Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

War Heroes Come Home Jacksonville-Based Crew Receives a Banner Welcome after Mission

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

War Heroes Come Home Jacksonville-Based Crew Receives a Banner Welcome after Mission

Article excerpt

Byline: Rich Tucker, Times-Union staff writer

The first time Hwa-Yoon Yao saw her son flying his Navy S-3 Viking, he was returning from war to a hero's welcome.

As the jets in her son's Jacksonville-based squadron roared through the skies over the crowd greeting them at Jacksonville Naval Air Station yesterday, Yao clutched her camcorder and waved a small American flag.

"He's very talented and smart and very brave," she said of her 28-year-old son, Lt. Peter Yao. "He's such a good boy. I'm so proud of him."

A total of 28 crew members from the Maulers of Sea Control Squadron 32 came home yesterday after more than six months at sea flying combat support missions in Afghanistan. The bulk of the remaining 250 in the squadron will get home today.

The Maulers were assigned to the Norfolk, Va.-based aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which spent most of its deployment in the Arabian Sea conducting missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Roosevelt and four ships from its battle group are slated to come home today, as well as the Jacksonville-based Dragonslayers of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 11. The battle group did not suffer any combat-related casualties.

Vikings are the only carrier-based aircraft capable of refueling other aircraft in flight. During this deployment, the Maulers passed a record 5.3 million pounds of fuel.

The Maulers and the Roosevelt spent 159 days at sea, the record for most consecutive days spent without a port call. Their return was delayed about two weeks partially because of maintenance problems with the USS John F. Kennedy, based at Mayport Naval Station.

"It was a long time, but we were out there for a real purpose," said Cmdr. Ron Carlson, the squadron's commanding officer. "It was a clear mission that everyone could relate to, much as people back home were able to do."

This was Peter Yao's first deployment since graduating from flight school.

"He was so excited to have this chance. He really knows his job," said Yao, who admitted not always being thrilled about her son's career's choice.

"When he was in flight training, I kept praying to God, 'Is this your way? …

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