Diplomatic efforts to negotiate the release of the crew and the aircraft took 11 days. While the release of the crew was unconditional, the Chinese government would only return the aircraft if it was disassembled first. On 12 April 2001, the EP-3 crew departed China on a plane bound for Guam. Their eventual destination was Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, the home base of VQ-1.

After debriefings occurred in Hawaii, the crew returned to NAS Whidbey Island. On 14 April 2001, NAS Whidbey Island hosted a large homecoming ceremony at which the crew’s return was celebrated. The repatriation and homecoming of the crew became known as Operation VALIANT RETURN. The EP-3 aircraft was dismantled on Hainan by technicians from Lockheed Martin and returned in pieces via cargo plane to an air base in Georgia. After the aircraft’s parts arrived in Georgia in July 2001, the aircraft was reassembled and repaired. The aircraft was then returned to service.

The Aries II crew consisted of the following Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force personnel:

LT Pat Honeck, USN
LT Shane Osborn, USN
LTJG John Comerford, USN
LTJG Regina Kauffman, USN
LTJG Ricky Payne, USN
LTJG Jeff Vignery, USN
ADCS Nick Mellos, USN
AT2 Dave Cecka, USN
AT2 Scott Guidry, USN
AT2 Ramon Mercado, USN
AD2 Wendy Westbrook, USN
AE3 Steve Blocher, USN
CTT2 Jason Hanser, USN  
CTTSN Bradford Borland, USN

Naval Security Group Activity, Misawa, Japan:
LT Marcia Sonon, USN
ENS Richard Bensing, USN
CTO1 Shawn Coursen, USN
CTI1 Josef Edmunds, USN
CTI2 Brandon Funk, USN
CTR2 Kenneth Richter, USN
CTI3 Rodney Young, USN
CTRSN Jeremy Crandall, USN
Sgt. Richard Pray, USMC

390th Intelligence Squadron, Kadena AB, Okinawa, Japan:
SrA Curtis Towne, USAF

Source: history.navy.mil