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Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron-252 [VMGR-252]

The Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 was formed June 1, 1928 and designated Headquarters Detachment 7M in San Diego, California. The Squadron was redesignated several times in the next decade; on March 1, 1929 to Utility Squadron 7M, to West Coast Expeditionary Force on January 8, 1934, and finally, to Marine Utility Squadron-2 on July 1, 1937.

Following World War II, the Squadron relocated to Cherry Point, North Carolina and was reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group-21, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Further reassignments were to: Aircraft Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in June, 1947, Second Marine Aircraft Wing in October, 1947, Marine Aircraft Group-11 in 1950, Marine Aircraft Group-35 in 1953, Marine Wing Support Group-27 in 1959, and Marine Aircraft Group-14 in 1977.

During October 1961, the KC-130F Hercules became VMGR-252's squadron aircraft. With the advent of the KC-130F, the squadron's primary mission was changed to aerial refueling. On 1 February 1962, the Squadron received its present designation as Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252.

In June 1962, VMGR-252 flew a medical team and eight tons of medical supplies into Honduras to help check an epidemic. In October of the same year, the Squadron found itself under heavy commitment in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Supplies and troops were flown into Cuba and American citizens were evacuated.

On 6 June 1964, a Squadron aircraft was piloted to an altitude above 44,000 feet to set a turbo-prop transport altitude record. On the same flight, nine volunteer parachutists set the world record for night group freefall parachute, thus taking the world record from the Russians who had held it since 1961. In December 1965, the KC-130 was used to refuel the CH-3 helicopter. This was the first time that a tanker-drogue system was used to refuel a helicopter.

In May of 1965, the Squadron was once again called upon to support an expeditionary force during the Dominican Republic crisis. During the first four days, the squadron flew 600 flight hours with 14 aircraft and airlifted over 1,000,000 pounds of cargo and 1,700 personnel. In October 1966, VMGR-252 was called upon to aid the citizens of Tampico, Mexico when they were victimized by flooding. The squadron flew thousands of pounds of cargo in support of this relief effort, code named Bold Party.

The late sixties and early seventies found VMGR-252 actively supporting American Forces in the Republic of Vietnam, transporting essential equipment, parts, and personnel. The early seventies also found VMGR-252 involved in the support and development of the AV-8A Harrier. In October of 1971, support equipment for the operation was airlifted from England to Beaufort, South Carolina. In August of 1973, VMGR-252 was involved in the research and development of safe and standardized aerial refueling procedures to be used with the Harrier.

In September of 1979, when Hurricane David wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, VMGR-252 was there with medical supplies, fuel, and other essential items to help relieve the burden of the distressed communities. In July of 1981, 471 Marines from the squadron were awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal for their efforts in aiding Cuban citizens who no longer wanted to live under the burden of Communism. The award was in recognition of the efforts they put forth during May and June of 1980 when Fidel Castro opened the gates to freedom and a mass exodus of freedom-seeking people took place.

In December 1988, VMGR-252 achieved another milestone in Marine Corps Aviation History. At the time, the squadron surpassed the landmark figure of 300,000 accident free flight hours and won the distinction of achieving the most accident-free flight hours of any squadron in the Marine Corps and the Navy.

The decade of the nineties started in earnest with VMGR-252 deploying aircraft to Freetown, Sierra Leone in support of 22 MEU which was deployed following civil unrest in nearby Liberia. Throughout the summer of 1990, squadron aircrew and personnel supported the MEU with aerial refueling and cargo missions.

With little time to rest and catch its breath, the squadron found itself facing an even greater challenge with the mobilization of forces for Operation Desert Shield to counter the aggression of the Iraqi government. In late August, two aircraft and crews were deployed to the Emirate of Bahrain to participate in local support operations. These two aircraft were augmented with four additional KC-130's and 120 personnel in December to form VMGR-252 Detachment Alpha. When Operation Desert Storm commenced on 16 January 1991, the detachment transitioned to combat operations and provided over 10 million pounds of fuel to strike aircraft during the course of 937 combat sorties.

Concurrent with operations in support of Desert Storm, VMGR-252 was also providing assets to cover other potential hot spots around the globe. Aircraft were sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during the Haitian elections, and another three-plane detachment was deployed to Rota, Spain as part of an anti-terrorist contingency.

From 29 through 31 August, 1992, VMGR-252 flew round the clock flight operations in support of Hurricane Andrew relief efforts. The squadron also took part in Marine and joint exercises through 1994 including: Display Determination in Turkey, Ocean Venture in Puerto Rico, the Amphibious Warfare Presentation Team tour of the western Pacific, Operation Cope Thunder in Alaska, 2DMAW Bermuda Strikes, Agile Provider, and Coronet West, providing logistics support for VMFA-242 from El Toro to Iwakuni, Japan. VMGR-252 has also participated in three Hornet's Nest exercises involving large formation aerial refueling of F/A-18's, EA-6B's, and F-14's.

