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VMGR-152: backbone of the Pacific.

The Sumos of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152 fill a pivotal role under Marine Forces, Pacific due to their geographic location at MCAS Iwakuni, Okinawa, Japan. During 2002 they proved themselves by contributing to the success of many III Marine Expeditionary Force contingency operations and exercises throughout the Pacific Rim. While performing their primary mission of conducting fixed- and rotary-wing aerial refueling, the Sumos flew 1,801 sorties, totaling 5,000 hours, during joint and combined operations.

In January, VMGR-152 was called upon to support Operation Northern Watch and was responsible for providing the aerial refueling for rescue helicopters in the event of a downed pilot over northern Iraq. The Sumos also supported Operation Noble Eagle throughout 2002 with long-range, fixed-wing aerial refueling missions and a 24-hour alert.

VMGR-152's secondary missions include rapid ground refueling of aircraft and motorized vehicles, aerial transport and delivery, airborne direct air support center, and battlefield illumination. These additional responsibilities enabled the Sumos to play a key role in the success of 21 exercises during 2002. Throughout the year, over six million pounds of fuel were transferred during aerial and rapid ground refueling operations, while the Sumos transported more than four million pounds of cargo and nearly 11,000 passengers.

The Sumos often find themselves supporting combined training with their host nation. During Exercise Balikatan, VMGR-152 provided aerial delivery support for the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Search and Rescue Group. While in Australia for Exercise Southern Canopy the squadron flew multiple personnel drops in support of the Australian host unit. Occasionally, VMGR-152 participates in joint training, such as providing Army students the opportunity to earn their qualifications as Jumpmasters.

Humanitarian events carry the Sumos to numerous locations. While in support of Exercise Southern Frontier, VMGR-152 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225 deployed 38 Marines, four F/A-18D Hornets and one KC-130 Hercules, traveling from Australia throughout the southwest Pacific promoting goodwill. Later, the Sumos also supported the ceremony commemorating the 57th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima by transporting retired Marines back to the island where they had fought more than 50 years ago.

Immediately after the tragic events of 11 September 2001, VMGR-152 demonstrated its readiness by being one of the first units in the Marine Corps to deploy in response to the attacks.

"VMGR-152 is unique in its ability to rapidly deploy forces throughout the Pacific theater on a continual basis," stated Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott Burke, navigation officer in charge. "Every time we take off, our destination is a foreign country."

Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Darnell Haskins added, "The Sumos are ready to go anywhere on short notice without a hitch. Whenever I see an event on TV that involves this part of the world, I can expect to be involved."

For VMGR-152, aircraft maintenance is its biggest challenge. At times the maintenance department supports a detachment maintenance crew, a smaller maintenance team to aid aircraft on shorter deployments, and the high-paced tempo on the flightline. "While rising to each challenge, the Sumos continue to meet squadron training requirements and air wing missions, as well as maintain mission-capable readiness on 40-year-old airframes," emphasized KC- 130 copilot Capt. Troy Wilson. The maintenance Marines of VMGR-152 accomplish unprecedented success while overcoming supply problems that are unique to Okinawa's logistical situation and battling the corrosive tropical environment. Last year, the maintenance department performed more than 32,000 man-hours of corrosion prevention and treatment on airframes which average 32 years of service to the fleet.

As VMGR-152 approaches nearly 238,000 mishap-free flight hours, earning them their fourth consecutive Chief of Naval Operations Safety award, they continue to exceed all performance expectations. Staff Sergeant Michael McGrath, embarkation chief, knows the reason, "The Sumos' sense of urgency to do the job and keep their birds in the air is what separates VMGR-152 from the rest."

Capt. Clifton is a KC-130 Hercules copilot and VMGR-152's embarkation officer.
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Author:Clifton, Capt. Bryan S.
Publication:Naval Aviation News
Date:May 1, 2003
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