MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 has an important role in support of Marine Corps exercises and operations. The KC-130J Super Hercules squadron provides close-air support, troop and cargo transport and aerial refueling capabilities.
When it comes to keeping the Marine Corps’ largest aircraft fully operational, a unique group of Marines trained in a variety of tasks help keep the four-engine Super Hercules in the air.
Those Marines are the air crew, tasked with maintaining the aircraft, performing routine inspections, making sure aircraft are loaded correctly and maintaining constant communication with pilots before, during and after flights.
Though the multiple roles and responsibilities for the crew members can be strenuous, the job does have some perks that they enjoy.
“The best part about it is, I get to go everywhere,” said Sgt. Paul A. Millis, a crew chief with the squadron. “We spend our time traveling. Most Marines only get to leave home station if they are deploying, but we are gone about two weeks out of the month.”
Corporal David C. Searcy, a crew master with VMGR-252, said the jobs of the crew members are critical to mission success.
Searcy said when the pilots identify an issue while flying, it is air crew's job to address the problem and fix it so the pilots can continue their missions safely.
Safety is the number one priority for the maintenance Marines.
“Whenever we do maintenance and I go do a preflight inspection, I make sure (the aircraft is) safe for flight for all of my crew, passengers and everything else we might be carrying,” said Searcy.
Apart from providing maintenance for the aircraft, the enlisted Marines also have to make sure the aircraft are loaded correctly, tied down and that cargo weight is distributed properly. They also assist the pilots when conducting aerial refueling missions where communication and trust are essential.
“You have to trust your crew in the back can actually see the aircraft flying close to us to receive fuel,” said Searcy. “You have to communicate.”