As a KC-130J Super Hercules prepares for takeoff, Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 finish last minute preflight checks and secure the aircraft at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, Aug. 9, 2016.

For over 70 years, VMGR-152, also known as the “Sumos,” has successfully carried out support missions by providing aerial refueling and assault support during expeditionary, joint and combined operations like Exercise Pitch Black 2016.

Aerial refueling is the process of transferring aviation fuel from a tanker aircraft to another aircraft midair.

After soaring high over the outback, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Colton Sizemore, KC-130J pilot with VMGR-152, positioned the tanker at 12,000 feet waiting for the first batch of RAAF and U.S. Marine F/A-18 Hornets to detect the tanker on radar and arrive for refueling.

“Our main job for Pitch Black is to provide aerial refueling to our own aircraft and international aircraft as well,” said Sizemore. “It’s important that we support these missions because by providing fuel midair, we enable the pilots to continue training uninterrupted and extend the time spent in the air.”

As the jets approach, crewmasters situated in the rear of the aircraft relay the jet’s positions to the pilots.

“During refueling, crewmasters are the eyes for the pilots,” said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Chris Lawler, crewmaster with VMGR-152. “The pilots have very little vision of what is going on in the rear during an aerial refueling. Crewmasters relay positions of the incoming jets relative to the refueling hose and basket and monitor the whole refueling process.”

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Image courtesy of Cpl. Nicole Zurbrugg