SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
The fuel line was quickly secured to the bottom of the F-15E Strike Eagle parked on the flight line at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. The Airman looked over at the R-11 aircraft refueling vehicle and gave the member standing by the truck a thumbs-up. The man turned knobs on the control panel while the pressure gauges began to move. Within seconds, the digital display flashed numbers faster than they could be recognized.
“Good job Marine,” an Airman yelled to a smiling Marine working on the R-11 panel.
U.S. Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, came to Seymour Johnson AFB to receive training on the R-11 aircraft refuelers, Nov. 15-18, 2016.
Marine Corps Sgt. Kyle Coutts, MWSS 274 bulk fuel specialist, said this training opportunity is a great chance for the Marines to practice what they’d be doing once they are deployed to Morón Air Base, Spain.
Morón Air Base uses the R-11 to refuel the aircraft located there. The base has strategic importance since it’s the main base for KC-10A and KC-135R aircraft. The Marines there are equipped with Boeing MV-22B Ospreys and Lockheed Martin KC-130J aerial refueling/cargo aircraft.
“The Marines mission is actually the same as the Air Force mission,” Coutts said. “We need to get there as fast as possible, but we also need to get there safely. We want the planes fueled up quickly so they can get in the air and complete their mission without delay.”
Coutts said that to accomplish that mission, they would need to train hard before they deploy.
“The hands-on training that we’re receiving is great because once we deploy to Spain, our people can hit the ground running,” said Coutts. “Since we’re getting familiar with the platform here, we can transition over faster and require less training to get licensed there. It’s a great thing that our leadership was able to set-up.”
Once Coutts and his leadership received orders to deploy to Spain, his superiors called the Fuels Management Team from the 4th Logistics Readiness Squadron to put together a joint training exercise.
The 4th LRS put together a weeklong training schedule for the Marines to familiarize themselves with the equipment they would be using overseas.
“We wanted to get the Marines as familiar with the R-11 platform as we could get them,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jose Ybarra, 4th LRS fuels craftsman. “For most of them, it’s their first time really interacting with the Air Force so we want them to learn a lot and enjoy the experience.”
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Carlos Barajasharo, MWSS 274 bulk fuel specialist, said he was astonished by the training and attitude of the Airmen.
“All of our questions were answered on the spot in detail,” Barajasharo said. “These Airmen know exactly what they’re talking about. It’s really good training.”
The training schedule began with a safety briefing and some classroom instruction to familiarize the Marines with the equipment.
“The Marines that are here, they volunteered to come,” said Coutts. “These guys wanted to come here and learn more about their job. They want to get to their next location, and do it right.”
During the first day, the Marines got a chance to meet most of the Airmen they’d be working with for the next week and then rode in the R-11s on the flight line to watch the Airmen perform everything they just learned in class.
“We wanted the Marines to get the chance to see what they’d be doing before getting hands-on training,” said Ybarra.
The Marines received hands-on training on their second day by fueling the F-15Es.
“On the second day, we had the Marines working under constant supervision, where they could ask questions and get help from the Airmen,” Ybarra said.
Coutts said the Marines were quickly fostering confidence in their ability to work on the R-11 and the Airmen were watching the Marines do everything from the set-up to issuing the fuel.
According to U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Pierre Anderson, 4th LRS fuels craftsman, the Marines were fairly familiar with the new platform and could perform the tasks well.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jamie Lariviere, MWSS 274 bulk fuel specialist, said he is proud of the how quickly the Marines were learning.
To commemorate the joint training, the 4th LRS sponsored a barbecue. U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Parsley 4th LRS fuels craftsman, said that by this time a strong bond was built between the Marines and the Airmen.
“We’re definitely going to miss these guys when we leave,” said Coutts.
Coutts said they all are hoping they get the chance to come back and work with the Airmen again.
Their final day at Seymour Johnson started with a weekly safety briefing with the additional presence of U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Nilda Valdez, MWSS 274 fuels chief, and Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Thomas, MWSS 274 maintenance chief.
Afterward, Valdez and Thomas were briefed on everything that their Marines went through. They received a run-through of the R-11 and then went outside to the parking lot where the Marines drove the refueler through a slalom.
After a long goodbye filled with hardy hand-shakes and smiles, Coutts said the Marines will be leaving Seymour Johnson AFB with the knowledge they were looking to learn.
“They’ll be ready,” said Ybarra. “When the time comes for them to operate the R-11, these Marines are going to get the job done.”