MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - More than 80 Marines and four KC-130J Hercules aircraft with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan within the next month.
The unit shares Marine Corps C-130 operational responsibilities with its sister unit from the West Coast, VMGR-352. The units rotate each year. VMGR-252 will split its deployment between two detachments. The second will deploy later this year.
VMGR-252 will use its KC-130Js to execute its primary missions, which are transport of cargo and troops and aerial refuel missions. They will also have one Hercules that can provide close-air support, thanks to a revolutionary new weapons upgrade.
A KC-130J equipped with the Harvest HAWK system can still provide all traditional capabilities with the addition of being able to provide close-air support for more than 10 hours without having to refuel.
“C-130’s with the Harvest HAWK system are requested by a lot of the ground units because we can provide troops with extended and consistent surveillance with direct surveillance feeds from the aircraft,” said Capt. Thane A. Norman, a fire control operator instructor with VMGR-252.
Norman said in addition to being able to fire Hellfire and Griffin missiles, the Harvest HAWK system has given the crew greater ability to assist ground troops with reconnaissance video. It also has a Blue Force Tracker and Remote Operated Video Enhanced Receiver aboard, which provides the HAWK crew with visuals on all allied forces and downlink feed of other aircraft overhead.
“What we see on the BFT and ROVER can assist the ground commander with tactics and strategies,” said Norman. “It also helps us put rounds on the ground without endangering friendly forces.”
Maj. James C. Paxton, the commanding officer of the first detachment of VMGR-252 Marines for 2013, said with operations in Afghanistan drawing down, his Marines will play an important role in ensuring safe and effective transition from coalition responsibility to Afghan responsibility.
“I am very excited about being the man in charge over in Afghanistan,” said Paxton. “I have my A-team going out there with me. They are highly trained and ready for anything. I know they will effectively accomplish the mission using vigilance and confidence, which they have built over the last few months through training.”