Story by Cpl Carlos Jimenez on 12/09/2017U.S. Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152 conducted a joint aerial training mission with the U.S. Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during unit-level training called El Centro Horizon at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, Dec. 6, 2017.
VMGR-152 and the 160th SOAR performed an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter air-to-air refueling in the night at low altitude with covert aircraft lighting, aided with night vision imaging systems. The units accomplished their mission in order to maintain effective training while maximizing combat capabilities.
"Army 160th are the best of the best helicopter pilots, and working with them always makes us better," said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Donald Shrewsbury, a KC-130J Hercules pilot with VMGR-152. "160th SOAR is a huge aviation unit across the Army. They have multiple platforms that we can refuel. We have to work with them so they can stay proficient at tanking, and we can stay proficient at helping them out."
Although air-to-air refueling is standard training for VMGR-152, conducting it at night enhances the Marine's capabilities to work and execute proficiently under challenging circumstances.
"There's a different aspect when the sun goes down, and without the use of night vision it can get scary out there," said U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Paul Folk, a crewmaster with VMGR-152. "If we can't see, neither can the enemy. We do night systems training to be able to operate in an environment that keeps us more camouflaged from the enemy's sight."
Night helicopter air-to-air refueling is one of many exercises that VMGR-152 now has the opportunity to conduct as a result of El Centro Horizon.
The exercise provided the unit and the Marines who participated the unique experience of combining three different aspects of training performing aerial refueling, low visibility conditions and with another service branch each of which is essential to maintaining the Marine Corps' place as the most elite fighting force in the world.
"War doesn't have a time frame. War is 24/7," said Folk. "We have to be able to operate in any environment. That's why we do what we do."