The KC-130J as an Enabler: The Perspectives of a Crew Chief and a Maintainer


2014-08-07 By Robbin Laird

During my visit to 2nd Marine Air Wing in June 2014, I had a chance to meet with several of the members of the VMGR-252 squadron.

In this interview, Sgt. Paul Millis, a Crew Chief, and Sgt. Thomas Chevalier, a power train maintainer.

Both have Afghanistan experience, and Millis has Pacific experience as well.

The discussion underscored two important themes with regard to the use of the KC-130J by the USMC.

The first theme is the significant versatility of the aircraft by which it was used across a wide variety of missions in Afghanistan and is a key enabler of the SP-MAGTF.

The second theme, which reinforced the first, was that the close integration of the crew with the maintainers was crucial to the rapid turn around characterized by Afghan operations.

Sgt. Paul Millis, a Crew Chief, and Sgt. Thomas Chevalier, a power train maintainer for the KC-130J. Credit: SLD
Sgt. Paul Millis, a Crew Chief, and Sgt. Thomas Chevalier, a power train maintainer for the KC-130J. Credit: SLD

Sgt. Millis underscored that in Afghanistan each KC-130J was used in excess of 100 hours per month.

The crews had to perform rapid turn around for missions in which the mission would change 4-5 times during the day and the plane needed to prepared for the new mission.

Rapid taskings were a norm of the Afghan operational tempo.

Among these missions were air refueling, passenger and cargo lift, precision airdrops, battlefield illumination, rapid ground refueling and overhead strike and reconnaissance via the Harvest Hawk.

We were constantly reconfiguring for missions based on the demand. 

And the demand for battlefield illumination at night required a rapid preparation of the aircraft for support to the Marines on the ground.

Sgt. Millis highlighted the advantages of having a loadmaster separate from a crew chief, which was a key element enabling rapid tasking requirements.  This system is being replaced by a Crew Master system in which the Crew Master is asked to do both tasks.

The KC-130J was used extensively to provide supplies so that IED riddled roads could be avoided and this meant that lives were saved by the KC-130J mission.

Sgt. Millis also highlighted the key role of precision air dropping.

We were able to drop 13-14 bundles into an area the size of a football field and we could prepare this load and deliver it within a five hour turn around period.

Sgt. Chevalier was in Afghanistan as the Harvest Hawk was introduced and this provided a challenge but because of the close integration and working relationship between maintainers and the crew the challenge was met.

He noted that “maintainers on occasion flew with crew so they could see the results of the Harvest Hawk capability.  We came back knowing we saved lives and understand that our job served a higher purpose.”

Sgt. Chevalier highlighted that the durability of the KC-130Js really enabled the SP-MAGTF because the Ospreys needed to be supported in order to operate with the reach and range desired.

It is a question of sustainable range and the KC-130Js provided that sustainable part.

The interview with the two young Marines highlighted the importance of the integration of the crew with the aircraft to deliver the results needed in a difficult operational theater such as Afghanistan.

And this teamwork is going forward to support whatever is next for the KC-130J in its enabling role for the MAGTF.

Editor’s Note: The photos in the slideshow are credited to 2nd Marine Air Wing, except for the last one which is credited to 3rd Marine Air Wing.

An MV-22B Osprey with Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 receives fuel from a KC-130J Super Hercules from Marine Aerial Refeuler Transport Squadron 252 over the Atlantic May 28, 2014. The Osprey, along with three others from HMX-1, refueled mid-flight during the squadron’s first trans-Atlantic flight. 6/2/14

The next two photos show a KC-130J Hercules property of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 252, refuels an MV-22 Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 264 and 266 over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of N.C., April 14, 2014. VMGR-252 conducted aerial refueling training with VMM-264 and 266.  04/14/2014

In the fourth photo, A KC-130J Hercules aircraft assigcned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252, is staged at Camp Bastion, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2013. The aircraft was staged prior to flight.

In the fifth photo, an F/A-18 Hornet, from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, connects to a refueling hose from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252, June 12. Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252′s mission is to provide transportation of personnel, equipment and supplies, and to provide aerial refueling for fixed and rotary wing aircraft. 6/12/09

In the sixth photo, KC-130J Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 cruises alongside a fellow Hercules from the squadron while conducting flight patterns during aerial refueling training May 22, 2013

In the photos from 7-9, an AV-8B Harrier aircraft receives fuel during an aerial refuel mission over Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 10, 2013. A KC-130J Hercules aircraft was responsible for executing the mission by resupplying other aircraft. 5/10/13

In the tenth image, an illustration shows North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations standard refuel rendezvous procedures for configurations, air speeds and communications when refueling fixed wing aircraft. “We work the aircraft left to right, low to high,” explained Staff Sgt. Paul Folk, crew chief with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252. “The system alleviates people from flying all over the place.” VMGR-252 worked with F/A-18 Hornets from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., and AV-8B Harriers from Cherry Point as part of a large-force exercise in the Eastern Carolina skies Jan. 26-27. 1/27/11

In the final photo, the “Harvest Hawk” mission kit uses a AN/AAQ-30 Targeting Sight System (left) and a AGM-114P Hellfire II weapons system (right) mounted on the left wing of a KC-130J. A fire control operator at a fire control station located in the rear of the aircraft monitors these systems.  8/29/09

Background: Sgt Thomas Chevalier is 28 years old and has a six year old son. He is from South Carolina and has been in the Marine Corps for five years. He has done multiple deployments including Afghanistan – 2011, 26th MEU-2013, SP-MAGTF CR- 2013, and multiple WTIs and DFTs. He is a Collateral Duty Quality Assurance Representative and was a representative for VMGR-252 with VMGR-234 for their first KC-130J transition from the Legacy model.