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Photo by Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

VMGR-252 pilots "J" model to continued success

10 May 2005 | Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

In the skies over Western Iraq, 18,000 feet above troops in contact with the enemy, an F/A-18C Hornet pilot comes on the radio during an aerial refueling. “Sorry guys, I have to go, they need me down there,” he says to the pilots of a KC-130J Hercules, and he is gone, over the horizon to support the Marines on the ground. The above situation happened during an aerial refueling mission May 10, conducted by Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252, and was a perfect example of the importance of the squadron’s mission. “We are an airborne asset that allows other aircraft to stay on station longer and support the troops,” said Capt. John C. Bowes, KC-130J Hercules pilot and native of Naples, Fla. “Instead of returning to base to refuel, we allow them to stay near the fight.” Since their arrival here in February, the Marines and sailors of VMGR-252 have been hard at work supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom by providing aerial refueling, troop and cargo transport, and radio relay capabilities. During the past three months, the squadron has logged more than 1,550 combat flight hours during 785 sorties, dispensed nearly 5,000,000 pounds, or 735,294 gallons, of fuel to more than 610 aircraft, and moved more than 6,388 passengers and 2,618,060 pounds of cargo. The accomplishments of the squadron come on the heels of the first ever deployment of the KC-130J model Hercules to a combat zone. The ‘J’, as it’s affectionately known, may resemble the legacy model Hercules on the out side, but the new aircraft is technologically superior and more reliable. “The J-model is performing outstanding so far,” Bowes said. “A lot of that is due to the hard work and dedication of the Marines in the maintenance department. Because of the age of the legacy ‘R’ and ‘F’ models we were seeing average mission capable rates of 80 percent, with the ‘J’ we are at 100 percent most of the time.” The biggest advantage the new model brings to the fight is its computerized and streamlined troubleshooting abilities. While before most components were separately placed and hard wired throughout the aircraft - the centralized technology in the new aircraft allows avionics technicians to use computer diagnostics to locate and fix problems. “With our operational tempo, things are going to go wrong with the aircraft,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joseph W. Ward, avionics chief and native of Tampa, Fla. “The Marines have adapted well to the state-of-the-art technology, and the diagnostic process has allowed us to cut to the chase and fix what needs to be fixed in as little time as possible.” Although the ‘J’ is avionics intensive, all the sections of the maintenance department work to ensure the ‘Hercs’ can carry out their important tasks. From airframes and powerlines, to ordnance and aircrew, the Marines and sailors of the squadron work together to accomplish the mission. “We all work hand in hand,” said Cpl. Brandon K. Hagy, loadmaster and native of Richmond, Va. “We all have our own jobs, but when it comes down to it we have one mission, and we do what it takes to get it done.” “We know that the pilots and the mission depend on us,” said Cpl. Beau J. Thomson, avionics technician and native of Lena, Wis. “A lot of people depend on the capabilities of our aircraft, and that motivates us each day.” At the half way point in their deployment, VMGR-252 is continuing to support Operation Iraqi Freedom across the skies of Iraq. “We have extremely talented pilots and enlisted aircrew, and exceptionally dedicated Marines in the maintenance department,” said SgtMaj. Paul K. Anderson, VMGR-252 sergeant major and native of Staten Island, N.Y. “The bottom line is that these Marines are here to support the men on the ground. They understand that responsibility, and take it very seriously. They know that the end result of their efforts is helping their fellow Marines.” *For more information about the Marines or news reported on in this story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at defilippisrc@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil*
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