VMGR-152 keeps jets fueled, flying during Cobra Gold training[MIGRATE]

By Lance Cpl. Noah S. Leffler | May 11, 2007

MCB Camp Butler

MCB Camp Butler (Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah S. Leffler)

Marine Forces Pacific

Marine Forces Pacific (Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah S. Leffler)

Lance Cpl. Marcus B. Vegas stares intently out the window of the KC-130 Sumo. This is his first aerial refueling, and the drone of the engines and radio chatter in his headset is distant as he waits for the FA-18’s probe to make contact with the para-drogue attached to the end of the Sumo’s 90-foot hose. The jet deftly maneuvers up, down, left and right, and suddenly a smile creeps across the flight mechanic’s face as the much-anticipated connection is made.

“This is exciting. It really gets my blood pumping,” the Kihei, Hawaii native said. “It’s one of the coolest training experiences I’ve ever had. Just to see the jets outside the window makes me remember why I love doing my job.”

Seven members of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 participated in a refueling exercise over Eastern Thailand during Exercise Cobra Gold 2007 Friday.

The crew supplied four FA-18 Deltas from Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 with 17,400 pounds of fuel, allowing the jets to continue their training without having to touch down.

“This is a mission we train for and do very well,” said Maj. Kei S. Oki, VMGR-152 aircraft commander and Walnut, Calif., native. “In the real world we’re supporting the Marines on the ground with close-air support from the jets. Those guys on the ground absolutely need that support, so our job is very rewarding.”

During an aerial refueling, the KC-130 must reach and maintain a prescribed altitude and speed before the flight engineer releases two hoses from both wings of the aircraft. After the hoses have been released, it is up to the two observers seated in the rear of the plane to monitor and record the jets’ approach and contact with the fuel lines.

“The observers are essential as the eyes of the flight engineers,” said Master Sgt. Ian E. Kubicki, VMGR-152 flight engineer and native of Libertyville, Ill. “There’s always the danger of fuel leaks, hose breaks – all the hazards associated with flying aircraft in close proximity to one another.”   

The Sumo’s two pilots, two observers, engineer and navigator must work together to safely and successfully accomplish an aerial refueling. Oki felt that Friday’s training was a good example of his crew’s individual expertise culminating in a show of teamwork.

“Everyone did their part today,” said Oki. “It is very refreshing when you do what we get paid to do, go out and have everything run so smoothly.”

Participating in Cobra Gold has afforded VMGR-152 an opportunity to train over spacious new locales and practice the multiple facets and missions the KC-130 is capable of.

“It’s a large-force exercise, so there’s a lot of training area the Thai’s have provided,” Oki said. “We’ve been able to take advantage of the large airspace during our time here.”

For Kubicki, working in Thailand is just another perk of what he considers to be the ultimate occupation.

“I love everything about it,” he said. “Whether it’s flying with great people or fixing planes when they break, I have the best job in the Marine Corps. Actually, I have the best job in the world.”

More stories, photos and videos are availible at www.apan-info.net/cobragold.