OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 provides fuel and ground support as reinforcement for Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, also known as the “Hawks,” during the Korean Marine Exchange Program 14-13, Oct. 20, 2014, on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
The program’s goals are to increase the combat readiness of Marine Aircraft Group 12, improve its operating skills as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force and enhance joint and combined integration with the U.S. Air Force and ROK Marine Corps.
The “Hawks” are stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., but are part of the unit deployment program to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, under MAG-12, 1st Marine Air Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
KMEP 14-13 is a multinational exercise that focuses on the integration of aviation and ground assets within the construct of a traditional Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise. Supporting assets include, but are not limited to, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 and MWSS-171.
“Our mission while participating in KMEP is to support VMFA(AW)-533 with the refueling of their aircraft and making sure they get the quality fuel and support they need to complete their mission,” said Staff Sgt. Jesus Granados, fuel staff noncommissioned officer in charge with MWSS-171.
Granados said while on Osan, he and his Marines will fuel Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft. He said this opportunity allows his Marines to become more diverse and integrate with other services.
“This is a good opportunity for my crew to get qualifications on the Air Force fuel trucks,” said Granados. “Every time we deploy to an Air Force base, we are required to drive their vehicles, so the more people we bring, the better we can keep everyone’s qualifications up to date.”
Cpl. Eduardo Bahena, a semitrailer refueler operator with MWSS-171, said getting the opportunity to work with other countries helps him to better refuel aircraft by seeing how other services conduct business.
“We’re getting to know how the Air Force operates, as well as the (ROK) Marines,” said Bahena. “In addition, new scenery is ideal for us because we don’t get to drive much at (Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni). Refueling here, we get to work close to the aircraft and actually hook up the hoses, something we don’t always get to do.”
Bahena said the biggest challenge is being cautious with the equipment they use because any damages or misuse can cause them to have their license revoked. With one less Marine in the fight, mission accomplishment could be jeopardized.
Granados said without MWSS-171 fuel Marines, VMFA(AW)-533 couldn’t accomplish their mission.
“At the end of the day, the Air Force would have to pick up the slack if us fuel Marines weren’t present,” said Granados. “Since we’re on an Air Force Base, their aircraft take priority, so it would hinder the squadron’s ability to launch their birds and conduct training.”