Marine Corps Air Station Miramar --
Chatter filled the hangar with generations of “Raiders” sharing their experiences. Marines, some of whom served up to 58 years ago, gathered in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, March 30.
VMGR-352, formerly known as Marine Utility Squadron (VMJ) 352, was formed at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, on April 1, 1943. In March 1961, the squadron's mission expanded to include aerial refueling with the arrival of the KC-130 Hercules, which led to the redesignation as a VMGR. On April 15, 1999, VMGR-352 relocated from MCAS El Toro, California, to MCAS Miramar.
“This is particularly important because of the history this squadron has,” said Brig. Gen. Rick A. Uribe, I Marine Expeditionary Force deputy commanding general. “It is one of the only assets that supports every arm of the [Marine Air-Ground Task Force].”
Uribe, who served with VMGR-352 as a second lieutenant in 1993 and later as the commanding officer from 2006-2008, explained the prominence of the squadron’s history.
“It supports the [aviation combat element], the ground and the logistics—and 75 years of that is significant,” said Uribe. “It has supported virtually every operation and every conflict since World War II, so that’s why it’s important.”
Since World War II, the “Raiders” have continued to build upon their illustrious history of supporting Marines worldwide, in a range of military operations including: troop and cargo transport, humanitarian relief assistance and combat operations.
“The hallmark of VMGR in general - and specifically the “Raiders” - is that ‘can do’ attitude,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Pope, commanding officer of VMGR-352. “Any time, any place, we will support; we will always find a way. That legacy that has been built by those whose shoulders we are standing on is still alive today and hopefully we’re honoring those who have gone before us.”
More than 30 veterans whose shoulders that legacy was built on, attended the ceremony from all over the country. One in particular, retired Master Sgt. David Rodriquez, served with VMGR-352 from 1980-1998 as a loadmaster. Rodriguez cemented many friendships with Marines he served with at the squadron, and attending the anniversary was a great opportunity to reunite with them.
“I have a group of people here that we served together in the ‘80s, and we’ve always been good friends,” said Rodriguez. “Hearing the airplanes again, smelling the oil just brings you all the way back to when you had some good times.”
Rodriguez added that he enjoyed seeing the changes to the aircraft and within the unit since his time three decades ago.
“It just brings back memories of all the people who came before me that were my mentors,” said Rodriguez. “Then, I was a mentor to others, and now I’m looking back and seeing the fruits of my labor and their labor.”
Veterans and current members of the squadron attended the anniversary, sharing stories and reminiscing about the old times.
“It’s important to have veterans out here from the unit for numerous reasons,” said Uribe. “It’s a time when those who have gone before us can come back, we can share some stories, share some laughs and maybe some tears; but to have that relationship between the old and the new is extremely important.”