VMGR-152 practices ground refueling skills
Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan -- The smell of jet fuel and the sound of propellers spinning through the air accompanied Marines as they raced against the clock to establish a mobile-forward refueling point on a tiny island nearly five miles off the west coast of Okinawa.
Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 refueled MV-22B Ospreys during an aviation-delivered ground refueling exercise on Ie Shima April 15.
The exercise allowed VMGR-152 to practice assembling and operating a mobile forward refueling point.
“There are no gas stations on the front lines,” said Capt. Kyle J. Service, the power line officer in charge and pilot with VMGR-152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Our job is to provide fuel to the front-line units whenever they need it.”
Marines with VMGR-152 used KC-130J Super Hercules as their transportation and mobile refueling source, and the landing zone consisted of a dirt and gravel road.
Finding and establishing a safe place to land is the most common obstacle to overcome, according to Service. Most fixed-wing aircraft are unable to land on such terrain. However, the KC-130J has the ability to land at austere airstrips. This ability makes it an excellent aircraft to perform aviation-delivered ground refueling missions.
Upon landing on the makeshift runway, Marines exited the aircraft and quickly established the refueling point.
“From the moment we land, we have a ten-minute time frame to set up our refueling station,” said Sgt. Daniel C. Tozer, the refueling supervisor for the exercise and crew chief with the squadron. “This training allows us to ensure we can complete our mission in the proper amount of time and increase proficiency in carrying out the task.”
Within seconds of establishing the refueling station, two MV-22B Osprey aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, MAG-36, appeared over the horizon.
Once the Ospreys landed, Marines used both radios and hand-and-arm signals to communicate with the pilots and guide them to the refueling stations.
“It is all about bringing the fuel to the fight and supporting the Marines on the ground,” said Service. “In a live scenario, it is not just Ospreys we are refueling; it is all Marine Corps equipment in the area of operation.”
As the sun set, Marines switched to their night-vision goggles and continued training.
“It doesn’t matter if it is night or day,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph J. Kemp, a crew chief with the squadron. “We fly into an area and set up operations within minutes. Doing this training gives us chance to master it before we do the real thing.”
With the Ospreys fully refueled, the Marines directed them to a safe takeoff location and after they departed, packed up the refueling station. Just as quickly as they arrived, the Marines boarded the KC-130J and flew back to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
“Training like this is important to the squadron,” said Service. “It helps us maintain 100 percent readiness in mission capability for today’s and tomorrow’s battles.”