Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s first homecoming open to the media since the beginning of the pandemic culminated in a surprise marriage proposal on Tuesday.
Twelve aircrews and six jets with the Electronic Attack Squadron 133, the “Wizards,” were welcomed back to NAS Whidbey on the afternoon of Aug. 9 by friends and family members waving signs and children dressed as pilots pointing excitedly at the incoming planes, some already squealing for “Daddy” the moment the jets came into view.
The squadron returned from the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, which encompasses the South China Sea and surrounding areas, Cdr. Michael Stengel said.
The squadron, along with eight other aviation squadrons assigned to the Carrier Air Wing 9, were involved in power projection and deterrence for maintaining free and open oceans in the Indo-Pacific region, Stengel said.
“It truly was a great deployment,” he said. “We did some things that I’ve never done in my career, with a group of guys that I couldn’t be prouder to have served with.”
During the deployment, Carrier Air Wing 9 executed more than 21,307 fixed-wing and helicopter flight hours; trained alongside 26 participating nations during Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2022 in July; and participated in dual carrier operations in the South China Sea with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike, a joint exercise and two bilateral exercises with the Japanese Self-Defense Force.
Meanwhile, Lt. Colby Diamond was undertaking his own covert mission, which he called “Operation Olive Oil” — planning the perfect proposal to his girlfriend, Deirdre Tomlinson.
“There was a lot of extra coordination on my part while I was deployed,” he said.
Diamond managed to sneak in Tomlinson’s family for the special moment, which is a difficult feat in a small town, he joked.