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With the Navy’s recent announcement that Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 2 will be moving from Naval Station Rota, Spain, to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., later this year, squadron members are expressing mixed feelings and concern about the coming move.

“People have been talking about this for several years,” said Cmdr. Clayton Grindle, skipper of the squadron commonly referred to as VQ-2, last week. “My sailors knew it was coming, so it was no surprise.”

And though it’s not a surprise, some of the sailors feel a little in the dark about the coming move.

“I think people are still confused, especially the junior sailors,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Hannah McKee.

Others are upset at having to make a quick return to the United States after transferring to Rota as recently as six months ago.

Petty Officer 1st Class John Allen, who’s been with the squadron for about seven months, said he’s “a little surprised and disappointed” that he’ll be moving back to the States so soon from what is one of the Navy’s best- rated European bases.

Allen, because he’s married, expected to remain in Spain for the three years listed on his orders. Single sailors are sent to Rota for a minimum of two years.

“A lot of people came to VQ-2 under the pretense that they’d do two or three years in Spain,” said McKee, who’ll finish her two- year tour in Rota this December.

“I’d say half the people I’ve spoke to are shocked,” Allen said about the announcement and quick moves.

Plus, squadron aircraft deploy to some unique places — many of which won’t be publicly released because of the secretive nature of the squadron’s reconnaissance operations — so some of the squadron members are having to start the transfer process from somewhere other than Rota.

VQ-2 aircraft “are scattered throughout the world,” said Grindle. The squadron has called Rota home for 45 years.

“The good thing about this squadron is if you like to travel, this is the right place,” said McKee. “If you’re in a deployed status, you’re going to hit the road and visit different countries.”

Despite a heavy deployment schedule, Grindle said, squadron officials are making sure that all of the deployed aircraft fly through Spain on their way to the States.

“Everyone’s going to come back to Rota to pack out,” Grindle said.

Another concern for some sailors is what to do with their cars. Many bought used vehicles when they reported, and because they don’t meet U.S. standards, they can’t be shipped home.

Plus, with about 17 percent of the base leaving in the coming year because of VQ-2’s move and the closure of two smaller commands, there will be a lot of competing “for sale” signs.

“In my case I’ve got two cars I’m trying to get rid of,” said McKee, who expects to lose thousands of dollars when she sells the vehicles — if, that is, she can even sell them.

McKee, however, will have more time than most to sell her cars. She’s not due to leave until December, when she transfers from the squadron and gets out of the Navy.

“I’ll be one of the last ones here to shut off the lights,” she said.


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