Photo Information

Lt. Col. David C. Morris, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252’s commanding officer, speaks with Cpl. Brandon N. Gillotti, a loadmaster with VMGR-252, and congratulates him, April 28, for winning the meritorious sergeant board for Marine Aircraft Group 14.

Photo by Cpl. Alicia R. Giron

VMGR-252 CO remembers ‘Fat Albert’ pilot days

21 May 2010 | Cpl. Alicia R. Giron

After a 4-year enlistment in the Marine Corps, David C. Morris thought his days as a Marine were over.

But at the beginning of his senior year at West Virginia’s Fairmont State University, he was approached by an officer selection officer, who talked about being a Marine Corps officer. Morris said his intent for college was to attend law school, and to not re-enlist in the Corps, regardless of active duty or reserve.

Morris began considering learning about the Corps through an officer’s perspective. Graduation came Dec. 18, 1992, and he received his degree. The very next day, he was commissioned.

“I have wanted to be a pilot since I was little,” said Morris, who has now achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel and serves as Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252’s commanding officer. “I used the tools the Marine Corps gave me to graduate with honors from college and make myself competitive to become a commissioned officer and aviator.”

During his first fleet squadron as a pilot, Morris was assigned to VMGR-252. Morris said his time with VMGR-252 was a great experience, and he deployed all over the world, supporting multiple Marine Expeditionary Units.

“I spent three years with the squadron, and it was a fantastic opportunity as a young commissioned officer,” said Morris. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the squadron.”

Nearly a year later, still continuing to fly KC-130J Hercules, Morris was selected to fly a fancier version of the cargo plane, the C-130T Hercules, commonly known as “Fat Albert.” Morris said Fat Albert pilots are selected just like any other pilot or officer of the Blue Angels, and he was submitted and selected to become a part of their team. 

Fat Albert is an all-Marine crew that is attached to the United States Navy Blue Angels team. The cargo jet cruises at a speed of approximately 360 miles per hour. Fat Albert pilots perform at many air shows a year all over the U.S.

“Being a Fat Albert pilot is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Morris said. “I got to be a part of the demonstration and provide support to the squadron. It was a very satisfying tour.”

As a pilot for the KC-130J and C-130T, Morris said his flying experience with both aircraft was a unique opportunity. Morris landed in more than 40 countries and supported four real-world operations as a KC-130J pilot.

“One of the greatest aspects of being a KC-130J pilot is being able to work with an enlisted crew,” said Morris. “The Marines in our community are absolutely amazing.” 

The primary mission of Fat Albert is to carry 25,000 pounds worth of support gear, and to transport approximately 40 Blue Angel team members to and from shows, added Morris. Throughout the year, The Blue Angels travel to many states and perform in front of millions of people. Fat Albert is typically the opening act for the Blue Angels by performing a demonstration at most show sites. The elite team serves as positive role models and goodwill ambassadors for the Navy and Marine Corps.

When The Blue Angels team arrives at Cherry Point to perform at the biennial air show and Morris gets to see them, he said he still feels a part of the Fat Albert family, and it’s like he never left the team.

“As a blue, you spend more time with the team then you would your own family,” said Morris. “It’s a small family of men and women who are Marines and Sailors. You become close with everyone, and once you leave the team, you’re still a part of the family.”

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point