News: Otis Marines adapt to 2011 changes
Story by Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Since January 2011 Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 has fitted its KC-130J aircraft with a new weapons system called the Harvest Hawk Airborne Weapon Kit and has been flying with this system in combat operations. Also new to the unit in 2011 was the merger of two fields, when crew chiefs and loadmasters became crewmasters.
These new additions to VMGR-252 have presented challenges and benefits this past year.
“Every day there are Harvest Hawk system-equipped KC-130Js flying over Afghanistan protecting ground troops in addition to their already long list of tasks they accomplish,” said Sgt. Paul A. Cochran, the ordnance non-commissioned officer in charge with VMGR-252. “There is no other platform the Marine Corps uses that can fl y for more than 10 hours without having to refuel. The KC-130J equipped with the Harvest Hawk system is a great benefit to the Marine Corps and helps protect the Marines in theater.”
Cochran explained the benefits of the Harvest Hawk system as long-range protection for ground forces with the ability to transport cargo and troops long distances without needing to refuel.
The other milestone VMGR-252 took this last year was the integrating of two previously separate job fields.
“We took an operations job [loadmaster] and a maintenance job [crew chief] and combined them,” said Master Sgt. Thomas R. Tripp, a crewmaster with VMGR-252. “The new field is called a crewmaster. The job of a crewmaster is to be able to conduct the primary and secondary missions of both merged job fields.
“Before the merger, when planning a flight, we had to assign one person to a specific job. I can put three crewmasters onboard the aircraft and they all can do the jobs needed to fl y.”
Tripp said, even though there are challenges, he looks forward to the future of this new field.
“It is difficult,” said Tripp. “We have eight Marines who have come to us from the initial school house training for crewmaster. Everyone else we have has to train on the job, as well as return back to school. This costs us and the Marine Corps time and money to retrain some folks. However, once we get the Marines trained this will be a great thing, saving time and helping to cut personnel needed to fl y KC-130J’s in the Marine Corps.”