The alarm broke through my dreamland and my eyes popped open. My first thought: Today I get to see him!
The temperature app on my phone glared rudely back at me, and I could almost feel the brutally cold air creeping up my neck and giving me the shivers: 19 degrees?!?
The temperature read below 20 degrees. And I was going to go stand in a freezing airplane hanger for over an hour while I waited for my husband to return from deployment? Brrrr! Nothing could stop me from getting to him, but it was a true act of love because I really hate to be cold! (haha)
I hurriedly got dressed, putting on the outfit I had laid out the night before. After doing my hair and makeup, I got the baby ready and jumped in the car. We swung by my friend and photographer’s house to pick her up.
By the way– having someone photograph your Navy P3 homecoming is such a blessing and I highly recommend it! You’ll treasure the photos forever. Some photographers will even do it for free.
We made our way to base, and the hangar was buzzing with activity.
By this time it was 21 degrees.
We stayed in the warm car as long as we could, but soon it was time to step into the frigid air. Thankfully the hangar door was still shut, keeping a tiny bit of heat inside.
Of course, as we exited the car, I realized (as I bundled up in my own warm jacket) that I had forgotten my infant daughter’s coat!
What Happens At A Navy P3 Homecoming?
This was my second Navy P3 homecoming. I have also attended an aircraft carrier homecoming. Heres’s a quick who-what-where-when-how (we all know the WHY!) of a Navy one to help you ease stress for your own special reunion.
Who will be there?
Families and friends of the squadron members will be there, and many people will bring personal photographers as I mentioned. I love looking through my pictures from homecoming!
You’ll usually see a squadron photographer and the “Beach Det.” The Beach Det or “Detachment” is the group of people who return early or for some reason are assigned to be home ahead of the squadron. They coordinate the return of the squadron.
And, it can be a bummer for a sailor to show up without anyone to greet them, so the FRG will often have a treat table to welcome home any single sailors.
What will be at the hangar? What should you bring?
What will be there?
- a patriotic display (flags, etc) and decorations (such as pillowcases decorated by squadron families)
- some form of entertainment for children, such as a bouncy house, coloring, etc.
- tables with cookies and beverages, and
- a lot of excited people!
What should you bring?
- weather-appropriate clothing (don’t forget your kid’s coat like I did LOL)
- snacks for yourself and the kids. You might not want to rely on what the command provides because it will likely be sweets
- a snack for your sailor to eat on the way home (I brought his favorite donut!)
When will they arrive?
A P3 squadron can arrive at any time during the day or night.
It depends on where the plane is coming from, refueling stops, maintenance issues, and even more factors. Sometimes they get delayed during flight which can push back the arrival. Planes can be delayed for a few days which really stinks!
That’s when one of the most important characteristics of a military spouse or significant other comes into play: Being flexible.
Your squadron will have a way for you to stay up-to-date on arrival times, and may even have a recorded message with info you can access.
How will the squadron arrive?
There are typically two ways a P3 squadron returns from deployment: They fly in on a P3 or they come on an airlift.
A P3 can only carry a limited amount of people (23) so a P3 homecoming will be a fairly small occasion.
An airlift is when a contracted airliner carries a large number of the men and women back at one time. It’s similar to a commercial flight that can hold 200-300 people, so an airlift arrival will draw more people.
Where will you meet your sailor?
A P3 or airlift will usually pull up to their assigned hangar on base.
You can call the duty phone for updates to be certain where to meet, but the FRG may also have that info. Your sailor should know, but things can change during flight so it’s good to double check before you head to base.
And Don’t Forget…
- You may want to plan to be the driver on the way home. Sailors coming home are often exhausted, jet-lagged, and may have even been in a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road. Taking any pressure off to drive can ease stress for all.
- The Hawaii squadrons are moving to NAS Whidbey Island in Washington, but they have some special traditions on the Islands (including presenting leis to those returning). I have never experienced a homecoming in Hawaii, so please share any details if you have been involved in one!
That Amazing Moment
As we waited for the plane to arrive, thankfully I was able to wrap my daughter in the blankets I had brought for her. She seemed content and didn’t notice everyone’s excitement when the hangar door began to slowly creep open.
The plane had landed!
The large mass of people made their way down the tarmac to the nose of the plane (it was the airlift) and waited for the door to open. This time the brutally cold air creeping up my neck was not imaginary!
But our minds were on our sailors.
It seemed like forever until he got off… because he was literally the LAST one off the plane.
But it was worth the wait! We had all survived the frigid temps waiting in a freezing airplane hanger, and he was home at last!
If you have a homecoming in your near future, I’m so excited for you! I hope that using this info will help you have a stress-free experience as you welcome home your loved one. =)
ps- for a lot more pics of this homecoming day, see my gallery here.