In a display of unwavering dedication and readiness, the U.S. Marines of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 153 (VMGR-153), a unit under Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, swiftly answered the call for assistance during the Maui wildfires crisis that struck on August 8, 2023. Deploying their versatile KC-130J Hercules aircraft, the squadron played a pivotal role in facilitating relief efforts coordinated by Joint Task Force 50 (JTF-50). VMGR-153’s involvement unfolded across two critical flights. On August 14, the squadron transported Hawaii National Guardsmen, an essential component of JTF-50, responsible for coordinating the Department of Defense’s comprehensive response efforts. In a follow-up mission on August 22, VMGR-153 extended their support by conveying personnel and equipment from the U.S. Navy’s Mobile Dive and Salvage unit.
VMGR-153 operates as a vital KC-130J squadron under the larger umbrella of Marine Aircraft Group 24 (MAG-24), 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW). Its role extends to providing both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aerial refueling capabilities, supporting the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) air operations. Additionally, the squadron undertakes the task of assault air transportation, efficiently moving personnel, equipment, and supplies. The KC-130J Hercules, renowned for its adaptability, proved to be an invaluable asset in the crisis. Its capabilities span a wide range, from medical evacuations to cargo and personnel transport, air support, reconnaissance, and the remarkable ability to operate in challenging environments. This versatility enabled the aircraft to effectively support humanitarian initiatives, special operations, aerial refueling, firefighting, and search and rescue missions globally.
Despite being a relatively recent addition to Hawaii’s military landscape, VMGR-153 has rapidly proven its dedication to professionalism and service. Formally activated less than a year ago, the squadron’s pilots, aircrew, and maintainers exhibited exceptional prowess and commitment, a testament to their extensive training and preparedness. The unit’s historical significance dates back to World War II, where it operated under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 25 and the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command (SCAT). During that era, it executed the delivery of over 15,000,000 pounds of supplies and equipment, evacuated more than 20,000 casualties, and facilitated the movement of an extra 8,000 personnel across the Pacific Theater.
The recent efforts of VMGR-153 underline the pivotal role of unified joint-force endeavors in disaster response scenarios. As the people of Maui embark on their journey towards recovery, VMGR-153 stands firmly committed to supporting the community through this challenging period. Their swift responsiveness and unwavering support encapsulate the core values of service and dedication inherent to the United States Marine Corps. U.S. Marines stationed in Hawaii maintain their readiness to offer emergency relief assistance to Maui under the purview of U.S. federal law and in accordance with appropriate government authorities. The Marine Corps remains poised to continue aiding once the Federal Emergency Management Agency determines the extent of further support required.