California here they come: Air station squadron heads west

After more than 12 years at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the base's only Navy F-18 Hornet squadron is headed west.

Strike Fighter Squadron 86 will relocate to Naval Air Station Leemore, Calif., next month. There the unit will train to fly the F/A-18E Super Hornet, according to air station officials. The squadron moved to MCAS Beaufort in March 1999 from Naval Air Station Cecil Field, Fla.

The unit's 200 sailors and 10 F-18 Hornet aircraft must leave the air station for California by June 30, according to Navy officials. The squadron, nicknamed the Sidewinders, is expected to resume daily operations in Lemoore by July 18, according to Navy officials.

Attempts to reach air station and squadron officials for comment on the move Thursday were unsucessful.

The move is not expected to affect the base's 580 civilian employees, none of whom are specifically attached to the Navy squadron, air station officials said.

The squadron will head to California with a new commanding officer.

Cmdr. John Perrone will assume command during ceremony Thursday at the air station, base officials said.

Perrone, who will replace Cmdr. Max McCoy, most recently served as the air wing training officer at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center in Fallon, Nev.

McCoy will report to Washington, D.C. for his next assignment, according to the air station.