OKINAWA, Japan - A detachment of 42 Marines and one KC-130J aircraft with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, the “Sumos,” were welcomed home, May 18, by family, friends and other Marines from the unit after returning from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Marines were replaced by a second detachment of Marines from VMGR-152 who arrived at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, earlier in May.
“As the former [commanding officer] of this unit, it’s very exciting to be able to watch as we complete our first year of combat support operations since the Vietnam era,” said Maj. Jason D. Kindred, acting commanding officer for VMGR-152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The detachment flew more than 2,500 sorties and totaled 2,300 flight hours while deployed, according to Maj. Josh M. Vance, detachment officer in charge.
The missions performed by the detachment included in-flight refueling of fixed and rotary wing aircraft, air deliveries, logistics runs, supply drops, refueling of forward-operating bases, ground refueling and casualty transportation.
The Sumos also transported Marines, soldiers and airmen to different areas of Afghanistan.
The unit worked alongside VMGR-352 “The Raiders,” 3rd MAW, I MEF, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., to accomplish these missions. Combined, they boasted six KC-130Js for operations, two of which were from Okinawa.
According to Vance, the in flight work day for the Marines was usually 10 hours or longer and consisted of short, high-intensity missions.
He said he remembers receiving fire the second day in theater and many times afterward while flying sorties during the deployment.
“I am very proud of all these Marines for their hard work while deployed,” said Kindred.
A large part of the unit’s success was due to the dedication and effort the Marines put forth throughout the deployment, he added.
“If it wasn’t for the support of my wife, I don’t think I would have been so successful on this detachment. She took a lot on her shoulders for me,” said Gunnery Sgt. Don Alvarado, maintenance control chief for the VMGR-152 detachment during the deployment.
During Alvarado’s deployment his wife took care of their four children while pregnant with their fifth, a daughter who was born a month before his return.
“I wasn’t lucky enough to be here for her birth,” said Alvarado. “But I was lucky that my wife brought her computer [using Skype] to the hospital so I was allowed to see my daughter’s birth.”
He held his 1-month old daughter, Akemi, for the first time at the homecoming, a moment that almost brought tears to his eyes.
“I don’t think I can explain how I feel right now. I have been on detachments so many times,” he said while holding his daughter. “It gets unexplainably better each time I come home.”