By VP-46 Public Affairs
“Grey Knights” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 46 hosted Gen. Stephen Townsend, U.S. Africa Commander (AFRICOM), and Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, AFRICOM intelligence director, during a visit to the installation March 6, 2021.
Part of the visit consisted of showcasing the squadron’s P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance aircraft and its versatility.
"General Townsend's visit afforded VP-46 Aircrew an invaluable opportunity to share P-8A Poseidon's vital intra-theater role and to demonstrate how our multi-mission capabilities dramatically enhance the operational advantage of a Combatant Commander," said Cmdr. Clay Waddill, VP-46 commanding officer.
With the capabilities of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations, as well as search and rescue, Waddill said that the aircrafts mission plays a key role in supporting U.S. AFRICOM’s mission of protecting and advancing national interests in Africa.
“As the commander of U.S. AFRICOM, Gen. Townsend and his staff oversee all military operations and activity to protect and advance national interests in Africa,” said Waddill. “As a forward deployed squadron with a detachment in Djibouti, Africa, VP-46 currently conducts operations in the African maritime theater. For this reason, the Georgia native was particularly interested in the efforts of our personnel and the P-8A’s capabilities.”
One of the Sailors, Naval Air Crewman Operator 2nd Class MarcAngelo Lizza, helped facilitate the visit and said that the visitors were keen to hear about the aircrafts state of the art technology.
“General Townsend showed a keen interest in the Poseidon, and how the aircraft stacked up as a formidable force against our enemy submarines,” said Lizza, VP-46 acoustic sensor operator. “Once the tour started, General Townsend was eager to hear about the capabilities and the range of operations of the P-8A.”
Lizza said that Rear Adm. Berg was especially interested in the aircrafts mission as she has over a thousand hours as a communications intercept evaluator onboard the EP-3E Aries II.
Naval Air Station Sigonella (NASSIG), home to 37 tenant and deployed commands, serves as the premier operational installation supporting joint service, NATO, and interagency partners. Currently among one of these 37 commands are the VP-46 Grey Knights with the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community.
VP-46 is currently forward deployed to the US Sixth Fleet area of operations and is assigned to Commander, Task Force 67, responsible for tactical control of deployed maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadrons throughout Europe and Africa.
Task Force 67 is composed of helicopters and land-based maritime patrol aircraft that operate throughout European and African waters in anti-submarine, search-and-rescue, reconnaissance, surveillance, and mining roles. Task Force 67′s official mission is to provide responsive, interoperable, and expeditionary combat ready maritime patrol aircraft and supporting forces to U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa and U.S. Sixth Fleet.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.