VMM-261 (REIN) KC-130J Detachment “Bronco”: Partners in the Skies of Djibouti

U.S. Marines with the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (REIN) KC-130J Detachment "Bronco" conducted a joint refueling mission over Djibouti, Africa on March 25th.



By Senior Airman John Macera Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Djibouti Apr 09, 2024
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U.S. Marines with the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 (REIN) KC-130J Detachment "Bronco" conducted a joint refueling mission over Djibouti, Africa on March 25th. Since arriving in Djibouti the Broncos have transferred over 2 million gallons of fuel, 1.5 million pounds of cargo, and thousands of passengers.

The KC-130J Detachment, known affectionately as the "Bronco," operates under the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, based at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. Flying the versatile Lockheed Martin KC-130J Tanker aircraft, Team Bronco is tasked with a myriad of critical operations, ranging from aerial refueling to tactical support missions that underscore their versatility in operational success.

Aerial refueling plays a critical role in supporting operations for other U.S. services and our coalition partners throughout the continent of Africa. The tyranny of distance is a constant consideration for long-range operations, and the KC-130J is a critical force enabler as the premier refueling platform in East Africa.

“If the U.S. and its allies can’t move freely through the seas, then we’re not doing our job,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt Mitchell Watkins, aircraft commander. The Bronco presence in Djibouti extends beyond mere military operations. One of the most well-known challenges faced by the squadron is the demanding climate of Djibouti, where temperatures often soar and create difficult flying conditions. Hotter temperatures can lead to lower air density and more turbulence when flying.

“With the amount of flying and the type of flying, the aircraft can take a beating.” Watkins said, “But that is overcome with a great maintenance team and a constant drive for mission success.” Amidst the challenges posed by Djibouti's harsh climate, the Bronco team not only navigates demanding flying conditions but also cooperate with coalition forces to enhance regional security on the continent of Africa.

Their engagement in joint exercises with partner nations, humanitarian aid missions, and efforts to bolster regional security architectures exemplify the multifaceted role of the squadron. Collaborative endeavors, such as participating in operations with coalition partners, have facilitated a means for knowledge exchange that enhances interoperability and fosters a spirit of cooperation among coalition forces. These activities not only sharpen the operational capabilities of VMM-261 (REIN) but also contribute to building a cohesive defense network capable of addressing a variety of security challenges. “It’s difficult being away from family for a prolonged period of time,” Watkins said. “But I know we have the ability to create a positive impact in support of the U.S. and its coalition forces and that makes us feel accomplished.”

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