Coalition refueling training enhances interoperability, partnerships, mission capabilities
U.S. Marines from the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352, assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a refueling training mission with the French forces while flying at 15,000 feet over Djibouti Nov. 22, 2012.
Coalition aerial refueling training helps develop French and U.S. forces' interoperability across a variety of critical mission areas and demonstrates the American and French militaries' continued commitment to the standards and values of the NATO Alliance.
"When we work cooperatively and monopolize on each other's strengths, we become a much stronger force," said U.S. Marine Maj. Angel Hooper, VMGR-352 detachment officer-in-charge and aircraft commander. "We've got a joint mission and we train like we fight, and we fight side-by-side [with the French]."
The VMGR-352 unit, consisting of 41 Marines and two KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft, is deployed from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. While refueling training missions are done regularly, this marks the first time this squadron has worked with the French forces to refuel their fighter aircraft, the Dassault Mirage 2000-5.
"This was our maiden voyage working with the French," Hooper said. "The pilots are incredible and impressive."
According to French Air Force Capt. Christophe Dubois, French Fighter Squadron Dassault Mirage 2000-5 pilot, there is currently no permanent tanker available on the French side so this has been a huge asset and they appreciate the cooperation from the U.S.
"It's always a pleasure to work with American counterparts we already have met or we will soon meet in operations," Dubois said. "Those flights allow us to maintain our skills [such as] air to air refueling capability and slow mover protection."
According to Hooper, they are also able to maintain skills and learn from each other.
"They have an amazing amount of resident knowledge and we can learn as much from them as they can from us," she continued. "We hope to expand our training element with them in the future."
Hooper said she hopes to expand the training in terms of low-level flying, aerial deliveries, austere landings and escorts. For that to happen, coordination between U.S. service branches and coalition forces is vital and Hooper said she's glad to have the support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
"Working with our coalition partners is a big part of the CJTF-HOA mission," said U.S. Air Force Col. David Harris, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Air Component Commander. "Each country brings unique capabilities and different tactics, so we need to train together and learn from each other to become proficient in order to execute our mission safely."
The 15th MEU is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.