NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Kingdom of Thailand --
F/A- 18D Hornets received fuel from KC-130J Hercules aircraft midair during fixed-wing aerial refueling operations Feb. 19, 2013 after taking off from Wing One Royal Thai Air Force Base, Nakhon Ratchasima, Kingdom of Thailand, as a part of exercise Cobra Gold 2013.
The Hercules are assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and the Hornets are with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, MAG-12, 1st MAW.
Cobra Gold is a recurring multinational and multiservice exercise, which takes place annually in Thailand and was developed by the Thai and U.S. militaries.
“Our overall mission for Cobra Gold is to support the (air combat element), provide fixed-wing aerial refueling, and provide aerial delivery for troops,” said Maj. Marlin D. Williams, detachment officer-in-charge and pilot with VMGR-152. “We also came here to do some additional unit training to get ourselves proficient in other portions of Marine aviation and to get our pilots more proficient in their air skills.”
In its 32nd iteration, CG 13 is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We’re integrating the Thai Air Force into mainly air-to-air missions and we’re trainingtogether,” said Capt. Michael Stroup, a pilot with VMFA (AW )-224. “This annual exercise helps us integrate better because Thailand is one of our oldest allies and it helps us become familiar with each other so if we ever do need to work together in a major conflict, then we’ll be used to it from this background experience.”
Providing fuel for participating air elements makes VMGR-152 an integral part of CG 13.
“Aerial refueling is very important for us, especially in the Marine Corps because we are an expeditionary service,” said Stroup. “For example, we are based out of Beaufort, S.C., and we’re in Thailand. As you can imagine, that took a lot of aerial refueling to get our airplanes all the way over here, so we can operate the way we need to in order to support the guys on the ground. Whether it’s with Marine refuelers or Air Force assets, the refueling capability makes us able to go much farther and do a greater number of missions,” he added.
Although one of VMGR-152’s missions is aerial refueling, it is not their only mission; they support operations on a variety of different platforms. “Our primary mission is to conduct aerial refueling of jets, helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft for III MEF,” said Lt. Col. Jason W. Julian, commanding officer and pilot with VMGR-152.
“We also conduct assault support missions, which include aerial delivery of troops and cargo, logistics moves of cargo and personnel. We could have battlefield illumination missions, and we can even go in some place and conduct a rapid-ground refueling mission by setting up a site on the ground for jets and helicopters that don’t have an aerial refueling capability.”
The bilateral training conducted by the refueling squadron supports the strong Thai- U.S. relationship.
“We’ve been doing aerial delivery with the Thai Marines and they actually jump out of our aircraft, along with the U.S. reconnaissance Marines,” said Williams. “I think the importance of this exercise is the bilateral training that we get, the unit cohesiveness we achieve amongst ourselves, and the cohesion we build with the participating countries.”
Regardless of the mission, VMGR-152 continues to contribute to CG 13 and the Marine Corps by accomplishing its various capabilities.
“We always appreciate when the tanker guys are around because running out of fuel in an airplane is not like running out of fuel in a car where you can just pull over, take an empty gas can, and walk down the road to get fuel,” said Stroup. “Running out of gas for us can be life threatening, so we always love to see a big, beautiful tanker out there to go up and get some gas from. We really appreciate the job everyone does on those airplanes that puts them in the spot they need to be so we can find them, get the fuel we need, and go complete the mission.