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 NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. Remaining at NAF Andrews, Maryland, 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-68A-1 and VP-68A-2, respectively, and on 1 November 1970, VP-68A-1 and VP-68A-2 merged with a third squadron, VP-8A1, to form Patrol Squadron 68. The new squadron was assigned to NAS 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 NAF 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 NS 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 NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal and NS Rota, Spain, 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 NS 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 NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal. The year 1981 found VP-68 back at NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal while the squadron simultaneously maintained detachments at Ascension Island, NAS Keflavik, Iceland and NAS Bermuda.
August 1982 again brought VP-68 to NS Rota, Spain and NAS Bermuda. In 1983, VP-68 was tasked not only with deployment to NAS Bermuda, but also with maintaining detachments to NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal, NS Rota, Spain, and Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy. The squadron returned to NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal 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 NAF 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 NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal. In 1987, VP-68 returned to NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal for annual training with detachments to NS Rota, Spain and Naval Station Keflavik. Annual training in 1988, 1989, and 1990 was performed from NS Rota, Spain with detachments to NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii; NS Roosevelt Roads, PR; NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal; NAS Sigonella, Sicily, 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 Recife 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 NS Rota, Spain. The squadron also provided multi-crew detachments on two occasions to support counter-narcotics operations. A second four-crew detachment to NAS Sigonella, Sicily 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. “#CBC5C5HAWK” 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 NS Rota, Spain 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, Florida.
1994 and 1995 saw VP-68 complete multiple detachments in support of real world fleet operations. “#CBC5C5HAWK” aircrews continued the support of Operation Sharp Guard out of NAS Sigonella, Sicily. Three multiple week detachments were made to NS Roosevelt Roads 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 “Black Hawks” of Patrol Squadron 68 shut down engines one last time on 7 November 1996, and turned out the lights on 31 December 1996.
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