MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Marines with Marine Transport Squadron 1 departed Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point April 8 in one of the squadron’s C-9B Skytrains in support of II Marine Expeditionary Force.
The unit has committed a UC-35D Citation in support of Special-Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response, said Lt. Col. Brain D. Bernth, VMR-1 commanding officer.
SP-MAGTF Crisis Response is a rotational force of Marines and sailors temporarily stationed at Moron Air Base, Spain. The unit was stood up to a provide a broad range of military capabilities to respond to crises in its area of responsibility to include non-combatant evacuation, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and support to U.S. embassies, and other operations as directed by national and command leadership.
“Most people do not realize that one of the station’s aircraft has gone forward in support of that,” said Bernth. “We have never pushed an air station asset forward in support of crisis response. We provide high-speed movement to critical personnel and cargo throughout the theater. That theater is Europe and Africa, so it’s a pretty big field. We have been doing it successfully since August. ”
This squadron is unlike any other squadron in the Marine Corps. The most visible mission Marines and sailors perform is critical medical evacuations and search and rescue support with their HH-46E Sea Knight helicopters. A less visible but important mission is providing movement for high priority passengers and cargo in support of wartime operations, said Bernth. But the squadron is new to providing operational support to crisis response forces.
“We are breaking new ground here,” he said. “It has been an interesting challenge, particularly dealing with being an air station with limited manpower and funding. We have had to carefully manipulate the chess board to do it, as well as use some of our other assets that are supporting other things.”
Bernth also said that the use of their Skytrain helps the MAGTF greatly because the squadron has the ability to ferry essential personnel and gear fast and on short notice. Unlike the KC-130J Hercules or MV-22B Osprey, they get to key locations in just under a day. That critical element is what allows VMR-1 and their Skytrains to be an “ace in the hole,” he said.
VMR-1 is able to come together as a whole and shuffle their aircraft around, allowing them to rely heavily on their Skytrain and Citation to support various contingency forces and transport personnel and cargo when needed, while their Sea Knights perform search and rescue missions.
Despite its hectic operational schedule, the squadron plans to support contingency operations as long as required, Bernth said.
When the Skytrain returns later this week, it will begin support of the Black Sea Rotational Force.
“When I took over, I knew the squadron was busy, but I had no idea how busy,” Bernth said. “When you look at VMR-1, nowhere else could you get up in the morning and have a plane in Guam and Ghana, and get a Pedro mission call, all within the same six-hour period. No other squadron in the Marine Corps has that span of command and control or the ability to support those missions [simultaneously].”