MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Marine Transport Squadron 1 keeps two aces in the hole giving them the advantage of speed when transporting very important passengers.
The C-9B Skytrain is a military version of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32; and VMR-1 has the only two in the Marine Corps.
The squadron began using the aircraft in 1976 when its primary mission was the transportation of the Marine Corps Band and other VIPs.
Since then, these aircraft have transformed and adapted to meet the unique needs of today’s Marine Corps.
Modifications made to the aircraft include updates in avionics and an extra center fuel tank to increase the range of the aircraft.
“The C-9 is a regional jet that we have morphed into a global jet,” said Maj. Edward J. Jorge, the C-9 branch officer in charge and pilot. “With these modifications and extensive planning these jets are doing a lot more than their designed to do.”
The C-9s have kept their initial mission of VIP transportation but recently have expanded their duty with supporting many other operations such as supporting the school of advanced warfare and the black sea rotational force.
In the past year the squadron has used the aircraft to travel anywhere from Houston to Vietnam and countless locations in between.
Only active duty military handpicked and board-selected pilot the aircraft, said Jorge.
They all come from different backgrounds and usually hold the rank of major or above.
It is not widely known that the Marine Corps maintains these two converted civilian aircraft. The fact that VMR-1 maintains and flies these aircraft is unique to the squadron.
“The C-9 still keeps its original purpose of transportation, but now it fills the gap that the KC-130J Hercules cannot as a faster transport,” said Cpl. Garrick W. Pelletier, a C-9 crew chief.
“We can’t take as much as a C-130, but we will get there faster,” said Cpl. Philip J. Lefever, a C-9 loadmaster.
The aircraft supports the Marine Corps’ need for faster transportation, said Lefever. There are different configurations of cargo and passengers that the C-9 is capable of carrying.
The C-9 is also a much more comfortable and smooth ride for its passengers, according to Pelletier.
VMR-1 has upheld the reputation of the C-9 for the last 37 years and plans to do so as long as the aircraft is in service.