For sixty-four years, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 has maintained a tradition of excellence, innovation, and leadership in both the aviation community and the United States Marine Corps. Born in the war-torn Western Pacific on March 11, 1942, the squadron matured during the hardships of war and accomplished a wide variety of assigned missions. Now, over six decades later, having served in every major conflict our country has faced, the Sumos of VMGR-152 stand ready at the ï¿½??Tip of the Spearï¿½?? to face any challenge.
World War II
VMJ-253 pioneered Trans-oceanic transport in the Marine Corps during World War II. VMJ-253 also became the parent squadron for the joint air transport organization dubbed the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command (SCAT). Lieutenant Colonel Perry K. Smith, USMC, became the first Commanding Officer of SCAT. By November of 1942, VMJ-253 had supported operations on Guadalcanal and surrounding islands, logging thousands of flight hours.
While on Guadalcanal, VMJ-253 was the first combat transport squadron to land at Henderson Field, bringing Brigadier General Roy S. Geiger and his staff to take command of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Following the Japanese counter attack that forced the Navy to withdraw, VMJ-253 continued to re-supply fuel, ammunition, food, and medical supplies in support of their besieged brethren. The Marines in their R4Ds never wavered in their mission despite being fired upon by Japanese troops lurking near Henderson Field and marauding Zeros in the skies. Until the end of 1942, it was the Marines of VMJ-253 and other SCAT units that solved the logistical problems of Marines and soldiers on Guadalcanal.
Through 1943, VMJ-253 supported operations on Bougainville, New Georgia, Vella Lavella, and numerous islands throughout the Solomon chain. As the island-hopping campaign moved into the Central Pacific in 1944, so did VMJ-253. Detached from SCAT, VMJ-253 officially became a transport squadron and was redesignated VMR-253. VMR-253 was assigned to the Transport Air Group, popularly called TAG, which was the Central Pacific version of SCAT. Continuing the heavy schedule of lifts from Tarawa, VMR-253 sortied to Kwajalein, Roi-Namur, and Eniwetok. In October of 1943, VMR-253 moved to Guam. Working out of Guam, VMR-253 supported actions on Tinian, Saipan, and Peleliu. VMR-253 remained on Guam until the close of the war, and in May 1946, returned to MCAS Miramar.
Post WW II / Korean conflict
From Miramar, VMR-253 moved to MCAS El Toro under Marine Aircraft Group 25 where the aging fleet of R4Ds was replaced with R5Ds. VMR-253 continued its primary mission of moving men and supplies wherever the Marine Corps needed them. After a four-year squadron stand down from 1947 to 1951, VMR-253 reactivated with only six R5C aircraft, 5 officers, and 18 enlisted Marines. By the end of the year it had grown to 58 officers, 184 enlisted, had received 16 new R4Qs, and was ready to go to war once again. From January of 1952 through June of 1953, the squadron logged over 11,000 flight hours, carried 30,170 passengers, and moved 5,213,383 pounds of cargo.
1954 - 1965
In 1954, the squadron relocated to Itami Air Force Base, Japan and then to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. From Japan, VMR-253 conducted the bulk of Marine air transport in the Pacific for nearly ten years. On February 1, 1962, the famous Lockheed KC-130F Hercules joined Marine aviation in the Pacific. With its ability to refuel fighter and attack aircraft, VMR-253 was redesignated Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 (VMGR-152), and the squadronï¿½??s primary mission became aerial refueling.
Less than a year after receiving the Hercules aircraft, the pilots and Marines of VMGR-152 were called upon to support U.S. Army advisors in the latest hot spot, Indo-China. This deployment gave the squadron valuable experience in the employment of the Battle Herc that would soon pay off.
Beginning in 1965, with increasing U.S. involvement in Vietnam, detachments from VMGR-152 were deployed in country with Marine Amphibious Forces (MAF) to support F-4s and A-4s used by Marine tactical squadrons. To better support the detachments in Vietnam, the squadron relocated to Okinawa, Japan. By October, the squadron was flying 900 missions a month and continued this high tempo of operations well into 1967.
From 1967 to 1975, the bulk of VMGR-152ï¿½??s missions were directly in support of action in Southeast Asia. Concurrently, the squadron was establishing itself as a mainstay in the Western Pacific. VMGR-152 conducted countless trans-Pacific (TRANSPAC) missions, which involved the refueling of entire squadrons of fighter and attack aircraft as they crossed the Pacific on deployment. VMGR-152 also participated in a myriad of exercises and the movement of tons of cargo and thousands of troops, securing VMGR-152ï¿½??s tenure in WESTPAC.
1980s - 1990s
During the 1980ï's, larger U.S. Air Force tankers specifically designated for the strategic movement and refueling of aircraft relieved VMGR-152 of its TRANSPAC mission. This allowed the squadron to explore a more tactical employment of the KC-130 in intra-theater refueling and transport operations, and employ a more effective use of the aircraft and its personnel in a tactical environment. In 1987, VMGR-152 became the first PCS (permanent change of station) aircraft squadron on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Since the early 1990s, VMGR-152 has experienced a steady increase in the number of missions flown. In June 1993, the squadron acquired five KC-130Rs, which provided the squadron with a significant increase in aircraft range and added to its effectiveness in refueling and transport operations.
In January 1995, VMGR-152 joined Special Purpose MAGTF in support of Operation United Shield, the final withdrawal of all UNOSOM forces from Somalia.
In November and December 2004, VMGR-152 participated in Joint Task Force 535, the Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief mission in the Republic of the Philippines after several tropical storms and typhoons struck the island of Luzon. In the wake of the December 26, 2004 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, and subsequent widespread tsunami in the Indian Ocean region, VMGR-152 deployed aircraft and personnel to Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia in support of Operation Unified Assistance.
The Sumos were again called upon this year to provide Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) to people in need. When mudslides devastated the small village of Southern Leyete, Philippines in February of 2006 and when an earthquake in Yogyakarta, Indonesia killed nearly 6,000 people in May of 2006, the Sumos were among the first to arrive with valuable medical aid and supplies. Due to the Sumos flexibility and readiness, US forces were able to play a significant role in aiding the international community and saving countless lives with their operations.
The Marines of VMGR-152 have consistently employed the KC-130 Hercules in a safe and efficient manner. By invariably demonstrating the ability to balance mission accomplishment with safety, the squadron has earned numerous unit citations and awards. These awards include the CNO Aviation Safety Award for 1992, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005; the MCAA Commandant's Aviation Efficiency Trophy for 1992 and 1993; the National Defense Transportation Unit Award for 1993, 1995, and 2000; and the MCAA Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron of the Year Award for 1994, 2001 and 2006. The most noteworthy achievement occurred in April 2007, when the Sumos exceeded 260,000 mishap-free flight hours. VMGR-152 continues to play an invaluable role within III MEF and the U.S. Marine Corps. Through safety, the Sumos of VMGR-152 perpetually live up to their squadron's reputation as the