VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron 34 returned home to NAS Oceana on Wednesday after a historic deployment to Vietnam.
The squadron left in January aboard the USS Carl Vinson headed to the Western Pacific. On March 5, the Carl Vinson became the first aircraft carrier to port in Vietnam since the Vietnam War ended more than four decades ago.
“First aircraft carrier to pull in there in 40 years. It was really neat, and they were excited about it as well,” said Commander Perry Solomon, the squadron’s commanding officer.
Solomon said they were able to learn about the Vietnamese culture and people, who were welcoming.
The squadron started their journey back home Tuesday morning after they left the Vinson, which is based out of San Diego.
“It’s a really great feeling when you fly and see the U.S. coming up over the horizon. It’s the first time seeing home soil for the first time in many months. It never gets old,” he said.
On deployment, the squadron flew 653 sorties aboard their F/A-18-C Legacy Hornets, and logged more than 1,044 flight houses and 659 carrier arrested landings, or traps, according to the Navy.
This was the squadron’s last deployment with the legacy jets. They’re the last Navy squadron to transition over to the larger, newer F/A-18E Super Hornet.
Solomon said it will take crews about a year to transition to the new jets.
The squadron is also celebrating their 75th anniversary.
Solomon said the squadron formed in 1943 and flew Hellcats during World War II.