'Rangers' First to Transition to KC-130J Aircraft

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas -- The “Rangers” of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, celebrated the arrival of the first U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve KC-130J aircraft in a ceremony March 18 aboard Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base.

Guests of the ceremony enjoyed a musical performance by Marine Corps Band New Orleans followed by speeches from the host of the event, Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, commander, Marine Forces Reserve., U.S. Rep. Kay Granger and Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

The arrival of the ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft was met with excitement from a crowd of local Marines, senior leaders from Marine Forces Reserve, the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, and Lockheed Martin, as well as representatives from local and state government, including Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator John Cornyn.

“The KC-130J ‘Super Hercules’ boasts a more advanced avionics set and has approximately thirty percent more power,” said Lt. Col. Patrick F. Tiernan, VMGR-234 commanding officer. "In addition to being newer and more reliable, the aircraft boosts efficiency by reducing the number of personnel needed to operate in flight."

Tiernan was in the cockpit for the new aircraft’s first flight, flying from a Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, GA to its new home at the VMGR-234 hangar March 17.

“The aircraft is the first of 12 new tankers to be received by VMGR-234, “said Gunnery Sgt. Justin Grebenstein, a crew master with VMGR-234. “This aircraft marks the beginning of a changeover from the KC-130T model aircraft currently used throughout the 4th Marine Air Wing, to the newer, more efficient KC-130J model that is used throughout the active duty Marine Corps.”

Grebenstein and his crew manned the aircraft’s first flight with their commanding officer March 17. Grebenstein was also chosen to receive the ceremonial keys to the aircraft during the ceremony March 18.

“It is extremely exciting to be a part of such a historic moment for 4th MAW and for VMGR-234,” said Grebenstein. “I am honored that it was myself and my guys who got to be on that first flight.”

In the coming months, there will be a lot of work involved in making a successful shift to the use of the KC-130J, but Grebenstein says he is confident the Rangers are ready for the challenge.

“We know that getting the ‘J’ here is only the first step of this process,” said Grebenstein. “This transition has been long awaited, and we’re excited to get brand new aircraft.”

“Our job is to stay ready, relevant, and responsive to the needs of the Marine Corps as a whole,” said Tiernan. “The transition to one consistent aircraft model series used across the active and reserve squadrons will allow us to seamlessly integrate with the active component.”

With all of its upgrades and enhancements, the KC-130J has quickly adopted the slogan, “Faster, higher, farther.” Often repeated by others in his line of work and admittedly cliché, Grebenstein proudly stands behind those words.

“Cliché or not, you really can’t argue with it. When it comes down to it, the ‘J’ is a superior aircraft. It really is faster, stronger and enables us to go further just like the saying [suggests],” said Grebenstein.

Among its other capabilities, the KC-130 is able to refuel aircraft, such as the MV-22 ‘Osprey’ in mid-air, enabling the Ospreys to complete missions that would otherwise be impossible due to the limited fuel range of the aircraft.

“With the combination of aircraft we have, the Marine Corps possesses a unique ability to project power over the horizon,” said Tiernan. “That’s something that no other service has. We consistently work to refine our execution of these long-range, over the horizon assaults, and having these new aircraft simply makes us better equipped to do what we do best.”

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