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Photo Information

U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron-234 (VMGR-234) fly a KC-130J aircraft in formation with French Mirage Fighter jets over Djibouti, July 11, 2021. VMGR-234 provides aerial refueling, rescue, and airlift capabilties to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Asselta)

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Asselta

North African Response Force Deployment

16 Dec 2021 | Lance Cpl. Mitchell Collyer U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

 Operation Allied Refuge (OAR) was a United States military operation to airlift at-risk Afghan civilians including interpreters, U.S. embassy employees, and other prospective Special Immigrant Visa applicants from Afghanistan. U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron - 234 (VMGR-234) augmented an active-duty unit already deployed in Saudi Arabia. These reserve Marines helped train newer active-duty pilots during the augmentation.
“Reservists, traditionally, are a little bit more experienced and a little bit more senior,” said Lt. Col. David Girardot, a KC-130 aircraft commander with VMGR-234. “We got to bring in some of the young active-duty pilots and fly with them.”
During OAR, a team of four pilots, six enlisted air crew, and six maintainers attached to VMGR-234 conducted 11 lifts, evacuated 838 Afghans, and moved over 226,720 pounds of cargo. VMGR-234 was the last Marine transport unit to leave Afghanistan and brought back the task force commanding officer.
“It wasn't just pilots, and it wasn't just KC-130s” said Girardot. “This attachment was extremely successful due to the positive attitude and work ethic from all of the Marines, from top to bottom.”
Before assisting in OAR, VMGR-234’s mission was to go to Meron, Spain to support the North African Response Force (NARF). The unit was detached and sent to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa. NARF is an Air-Ground Task Force located in northern Africa, whose mission is to provide crisis response and aviation support to conduct rapid helicopter aerial refueling throughout the region by maintaining a continuous alert posture. NARF can also deliver personnel in order to assist tactical operations.
“We had to quickly transition from NARF to OAR,” said Girado. “NARF is maintaining an alert posture while OAR is forward leaning, needing a max effort requirement to provide the flight support. The days were sometimes over 24 hours long.”
There was a coalition of countries on Camp Lemonnier, primarily a French Air Force Fighter Squadron. During VMGR-234’s time at Camp Lemonnier they were able to conduct missions and train with the French Air Force.
“We were able to establish relationships with the French Air Force and conduct aerial refueling with them,” said Girardot.
Before being able to activate in support of NARF, Marines in VMGR-234 had to re-qualify in accordance with their training and readiness manuals, conducting training in tactical flying with the KC-130J.
“Our number one mission in VMGR-234 is to support the active-duty Marine Corps,” said Girardo. “When NARF submits a request to VMGR-234 for support, it allows us to support the active-duty component.”