PACIFIC OCEAN --
Pumping 300 gallons of fuel per minute at elevations of more than 6,000 feet may not seem like an easy task, but for a KC-130J “Hercules” aircraft, it’s all in a day’s work.
Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, the “Raiders,” with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, performed a refueling training exercise in support of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Rein), the “Evil Eyes,” with 3rd MAW, off the coast of San Diego, Nov. 8.
The exercise was part of HMM-163’s training for their upcoming deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
In theatre, it can take more than two hours for an aircraft to travel back to base and refuel. It’s easier for them to just fly to a tanker, refuel and continue supporting the ground guys, explained Sgt. Joseph Lonchar, a loadmaster with VMGR-352.
VMGR-352 Marines have to maintain their ability to perform a refueling mission, because other squadrons count on the KC-130J to keep their helicopters in the air.
Training missions offshore allow the pilots to practice the basics, without having to worry about avoiding mountains, or endangering populated areas.
“On average we do this kind of training about four times a month,” said Capt. Courtney Bryant, a KC-130J pilot with VMGR-352. “Working out here is easier [than inland]. We don’t have any obstacles to avoid and we don’t have to worry about flying over certain areas.”
During the exercise, a CH-53E “Super Stallion” helicopter maneuvered to less than 100 feet away from the left side of the tanker and connected to an 80-foot refueling tube that stretched out from the side of the KC-130J. The helicopter had five pilots aboard, each of whom practiced refueling from the tanker.
While the helicopter refueled, loadmasters watched through small observation windows at the rear of the tanker and relayed information to the pilots through an inner communications system.
They constantly spoke to the pilots through headsets, and communicated information such as where the helicopter was located, and when the helicopter connected and disconnected with the refueling tube.
Whether transporting troops or refueling aircraft, the Marines of VMGR-352 continue to train for tomorrow’s fight.