year, 1996, Patrol Squadron 68 (VP-68) continued to support the fleet in a safe and professional manner. VP-68 surpassed 26 years and 107,000 hours mishap free flight operations. As in previous years, operations in 1996 included maritime surveillance, support of carrier battle group operations, and counter-narcotics patrols as well as joint and combined operations to enforce United Nations sanctions.

VP-68 conducted a Change of Command on 24 February, CDR. J. A. Lemmons relieved CDR. R. A. Sinibaldi. The following month, the squadron completed their annual COMNAVAIRESFOR NATOPS evaluation. VP-68 completed a flawless operational detachment in April to NAS Key West, Florida in support of Counter-Narcotic missions in the Caribbean sea. The detachment met 100 percent of the operational commitments with FMC aircraft. This outstanding performance was recognized by JIATF East.

In June the "BLACKHAWKS" participated in the annual air show in Aspen, Colorado. Their participation marked the first time ever that a Maritime Patrol aircrew was represented at this event. The image and prestige of the Naval Reserve was greatly enhanced by this event.

During an eight week period in August and September VP-68 aircrews and maintenance personnel detached to NAS Keflavik, Iceland. Crews flew over 361 hours, completing 51 sorties in support of CTF-84 tasking. This detachment included real world ASW and participation in the NATO exercise "Northern Lights". In addition, VP-68 managed the interoperability between VP-5, VP-8, VP-10, VP-26, VP-64, VP-66, VP-92, and the RESASWTRACEN. Squadron aircraft did not miss an event resulting in Commendation letters from CNRF, CNARF, CTF-84, CRPWL, Commander, Patrol Wing Five (CPW-5) and CTG-84.1.

In preparation for its disestablishment, VP-68 completed the safe transfer of 5 aircraft to VP-92 during the months of September, October, and November. Patrol Squadron 68 continued to serve at the forefront of Patrol Aviation until the very end.


Patrol Squadron-68 (VP-68) traces it's lineage to Naval Reserve Patrol Squadron VP-661 which was formed during the re-establishment of the organized Naval Air Reserve following World War II. In October 1950 VP-661 was recalled to active duty for the Korean Conflict. That same month Naval Reserve Patrol Squadron VP-662 was commissioned. The newly commissioned squadron commenced operations from NAS Anacostia, Washington, D.C., flying the PBY-5A "Catalina" aircraft. Upon demobilization, VP-661 rejoined its sister squadron at NAS Anacostia, Washington, D.C..

In 1955, VP-661 and VP-662 transitioned to the P-2(V)2 "Neptune" aircraft. With the decommissioning of NAS Anacostia, Washington, D.C. in January, 1961 both squadrons moved to their new home, Naval Air Facility, Andrews AFB. In 1961 VP-661 was again mobilized for the Berlin Crisis and deployed to the fleet patrol base at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Remaining at Naval Air Facility Andrews AFB, VP-662 flew critical operational maritime surveillance flights during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1964, VP-662 received its first of four consecutive Noel Davis Trophies, recognition as the most outstanding patrol squadron in the Naval Reserve.

In May of 1968, VP-661 and VP-662 were redesignated as VP-68A1 and VP-68A-2, respectively, and on 1 November 1970, VP68A1 and VP68A2 merged with a third squadron, VP-8A1, to form Patrol Squadron 68. The new squadron was assigned to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, flying the P-3A "Orion" aircraft. During its first year, VP-68 completed transition from the Neptune to the Orion, becoming the first Atlantic Fleet Naval Air Reserve squadron to do so. This was followed by a one month active duty period conducting Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) and surveillance operations from Naval Air Facility Lajes, Azores, Portugal.

The summers of 1973 and 1974 saw VP-68 flying over 1,000 hours during a four week period in support of Commander, Task Force 67. ASW operations took the squadron to Naval Station Rota, Spain where patrols were flown over the Bay of Cadiz, Straits of Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean Sea. During the annual Active Duty for Training period in 1975, VP-68 deployed crews for an extended period to both Lajes and Rota, flying operations in support of Atlantic Fleet ASW missions. November of 1976 found VP-68 flying out of NAS Bermuda in support of Commander, Task Force 24. This operation consisted of three two-week periods with five flight crews and five aircraft assigned to each period, flying a total of 784 hours. The following year, 1977, saw six volunteer crews sent to Naval Station Rota, Spain for special Active Duty for Training in support of Commander, Task Force 67 operations. One month active duty periods in 1979 and 1980 were performed at Naval Air Facility Lajes. The year 1981 found VP-68 back at Naval Air Facility Lajes while the squadron simultaneously maintained detachments at Ascension Island, Naval Station Keflavik, Iceland and Naval Air Station Bermuda.

