KUWAIT -- When it comes to getting supplies available for front-line troops, first thoughts are often toward C-130s, CH-53s or convoys.
However, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing is using one method of transport in Operation Iraqi Freedom not usually associated with combat operations - UC-12 King Air.
There's only a few of these turbo-prop aircraft at an air base here, but the aircraft and its crew have been making sure they accomplish 3rd MAW's mission, to transport troops and equipment in the Central Command Area of Responsibility, since the advance party of Marines arrived March 27.
"The Wing has been putting us to good use since we got here," said Maj. Ray, C-12 Detachment pilot. "We're eager to be here and we're eager to continue our support to 3rd MAW."
Ray also said C-12s and most of the detachment's Marines were used in Operation Desert Storm, providing the same mission.
"The good thing about this is everyone is experienced with the area," he said. "We're all familiar with the area and we're also familiar with the heat here."
All of the detachment's officers and aircrew volunteered to deploy here, including several civilian maintainers with Raytheon Corporation. Ray said the detachment's Marines hit the ground running, and have already flown a dozen missions for 3rd MAW, constantly fighting the challenges of the environment.
"Dust on the aircraft will be a challenge to the maintainers," said the 38-year-old Indiana native. "Another challenge is explaining the role of the C-12 in a war-time environment. It's a good reliable tool to have."
Dust isn't the only challenge for UC-12 maintainers. According John Berens, Raytheon Aerospace mechanic, many sacrifices are made on the flight line.
"Back home we have a hangar and here we don't have one at all," he said. "In the afternoons the heat is so unbearable we have to slate our maintenance either in the morning or the late afternoon. Sand and dust gets everywhere, in all the cracks and crevices, and our parts and tools aren't in close proximity to the aircraft, making maintenance a little tougher. We do whatever it takes to keep these planes flying because there's not much you can do about the environment."
The slender aircraft's crew can configure the interior to accommodate even the most bulky of cargo, with up to 1,000 pounds of carrying capacity. While that may not be as much as a C-130, when supplies are needed quickly, the UC-12 is up to the task.
"In the civilian world whenever anyone says the name 'C-12' it's synonymous with reliability," said Ray. "It really lives up to its name 'King Air.'"
"So far we're up and running and happy to be here," he said. "Morale is high and we're ready and able to do our part."