MCAS CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- After five months in the Middle East supporting the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), 43 Marines and a Sailor from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 returned to Cherry Point, Aug. 10.
The Marines departed Cherry Point March 3, for the Central Command theater in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). There, the detachment flew 740 flight hours and 575 sorties. These flights created a challenge for the well-trained navigators; 378 sorties were flown by utilizing night vision goggles.
The assault landing zones were also challenging for navigators. Improved landing zones were actually stretches of flight line, whereas unimproved landing zones were simply stretches of desert dirt. However, the Marines of VMGR-252 were able to adapt and overcome and bring every Marine home safe.
While working out of an Air Force base, the Marines of VMGR-252 accomplished their vital mission by carrying almost 4,000 passengers and more than two and a half million pounds of cargo, including food, water and supplies for the MEU, which was operating from a forward operating base in south-central Afghanistan. The squadron's two KC-130Rs operating in the Middle East also transferred almost two million pounds of fuel in flight.
Members of the Key Volunteer Network were present along with family members to thank the homecoming Marines for their service and welcome them back home with bags of goodies. "We got them everything they would need to shower and shave without digging into their sea bags, and there are calling cards in the bags so they can call their families," said Toni Dickerson, the squadron's Key Volunteer advisor. "There's a goody bag for each Marine coming home today."
The Key Volunteer Network was not only active while the Marines were in route home; they were busy while the Marines were away.
"We're the connection link for the families while the Marines are deployed," said Judy A. Otero, whose husband, Capt. Andrew M. Otero, just returned from Afghanistan. The Oteros are expecting a baby boy to arrive in three weeks, and Judy is glad her husband made it home safe.
"The Key Volunteer Network is so proud of all the Marines in our squadron," said Judy. "We're proud of all their hard work over there."
Though the deployed Marines were just doing their jobs, their hard work accomplished a great mission.
"What we did out there was important," said Capt. Jason D. Kindred, the operations officer throughout the squadron's deployment. "The support we provided for the 22nd MEU allowed them to accomplish their mission."
Kindred concluded that he is glad every Marine made it home safe, then headed for his family, waiting for him with open arms on the flight line.
"We're glad to be back,” he said. “It has been a long deployment, but everybody worked very hard, and I'm glad to get everyone home safe and back to their families."