August 1982 again brought VP-68 to Naval Station Rota and Naval Air Station Bermuda. In 1983, VP-68 was tasked not only with deployment to Naval Air Station Bermuda, but also with maintaining detachments to Naval Air Facility Lajes, Naval Station Rota, and Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. The squadron returned to Naval Air Facility Lajes in 1984, where crews flew over 750 hours in support of operational commitments throughout the Atlantic ASW sector.

1985 was a big year for VP-68 as the squadron completed transition to the P-3B Tactical Navigation Modernization (TACNAVMOD) aircraft. In April of that year, VP-68 moved to NAF Washington, D.C., the location formerly known as Naval Air Facility Andrews AFB from which VP-661 and VP-662 had operated 15 years before.

In August 1986, the squadron conducted its first deployment in the P-3B TACNAVMOD aircraft, flying over 750 operational hours from Naval Air Facility Lajes. In 1987, VP-68 returned to Naval Air Facility Lajes for annual training with detachments to Naval Station Rota and Naval Station Keflavik. Annual training in 1988, 1989, and 1990 was performed from Naval Station Rota with detachments to Naval Air Station Barbers Point, HI; NS Roosevelt Roads, PR Naval Air Facility Lajes; Naval Air Station Sigonella, Royal Air Force Base Kinloss; Royal Air Force Base Macrihanish; Royal Air Force Base St. Mawgan; Dakar; Senegal; France; and Ascension Island. In 1991, VP-68 began transition to the P-3C UPDATE I aircraft and the squadron received the AVCM Donald M. Neal "Golden Wrench" Award for maintenance excellence.

VP-68 completed the transition to the P-3C in 1992 after only 18 months, six months ahead of schedule. Additionally, the squadron participated in Exercise UNITAS XXXIII-92, operating from NAF Recife, Brazil and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Returning to a fully operational status in 1993, VP-68 started the year with detachment of one crew to Thule Air Base, Greenland, four crews to NAS Sigonella, Sicily, and two crews to Naval Station Rota. The squadron also provided multi-crew detachments on two occasions to support counter-narcotics operations. A second four-crew detachment to Naval Air Station Sigonella supporting United Nations sanctions against the former Yugoslav republics earned "Bravo Zulu's" from every operational commander, from the sector commander through Commander, Sixth Fleet.

1993 provided new opportunities and challenges for VP-68. "BLACKHAWK" aircrews set a new COMNAVAIRESFOR record for aircrew participation and qualification during the command's P-3C unit Naval Aviation Training and Operational Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) evaluation. VP-68 aircrews and NAS maintenance teams completed two multi-crew detachments to Rota and NAS Sigonella, Sicily in support of Operation "Maritime Guard", enforcing United Nations resolutions and sanctions of the former Yugoslav Republics. Individual crews conducted operations in support of several Naval exercises. These operational exercises ranged from high-latitude ASW operations while detached to Thule AB, Greenland to NATO exercises from NS Rota, Spain and Nines Garon, France. In addition, VP-68 continued to support counter-narcotics operations from NAS Key West.

1994 and 1995 saw VP-68 complete multiple detachments in support of real world fleet operations. "BLACKHAWK" aircrews continued the support of Operation Sharp Guard out of NAS Sigonella, Sicily. Three multiple week detachments were made to NS Roosevelt Roads, PR and Howard AFB, Panama to conduct Counter Narcotics operations. Two crews and maintenance personnel participated in UNITAS XXXV-94, operating from Montevideo, Uruguay. VP-68 aircrews won 3 Crew of the Quarter awards, the CPWL Mining derby and the COMNAVAIRESFOR "Liberty Bell" VP-68 also, broke their own record for participation and qualification rates in the COMNAVAIRESFOR NATOPS unit evaluation.

1996 presented a daunting challenge to VP-68. The squadron was ordered to stand-down on 31 December 1996, but not before completing a six week detachment to Naval Station Keflavik. The five aircrews and maintenance personnel who participated, continued the 26 year tradition of operational excellence one last time. Patrol Squadron 68 continued to remain at the forefront of Naval Reserve Patrol Aviation in both aircraft and aircrew readiness. The hallmark of the squadron was "Readiness with Safety". The command received the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award in 1972, 1974, 1981, 1982 and 1984. In 1996, the squadron passed the dual milestones of 26 years and 107,000 hours of major mishap-free flight operations. In recognition of the command's overall excellence and commitment to mobilization readiness, VP-68 has been awarded the Noel Davis Trophy for battle efficiency (the Battle "E") in 1982, 1988, and 1990. The Liberty Bell Trophy for the best Naval Reserve patrol combat aircrew was earned by VP-68 crews in 1976, 1980, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1995; a record unmatched by any other squadron. It is with this rich heritage of operational excellence that the "BLACKHAWKS" of Patrol Squadron 68 shut down engines one last time on 7 November 1996, and turned out the lights on 31 December 1996.