In March, 1994 an aircrew was sent to Europe to participate in the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. In June, 1994 a detachment from VMGR-252 deployed to Mombasa, Kenya in support of Operations Continue Hope and Support Hope, delivering over 1.25 million pounds of fuel to the 15 and 22 MEUs.

In March of 1995 the squadron continued its support of Operation Deny Flight by deploying two aircraft to Italy. Throughout the year, the squadron was tasked with supplying an aircraft in support of Mode VIII, an exercise to recover astronauts in the event of a forced bailout from the Space Shuttle. In July, VMGR-252 provided support for Operation Cope Thunder in Eielson, Alaska. The Squadron also deployed one aircraft to Keflavik, Iceland for a 24 hour search and rescue alert mission. Additionally, during July, eleven sorties were launched to support the 26 MEU SOCEX and SACEX 2-95 involving Rapid Ground Refueling.

On August 4th, 1995, the Squadron was presented with the Chief of Naval Operations' Aviation Safety Award for calendar year 1994. During the same month, four sorties were launched to perform the first ever training with Marine KC-130 Aircraft Survivability Equipment. Concurrent testing of a Rapid Action Maintenance Engineering Change of ALE-39 Chaff Dispensers was also initiated. In September, VMGR-252 accepted two of the most coveted awards a Marine squadron can receive: The Marine Corps Aviation Association's Awards of the Commandant's Aviation Trophy for 1995 and the Henry Wildfang Award for Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron of the Year.

In 1996 VMGR-252 continued its support of Operation Deny Flight in Aviano, Italy. Other exercises VMGR-252 supported in the spring of 1996 included Operation Assured Response in Rota, Spain; Roving Fire in Greenwood, Canada; and Operation Purple Star, a combined exercise with British forces. In the fall, VMGR-252 provided cargo movement in support of Operation Decisive Edge, and mass evacuations in support of Operations Assured Response and Quick Response throughout Africa.

In 1997 VMGR-252 lead the Marine KC-130 fleet in providing versatility and innovation to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander. VMGR-252 performed cargo movement in support of Operation Decisive Edge in Aviano, Italy and Operation Guardian Retrieval in Brazzaville, Congo; Fixed Wing Aerial Refueling in support of Silver Wake in Albania and Noble Obelisk in Sierra Leone; and Helicopter Aerial Refueling in support of search and rescue operations for the Space Shuttle program and Operation Northern Watch in Incirlik, Turkey. The squadron's performance lead to the Marine Corps Aviation Association awarding VMGR-252 the Henry Wildfang Award for Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron of the Year in recognition of the most outstanding Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron in Marine Aviation.

In March 1998 VMGR-252 deployed two aircraft and crews to Brindisi, Italy for support of the 26 MEU in Operation Dynamic Response. The missions involved rapid ground refueling, aerial refueling and logistics movements in and out of the former Yugoslavia. In April, "Otis" deployed for 4 months to Incirlik, Turkey to provide combat search and rescue for Operation Northern Watch. June and July saw "Otis" supporting the 26 MEU in Operation Deliberate Falcon/Determined Force in Sigonella, Italy. Missions for this operation included fixed and helicopter refueling as well as assault support throughout the European theater. 1998 ended with VMGR-252 deploying to Incirlik, Turkey once again to support Operation Northern Watch.

During 1999 "Otis" continued its essential support by positioning Marines and their combat equipment to multiple locations in theater for Operation Noble Anvil/ALLIED FORCE. Sorties continued to be flown in support of OPERATION NORTHERN WATCH. Marine KC-130s became a common sight at many European airfields, among such include Aviano, Bari, Incirlik and Taszar. The squadron maintained a presence in theater providing aerial refueling and FISDU support throughout the duration of the NATO combat operations which include the spans of both 24 and 26 MEU. VMGR-252 support was also devoted to in CONUS for work up exercises for 22, 24, and 26 MEU.

VMGR-252 has been in continuous service for 72 years. The squadron has flown 30 different types of aircraft and since receipt of the first KC-130, has continued to achieve many firsts in Marine Corps Aviation. The first Night Vision Goggle landing in a Marine Corps KC-130 was accomplished by a squadron aircraft and crew in May 1990. The squadron is poised to accept the first KC-130J aircraft and employ night system upgrades to it's existing aircraft. To date, VMGR-252 has flown over 369,000 class-A mishap free flight hours in support of Marines and their missions around the World.

The mission of VMGR-252, the oldest continually active squadron in the history of the Marine Corps, is to provide assault transport of personnel, equipment, supplies, and to provide aerial refueling service to fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Special tasks of the squadron are performed day and night, in all weather conditions. The squadron strength varies, but it includes approximately 240 enlisted Marines, 50 officers, and 14 aircraft.




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