Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61, better known as the VR-61 Islanders, fly four DC-9 transport jets capable of carrying 100 passengers or 20,000 pounds of cargo, or several combinations of both. VR-61's mission is to provide worldwide, around-the-clock air transport of Naval personnel and cargo -- moving people and cargo in support of the fleet, year round, around the world. . VR-61 provides worldwide logistics support to Navy, other Department of Defense and State Department activities around the world. They have permanent detachment sites in Sigonella, Sicily, and Atsugi, Japan, where they provide air logistics to forces in the Mediterranean and European theaters, as well as to East Asia and the Pacific Rim. There are opportunities for both active and reserve personnel. The vast majority of officers are pilots, with a few billets in the Maintenance Department as the Assistant Maintenance Officer and Maintenance Material Control Officer.
During the VR-61 WESTPAC Detachment [07 November-21 November 1999] Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61 DET B flew 4 missions and 59.3 Hours in support of COMFAIRWESTPAC tasking, and two transit missions in excess of 32.0 hours. Operations were conducted from NAF Atsugi into Kadena, Kimhae (ROK), Nagasaki, Manila, Bangkok, Iwakuni, Babelthaup, Darwin, Perth, and Guam. The majority of the tasking was to support routine passenger and cargo movement in theater. One mission, NALO 954 was particularly challenging. The mission required 9000+ of cargo to be transported over water with specific dip clearance routing resulting in very demanding flight planning by the crew. C-H-C riggings and specials on the aircraft were often performed during harsh weather conditions. This was a typical DET with the typical challenges.
Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61 Detachment Echo flew 17 missions and 115.3 hours in support of Commander, Fleet Air Pacific tasking and 4 transit missions of 66.6 hours during the period 18 March through 9 April, 2000. All scheduled missions were completed, transporting a total of 913 passengers and 47,341 pounds of cargo.
Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61 Detachment Foxtrot flew 23 missions, including 3 crew change missions, and 149.9 hours in support of Commander, Fleet Air Mediterranean tasking and 4 transit missions, all 4 being crew change missions, of 69.3 hours during the period 24 April through 12 May 2000. Operations were conducted into Italy, Spain, France, Germany, England, Croatia, Hungary, Greece, Turkey, Malta, and the Ukraine. 27 of 29 scheduled missions were completed, transporting a total of 710 passengers and 165,029 pounds of cargo. The missed missions were due to a mechanical problem with one of the det aircraft.
In June 2000 the "Islanders" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 61 stationed at NAS Whidbey Island accomplished something few people ever have. They completed a voyage around the world. They did it by traveling in one of the squadron's four Navy DC-9 transport jets on a recent logistics detachment to Bahrain, an island in the Persian Gulf. As the Islanders planned this detachment, they discovered it would take three days to get to their destination, Bahrain, whether they traveled east or west around the planet. To take advantage of time zones and travel with the sun, they chose to head west the whole way. After four days in Guam, the Islanders continued westward to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, followed by Phuket, Thailand. Then they spent a night in Diego Garcia, another small atoll in the Indian Ocean. The next day required only one fuel stop in Muscat, Oman, before arriving, ready for Middle East operations in Bahrain.
NAVCENT has occasional airlift requirements that are best accomplished by a C-9. For a jet that flies almost 500 miles an hour, the Persian Gulf is a fairly small operating area. Normal missions require as much time transferring cargo and personnel on the ground as it takes to fly from one airfield to another. Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 61 NAVCENT DET G flew three missions in theater between arrival on 29 May 2000 and departure on 04 June 2000. 31 May – 2 pallets of cargo and 14 pax from Bahrain to Thumrait, Oman, then 4 pax to Masiria, Oman. They also belly-loaded an additional pallet of cargo in the fuselage cargo holds, and carried about a pallet of mail in the cabin in the empty seats. 2 June – RON to Mombasa, Kenya, and return the following day with 4 pax and 2 EOD K-9s. This flight was originally scheduled for June 4th, but the DET re-arranged the schedule. 4 June – 2 palates of cargo to Fujairah, UAE. The crew packed an additional pallets worth of cargo in the fuselage cargo holds for this flight. Tasking was limited by delayed arrival in theater, but the fact remains that dedicated C-9 detachments to the Persian Gulf are an inefficient use of limited assets and very expensive on RPN budgets. The AOR is small enough that the average leg is less than 2 hours for a C-9. The demographics of the theater alone make it inefficient for C-9 operations, and the down time resulting from diplomatic clearance complications further diminishes C-9 effectiveness.
After completing their missions in the Persian Gulf, the Islanders continued with their westward island hopping on their return home. The first stop was on the Greek island of Crete for fuel, followed by a short hop to Sigonella, Sicily, to pick up passengers and cargo destined for Oceana, Va. With their remaining crew day, they continued on to Prestwick, Scotland, to spend the night.
Fleet Logistic Support Squadron 61 Detachment Bravo flew 19 missions and 108.7 hours in support of Commander, Fleet Air Mediterranean tasking and 4 transit missions of 70.8 hours during the period 14 November through 02 December, 2000. Operations were conducted into Italy, Iceland, Untied Kingdom, Spain, Turkey, Malta, Greece, France, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, and Germany. All scheduled missions were completed, transporting a total of 524 passengers and 116,074 pounds of cargo.