After a nine-month deployment where they employed a revolutionary weapons upgrade on one of the Marine Corps' most storied aviation platforms, 13 Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 returned home to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., June 7.
From September 2011 until June 2012, the Marines wielded a KC-130J Hercules equipped with a weapons system called the Harvest Hawk. A Harvest Hawk-equipped KC-130J Hercules carries four Hellfire and 10 Griffin missiles to support Marines and their Afghan and coalition partners conducting counterinsurgency operations in southwestern Afghanistan.
The KC-130J Hercules has supported the fight with transport and aerial refueling capability for decades. Now, however, the Marine Corps has given the aircraft a deadly punch.
„It’s a different role for us, but we did it well,” said Staff Sgt. Paul N. Folk, a crewmaster whose tour with the Harvest Hawk marked his fifth deployment.
Leaders in the C-130 community said the benefits of the Harvest Hawk system are overwhelming. „With the new weapons kit we were able to operate without collateral damage,” said Lt. Col. Charles J. Moses, VMGR-252’s commanding officer. Moses said the weapon is effective and efficient.
By using a KC-130J Hercules to provide close-air support, Marine infantrymen on the ground have a friend overhead for more than 10 hours at a time.
Operating out of Camp Dwyer and Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, the Harvest Hawk team served as part of the aviation combat element for the historically volatile Helmand province of Afghanistan.
Over the nine-month deployment, the Harvest Hawk team stayed overhead in Helmand province for nearly 5,000 hours.
They were in place to provide ground fires in support of coalition forces if needed, but also conducted aerial reconnaissance and surveillance.
Moses said their contributions greatly added to the coalition efforts in Afghanistan. „We are proud of what they achieved, never failing a mission,” Moses said.
Source/Author: Marine Corps