by Cpl. Joseph Abrego
U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
November 19, 2018
Responsible for covering over 70,000,000 square miles, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR)152 based at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan has successfully completed real-world missions on a daily basis while maintaining an outstanding record of more than 320,000 mishap-free flight hours.
Dedicated to maintaining the safety of their U.S. Marines and operational readiness, the squadron managed 5,810 mishap-free flight hours across approximately 1,800 sorties in 2017 alone.
“The Marines have had a highly successful safety rate within this squadron,” said U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua M. Samuels, VMGR-152’s maintenance material control officer. “We’ve received multiple awards from the highest levels in the Naval Aviation Enterprise for safely conducting aircraft flight operations. The reason I think that the Marines are so successful and have such a great safety record is because we enforce it from the top all the way to the lower level. We have a quality assurance department that enforces the rules and regulations to keep the Marines safe while working on the aircraft.”
VMGR-152’s outstanding success in 2017 earned them the 2018 Commandant’s Aviation Trophy.
Deployed for 49 weeks out of the year, the squadron dedicates a considerable amount of effort to maintaining their aircraft and ensuring safety.
“Our typical business rules are 10 to 12-hour shifts Monday through Friday,” said Samuels. “We can surge if we have to; if there are operations that build up, we can work through the weekends as well. Safety is paramount when flying an aircraft. We’re defying gravity here. We must make sure the aircraft is safe on the ground prior to launch.”
The correlation between maintenance and safety directly affects the success of VMGR-152’s mission readiness.
“Conducting mishap-free operations allows VMGR-152 to operate as the Western Pacific’s only medium-assault transport platform in cooperation with various units throughout the Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Aircraft Wing in support of theater security cooperation exercises,” said Capt. Anthony Walters, the current operations officer for VMGR-152. “Through training and professionalism, VMGR-152 is able to maintain a high level of performance, which benefits our safety record.”
With a high operational tempo and an even higher expectation for safety, the squadron has implemented various steps to ensure requirements are met for safely operating an aircraft.
Samuels said there are different levels of maintenance Marines within the squadron who verify work and ensure proper procedures are followed. He mentioned Marines who turn wrenches, collateral duty inspectors who supervise the physical work, a quality assurance representative who inspects critical safety of flight items and Marines with a safe-for-flight qualification.
“Every time before an aircraft goes flying, a maintenance control Marine who is safe-for-flight qualified screens an aircraft, all the maintenance records, all the inspections, all the high time removal components and everything else that encompasses making the logs and records safe for that aircraft to fly,” said Samuels. “The aircrew then comes behind them and checks everything so there will be three signatures on a safe-for-flight acceptance sheet before the aircraft can fly.”
Through implementing critical steps, dedicating time to training and maximizing their capabilities, VMGR-152 has managed to maintain a reputation of excellence and exceed expectations, allowing the squadron to successfully operate within their area of responsibility.