wingsJacksonville, FL 2014

The 2014 Patrol Squadron Forty-Five Association reunion (October 15-19) was, to use an overused phrase, the best ever.  There are a number of reasons for the huge turnout but I’d bet the new website, the new full color (digitally transmitted) newsletter and the leadership of the guy at the helm (Doug Mitchell) were main contributing factors.  That said, you guys, our members, keeping up with the Association, donating the time and accepting substantial expense to attend made this reunion what is was….again, the best ever.

The “best ever” because it will go down as the biggest reunion in our 26 year history. If you didn't attend, you missed a most interesting and fun-filled four days. Our hats are off to our now ex-Vice President, Dick Gray, who meticulously orchestrated this event. This was Dick's third (and last and best) reunion as coordinator. He stepped down as VP at the end of the reunion and has been relieved by Joe Bretton (more years in VP-45 as an FE than anybody in history).  Also, Ron Christopher relieved P.J. Imhof as Association Treasurer.

Held in Jacksonville again this year, the Crowne Plaza Hotel (on the riverfront) was our headquarters for the event.  For those who attended the reunion six years ago, you noticed that the hotel has substantially upgraded its facilities and accommodations.  The staff support was nothing short of outstanding.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon but Becky was not able to break free from her job in Austin Texas; so she did not arrive until 9pm Friday.  That allowed me a couple nights of very late grippin’ and grinnin’ with old buds and meeting some new ones.  The first “organized” event was the “Meet and Greet” at the hotel on Thursday night.  We had a number of event rooms reserved for this and (after four reunions) I don’t recall attending a Meet and Greet that was as loud, boisterous, fun and crowded.  Free adult beverages seemed a hit along with the sale of our new Association ball caps and polo shirts.  I finally hit the sack late….really late…and there was still a crowd of former Pelicans going strong.

On Thursday and Friday, there were a number of trips/tours to choose from but the most popular were Friday’s day tour at NAS Jax and the meal and show at the venerable Alhambra Dinner Theater.  The tour with VP-45 was a real eye opener as we old guys were introduced to a new Navy, new spaces, new hangar and a dramatically different new aircraft….the follow on to the PBM, P-5 and P-3.  Enter the P-8 Poseidon.  The CO (CDR T. J. Grady) and XO (CDR John W. Weidner) were particularly spectacular as hosts as were the officers, chiefs and sailors who were stationed seemingly everywhere to provide assistance and information.  The P-8 tour introduced us not just to a new aircraft but new systems and missions as well.  What an awesome day back in Jax…though the massive changes and improvements at the base made me really made me feel a bit “long in the tooth!”  My Dad used to say that a lot.

As usual for our reunions, the main event was the banquet in the main ballroom at the hotel on Saturday evening.  Pelicans and their ladies showed up in droves.  Smartly dressed and exceedingly happy to be there, Pelicans from many generations crowed the bar areas and the limited space around the beautifully set tables.  After a delicious meal, Doug Mitchell (his call sign is “Poohbear” by the way), as master of ceremonies, orchestrated the evening’s schedule.  I’ve personally listened to many guest speakers at reunions and, I kid you not, CDR Grady’s presentation was not a bit stuffy, was delivered casually and kept everyone focused, attentive, amused and feeling at home.  One of his more poignant messages is that we (Association members) “…are the squadron and will always be the squadron...and it belongs to us”

I’d direct you now to the “Photographs” button at the top right of this page just underneath the Pelican in a high G turn…eyes riveted on the sub he is about to attack.  Click on that button to view the photo gallery of the reunion.  That gallery will do a pretty good job of explaining what all went on during the post-meal banquet events.  After the banquet many of us re-gathered in the reserved reunion event rooms for additional jaw jacking, back slapping and wildly embellished sea stories.  I heard the crowd left only a small amount of beer and wine to be returned to the exchange the next day.

For those who didn’t depart early or sleep late, final good byes and see-ya-next-times were exchanged over breakfast.  As for me and Becky…well we had an exceptionally fun time at this reunion and find it a bit hard to believe that these reunions just keep getting better.  We had an afternoon flight out so we took our rental car and toured many sights not seen for a number of decades (70’s).  Finally arrived back in Austin around midnight…with lots of nice memories.

Bill Hobgood (WebMaster)

Send questions, comments or suggestions regarding this website to: