x
Breaking News
More () »

Norfolk's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Norfolk, Virginia | 13NEWSNOW.com

A decade of triumph and tragedy for Hampton Roads military community

Military members experienced great highs and lows over the past ten years.

NORFOLK, Va. — It's the end of the decade. 

It has been ten years of incredible highs and lows for Hampton Roads military men and women. There were great triumphs and tragedies.

In April 2012, there was the aviation mishap that came to be known as "the Good Friday miracle."

A Navy F/A-18 Hornet from Oceana, crashed into the Mayfair Mews apartment complex off Birdneck Road after the jet suffered twin-engine failures seconds after takeoff.

RELATED: Mayfair Mews Apartments demolished, 4 years after jet crash

RELATED: VIDEO: April Hornet jet crash at Va. Beach apartments

RELATED: Navy finishes cleanup at Va. Beach apartments affected by jet crash

RELATED: Navy meets with Mayfair Mews residents

Incredibly, both aviators ejected safely, and nobody on the ground was hurt.

Sadly, there were other military aviation tragedies.

In 2011, a U.S. CH-47 Chinook was shot down in Afghanistan. Thirty-one American military personnel including local Navy SEALs died. It was the largest single-incident loss of life in Operation Freedom.

In 2014, a Navy MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopter crashed in the Atlantic. After electrical lines chafed against a fuel line, a fire sparked and killed three Norfolk-based crew members. The episode later became the subject of a 2018 documentary, "Who Killed Lieutenant Van Dorn?"

RELATED: 13News Now Exclusive: Navy Sea Dragon inspections

RELATED: Family, friends remember sailors killed in Navy helicopter crash

RELATED: Film examines 2014 Navy helo crash, questions Pentagon's priorities

And in 2011 and 2012,  problems with the Air Force F-22 Raptor prompted two pilots to go public about hypoxia issues they encountered in the cockpit, leading to a four-month stand down.

RELATED: W&M professor helping Army study effects of hypoxia

RELATED: Local Air Force officials talk about F-22 mystery

RELATED: Langley's F-22 Raptors flying again

This was also a decade of key military aviation milestones.

There was the arrival of the military fighter jet of the future, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the largest and most expensive military program ever.  We watched flight operations aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2018.

RELATED: Report: Navy's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter nowhere near combat ready

RELATED: More problems for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

RELATED: Navy finishing up testing of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

RELATED: Navy plans at-sea testing of F-35C in October

Speaking of the future, we got a glimpse of it back in 2013 when the Navy showed off its X-47 B unmanned aviation vehicle as the drone was tested for takeoffs and landings aboard the USS George H.W. Bush in the Atlantic.

The Navy said goodbye to its F/A-18 C "legacy" Hornet in January 2019 after three decades, with a final operational flight at Oceana.

RELATED: 'Legacy' F/A-18C Hornets take their final flight

"This is my first command and these are the only jets I've known," said AD3 Teron Huffwatkins of strike fighter squadron VFA-34. "So it's kind of bittersweet to see them leave. But it's also ushering in a new age for us, so it's also exciting at the same time."

If the last 10 years demonstrated anything, it's that the economic fortunes of Hampton Roads are tied directly to Capitol Hill.

When sequestration arrived in 2013, the automatic federal budget cuts took a big toll, leading to layoffs and furloughs.

The cycle continued throughout the decade, every time Congress failed to pass a long-term budget, and instead, approved Continuing Resolutions, it created uncertainty for military planners and for local businesses which support the armed forces.

"Given that the Department of Defense makes about 40% of the Hampton Roads economy, any time we have a Continuing Resolution, it makes people worry," said Old Dominion University economics professor Robert McNab.

This decade also saw the arrival of a new class of aircraft carrier with the USS Gerald R. Ford and the future USS John F. Kennedy, which was christened in December 2019.

RELATED: ICYMI: Future USS John F. Kennedy christened at Newport News Shipbuilding

RELATED: Future USS Kennedy comes in 18 percent cheaper, 3 months earlier than predecessor

RELATED: Has corner been turned on troubles for USS Ford?

RELATED: Navy Secretary says 7 of USS Ford's elevators now work, says carrier will deploy before 2024

RELATED: Flight deck completed for new John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier

RELATED: Newport News Shipbuilding gets new USS Gerald R. Ford contract

RELATED: USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier may go $1.1 billion over budget

It has meant steady employment for Newport News Shipbuilding.

But it also meant problems, first, having to do with the ships' electromagnetic launch system, and more recently with weapons elevators that don't work.

The shipyard and the Navy have vowed to fix things.

"So I think that as we work out some of the kinks on the first in class we're going to see the consecutive follow-on's that will be able to overcome a lot of those challenges very quickly," said Rear Admiral Roy Kelley, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.

Local bases faced some major security challenges.

In 2014, a truck driver got through Gate 5 at Naval Station Norfolk, eventually making his way to the USS Mahan, where he killed Master at Arms Mark Mayo.

RELATED: Navy announces final discipline actions following Mahan attack report

RELATED: Navy report says Mahan intruder passed through security "unchecked"

RELATED: Heroism of MA2 Mayo recounted ahead of Friday funeral service

RELATED: Service tonight to remember slain USS Mahan sailor

RELATED: Grieving family of fallen USS Mahan sailor wants answers

RELATED: Father says his son was killed in shooting on USS Mahan

In 2017, a man abducted 19-year-old Ashanti Billie from Little Creek Amphibious Base. Her death led to the implementation of a nationwide alert system for missing, endangered adults between the ages of 18 and 64.

RELATED: Judge rules Eric Brown cannot be forcibly medicated for competency until appeals court rules

RELATED: Warner: Appropriations bill forces Ashanti Alert implementation

RELATED: Ashanti Billie's father retraces his daughter's last day alive, on the two-year anniversary

RELATED: Ashanti Alert signed into law

RELATED: Gov. Northam signs the 'Ashanti Alert' bill into law

RELATED: Judge: Accused Ashanti Billie killer can be involuntarily medicated

RELATED: Rep. Scott Taylor proposes federal 'Ashanti Alert'

RELATED: Who is Eric Brown? Family that opened home to accused killer sheds light on past

RELATED: Retired Navy vet charged with kidnapping, murdering Ashanti Billie

RELATED: Parents of Ashanti Billie speak after police in N.C. find her body

In November 2019, a gate runner passed through Gate 8 at Fort Story, crashing into and killing Master-At-Arms Oscar Temores.

RELATED: Driver charged in JEB Little Creek-Fort Story vehicle crash appears in court

RELATED: Navy identifies Master-at-arms who died after driver crashes car at JEB Fort Story gate

Navy leaders pledged that force protection is job one.

'We're doing all possible to make sure that we stay safe," said Rear Admiral Chip Rock, commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.

There was cause this decade for much celebration, as Oceana reached its 75th anniversary in 2018, and Naval Station Norfolk noted its 100th in 2017. That same year, Norfolk Naval Shipyard observed its 250th anniversary.

Most importantly of all, local Navy SEALs enjoyed perhaps their greatest triumph in 2011 when SEAL Team 6 found and killed notorious terrorist and Al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.