Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron-234 [VMGR-234]
VMGR-234 was originally commissioned at the Marine Corp Air Station EWA, Territory of Hawaii in April 1942 as Marine Scout Bomber Squadron 234 (VMSB-234). While there, the squadron began operations and trained for duty in the South Pacific. In December 1942, VMSB-234 arrived at Espiritu Santo in New Hebrides and continued combat training on the fighter strip at Turtle Bay. In January 1943, the squadron ferried their SBD-4's to Guadalcanal and started combat operations at Henderson Field. During the next 11 months, the unit flew three tours at Guadalcanal with additional duty at Fuji Island at Munda Field, New Georgia.
In December 1943, VMSB-234 returned to the United States and was based at MCAS El Toro, California. In July 1944, the squadron was equipped with SB2C1A aircraft and redesignated as VMBT-234. After training as a carrier-borne torpedo squadron, the unit embarked on the USS Vella Gulf and departed for the Marianas and Okinawa in June of 1945. VMTB-234 remained on board the Vella Gulf until October 1945 when it was transferred to the Marine Corp Air Station at Santa Barbara, California.
The squadron was moved back to MCAS El Toro in December 1945 and assigned to Marine Carrier Air Group, Marine Aircraft Group 33. It remained at El Toro until March 1946 when it was decommissioned. On July 1947 the squadron was recommissioned as Marine Fighter Squadron 234 (VMF-234) at the Naval Air Station, San Diego. The unit operated F-4U Corsairs as part of the Marine Air Reserve Training Command (MARTC). Shortly thereafter, VMF-234 occupied its new home base at the Naval Air Station, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The function of the MARTC was to preserve the technical skills in the vast pool of Marine Aviation Specialists returning to civilian life. These technical skills were tested in March 1951 when the squadron personnel were called up to participate in the Korean War. By 23 April 1951, all that remained of VMF-234 at Minneapolis was a mailing address. Over a year later in October 1952, VMF-234 returned to the Twin Cities. In February 1955, the squadron reorganized as a Marine Fighter Squadron flying the Grumman F9F Panther. In May of 1958, '234 received the AD-5 Skyraider and was redesignated a Marine Attack Squadron (VMA-234).
The C-119F Flying Boxcar replaced the AD-5's in January 1962 and the squadron became a Marine Transport Squadron (VMR-234), transitioning from single engine attack to twin engine transport. The unit remained in Minneapolis until the closure of the Naval Air Station in 1970 and was transferred to Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment (MARTD) located at Naval Air Station, Glenview, Illinois.
With the arrival of the KC-130F in 1975, the squadron was once again redesignated as Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234. In October 1983, VMGR-234 received the new KC-130T and became the first Marine Corps Reserve Squadron to receive a new tactical aircraft directly from the manufacturer. The squadron now operates fourteen 'T' models including one of only two 'stretch' KC-130s in the U.S. inventory. It also operates four specially equipped Night Systems Aircraft and has crews trained to perform all assigned missions using Night Vision Imaging Systems.
In January 1991, VMGR-234 was 'called to duty' to support the Marine Corps forces in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. The unit was transferred to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, and flew missions throughout Southwest Asia, Europe, North and South America. In June 1991, the squadron was deactivated and operational control reverted to the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing.
On October 1993, the 'Bears' passed an aviation milestone of 70,000 mishap-free flight hours, and prepared for the impending closure of NAS Glenview, Illinois. After more than two decades stationed there, VMGR-234 received orders to relocate to the former Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas to be a 'plank holder' in the new Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base.
At the end of August 1994, VMGR-234 transferred its aircraft and personnel to Naval Air Station Fort Worth JRB, Texas, which is under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 41. VMGR-234 is the vanguard USMC squadron to establish a Marine presence at the newly reactivated Fort Worth airfield. By October 1995, the Marines of VMGR-234 reached another milestone, surpassing 73,000 accident free flight hours. As the most active squadron in 4th MAW, VMGR-234 continues to participate in missions for Reserve and Regular Marine Corps units as well as sister services and other government agencies in the continental United States and abroad.
VMGR-234 completed its final move in July 1996. The 'Bears' continued with world wide flight ops flying in excess of 3,600 hours that year.
In 1997, VMGR-234 continued training with its four Night Vision System capable aircraft, two equipped with aircraft Survivability Equipment. This has presented a challenge for air crew training and an opportunity to exercise a capability that is not at present resident in the active duty squadrons. VMGR-234 is using the new capability to add to combat power of the deployed MEUs(SOC). The squadron surpassed 80,000 accident free flying hours during 1997 and during the ceremony retired the 'Bears' patch and call sign for a new patch and call sign, "Ranger". 1997 also saw VMGR-234 increase its flight hour support activity to 4,000 flight hours. On 22 March 1998, the squadron was awarded the 1997 Daedaleon Award for Operational Readiness. The squadron also received the 1997 Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for 1997.
The "Rangers" took part in 1998 in three major exercises; Cobra Gold 98 in Utapao, Thailand, Cope Thunder in Elmendorf, Alaska, and RimPac in Kanoehe Bay, Hawaii. In addition, the squadron received the Marine Corps Aviation Association's Henry Wildfang Trophy representing the best Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron in the Corps.
The squadron's mission it to provide aerial refueling service of fleet and reserve Marine forces and provide Air Transport for personnel and equipment and supplies. Its assigned tasks are:
- Tactical & operational air refueling of fixed and rotary wing aircraft;
- Provide assault air transport for air landed and air dropped troops, supplies and equipment;
- Provide airborne platform for Direct Air Support Center (DASC);
- Provide Rapid Ground Refueling System (RGR);
- Provide air transport service for evacuation of casualties and noncombatants.
The Squadron trains to operate under day, night and all-weather flying conditions, operate from logistic air heads, advance bases, expeditionary airfields or tactical landing zones in the objective or battle area and to operate without the requirement of airborne, surface or ground controllers.
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