Story by Cpl Carlos Jimenez on 12/20/2017U.S. Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152, the "Sumos," departed Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, Dec. 14, 2017, to conclude unit-level training detachment El Centro Horizon.
VMGR-152's El Centro Horizon unit-level training detachment increased squadron combat readiness by providing pilots and crewmasters with the opportunities to complete required training through the diverse ranges available in the area.
"We don't get this type of training all the time in Japan," said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Seth Witherup, a crewmaster with VMGR-152. "While we're here in El Centro, we get this training nonstop every day, from dawn until dusk. That allows us to be more comfortable in doing these missions back-to-back, and allows us to really immerse ourselves in the fullness of the mission."
They conducted mission sets such as day and night single ship and formation flights in air-to-air refueling, low altitude tactics, night systems, tactical navigation, assault landing zone operations, threat reaction, air delivery and more.
"As far as missions go, we pretty much covered the whole gambit," said U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Paul Folk, a crewmaster with VMGR-152. "We did everything that C-130s do, from loading and unloading to aerial delivery. Obviously, as a unit, we have to be prepared for any mission set that can come up at a moment's notice. In order to do that, we have to maintain proficiency in a lot of different aspects of our mission. So coming out here with a group from Japan, we're able to maintain proficiency for Japan."
El Centro Horizon helped increase the Sumos' ability to conduct those mission sets by giving their junior Marines and co-pilots the opportunity to experience them for the first time, while the more senior Marines mentored and guided them through the process.
"We got some new crews trained up in mission sets they weren't trained in before, adding to the overall readiness of the squadron," said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Brian Kursawe, a KC-130J Hercules pilot with VMGR-152. "We brought some crewmaster trainees that are now official crewmasters, and a lot of our co-pilots got initial training that gave them qualifications they didn't have when we left Japan. On the maintenance side, operating as a detachment in a smaller group with some more junior Marines gave them that experience and confidence of working away from home."
VMGR-152 is a vital asset to operations in the Western Pacific region as the Marine Corps' only KC-130J unit in Japan. Whether their capabilities are required across long distances over water or in austere environments, the Sumos are always prepared and mission ready as a result of training detachments like El Centro Horizon.
"This ULT is important to us because it increases our squadron's readiness, and by increasing our squadron's readiness, it increases the Marine Corps' readiness as a whole," said Witherup. "When it comes to transporting Marines or supplies around the Pacific, it's called on us every single time to make sure these Marines and supplies, get where they need to go. Wherever we're needed, our importance, our presence, is felt."
The squadron accomplished the training goals they set out for through an aggressive schedule of various and diverse mission sets.
"Everyone did an outstanding job, from the senior staff non-commissioned officers down to the junior Marines," said Folk. "Those young guys who had never seen a lot of this stuff out here came prepared and ready. I'm very proud of them. Everything went smoothly and safe, and we got a lot of initial training done. I don't think I could have asked for more."