PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI --
On the cold, dreary Saturday morning of Feb. 6, when most Marines aboard Cherry Point were still asleep, a handful of Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 had already begun planning a transport mission to the earthquake-stricken country of Haiti.
“The crew’s mission was to bring back 44 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and replace them with other Marines in order to support Haitian humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” said Capt. Aleksandr Martin-Nims, the aircraft commander for the mission.
Although the squadron was tasked with carrying out the mission, many of the crew volunteered, Martin-Nims said.
Once briefed, the crew of the KC-130J Hercules made its way to Cherry Point’s aerial point of entry. Sixty combat capable Marines from the 2nd Marine Division, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, boarded the aircraft.
Master Sgt. Kraig S. Kerkenides, a loadmaster with VMGR-252, had the arduous task of ensuring the cargo was transported to Haiti safely.
“My primary responsibility was to execute the safe loading and unloading of all personnel and equipment aboard the aircraft,” Kerkenides said.
In addition to performing his primary duties, Kerkenides was also working with a student loadmaster and instructing him during the mission.
After reaching Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince, the crew landed at Toussaint Louverture International Airport and off-loaded the Marines with 3/2 from the aircraft. A half an hour later, Marines from the 22nd MEU made their way to the aircraft and prepared to take off.
Cpl. David Van Winkle, a refrigeration mechanic from Combat Logistics Battalion 22, felt the 2 1/2-week-long mission to Haiti was definitely a unique experience.
“I liked it,” said Van Winkle. “Coming to Haiti isn’t something most Marines do every day. I enjoyed helping people in need.”
Martin-Nims explained one of his motivations for being a part of the mission.
“The Marines we brought out of Haiti proudly performed their duties, and it is time for them to move on and to spend time at home,” said Martin-Nims. “Supporting Marines and missions of the Marine Corps is what Marines do, and it is always an honor to be a part of the VMGR-252 team.”
Although it was Kerkenides’ first mission to Haiti, he said he is prepared to go on many more missions to the country in the future.
“Helping the people and government of Haiti during their time of need is extremely important,” Kerkenides said. “I execute any missions my chain of command deems important. Without a doubt, they know this is an important mission for the country of Haiti.”
At the end of the day, the Marines of VMGR-252 had completed their mission safely and without incident.
“I enjoy being a part of real-world missions,” Kerkenides said. “I take personal pride in being part of a squadron that can always be counted on in any situation in any part of the world and to perform all missions asked of it.”