"P-3 Orion"

The P-3C is a land-based, long range Maritime Patrol Aircraft built by Lockheed Martin and is equipped to detect, track and destroy high performance enemy submarines and surface ships. The aircraft is also well suited for other critical missions including aerial mining, counter-narcotic operations and maritime search and rescue. Furnished with advance submarine detection sensors such as Directional Frequency Analysis and Recording (DIFAR) sonobuoys and Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) equipment, the P-3C digital computer system accepts and integrates sensor data and navigation information inputs and displays this information to the aircrew. Coupled with the Orion's long range, high endurance, and unmatched mixed payload of internally carried and wing pylon mounted weapons, the P-3C can cover large ocean areas and deliver its ordnance on target. As part of a layered offensive strategy, the P-3C provides an excellent anti-submarine capability that can engage enemy submarines in forward areas before they approach joint task forces or other friendly units.

Circa 1995

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: History ThumbnailCameraVP-68 History "...On board a Lockheed P-3C Orion aircraft of Patrol Squadron 68 (VP-68), Chief Aviation Warfare Operator B. Hayden is testing sonar gear during a counter-narcotics flight out of Naval Air Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, on 8 Nov 1995. 8 Nov 1995 - Camera Operator: PH2 Paul J. Spiotta, USN..." WebSite: WIKIMEDIA.ORG http://commons.wikimedia.org/ [31JUL2008]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News Magazine "...Deployments, Change-Of-Command, Awards, Records, Etc. - Naval Aviation News - July - August 1995.." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1995/ja95.pdf [12NOV2004]

VP History ThumbnailCamera

Circa 1994

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY:  History ThumbnailCameraID: DNSC9500674 "...Officers of Patrol Squadron 68 (VP-68), the Black Hawk (Blackhawk)s, pose with the Honorable Wade R. Sanders, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Reserve Affairs) upon completion of a historic flight which completed 100,000 mishap free flight hours for the Naval Reserve Squadron in a P-3 C Update I Orion aircraft (in background). The personnel are (L to R) Tactical Coordinator for the mission Capt. David C. Hull, Commander Reserve Patrol Wings Atlantic, Cdr. Robert A. Sinbaldi, XO of VP-68, Cdr. E. Byron Fisher, Jr. CO of VP-68, The Honorable Wade R. Sanders, and Cdr. A. Ray Miller, Jr. former VP-68. Location: NAVAL AIR FACILITY, WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (DC) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) - Camera Operator: PH2 BRUCE TROMBECKY Date Shot: 15 May 1994..." WebSite: Defense Visual Information Center http://www.dodmedia.osd.mil/ [03FEB2006]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News Magazine "...Awards, Major Deployments, Etc. - Naval Aviation News - July - August 1994.." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1994/ja94.pdf [12NOV2004]

VP History ThumbnailCamera

Circa 1993


Circa 1992

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News Magazine "...Awards, Change-Of-Command, Etc. - Naval Aviation News - September-October 1992.." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1992/so92.pdf [11NOV2004]

VP History ThumbnailCamera

Circa 1991

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation March-April 1991 "...History - Naval Aviation News - March-April 1991..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1991/ma91.pdf [24OCT2004]

VP History ThumbnailCamera

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation January-February 1991 "...History - Naval Aviation News - January-February 1991..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1991/jf91.pdf [24OCT2004]

VP History ThumbnailCamera

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation July-August 1991 "...History - Naval Aviation News - July-August 1991..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1991/ja91.pdf [23OCT2004]

VP History ThumbnailCamera

Circa 1990

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation September-October 1990 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 6, 7, 30 and 31 - Naval Aviation News - September-October 1990..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1990/so90.pdf [22OCT2004]

VP History ThumbnailCamera

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation July-August 1990 "...History - Change-Of-Command - Page 4, 6 and 34 - Naval Aviation News - July-August 1990..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1990s/1990/ja90.pdf [22OCT2004]

VP History ThumbnailCamera

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Change of Command - VP-68: CDR Daniel Puzon relieved CDR Gregory Hinchliffe...." Naval Aviation News July-August 1990 Page 34 [10JUL2001]

"VP-68 History Summary Page"

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