VR-62’s Airlifting ‘Nomads’
By AWFCS (ret) Michael Wendelin
There is no typical day for the Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 62 “Nomads.” VR-62, one of five Navy Reserve C-130T Hercules logistics squadrons, works in conjunction with several combatant commands around the globe. The squadron must be ready for operations ranging from Operation Tomodachi, the relief mission after the Sendai earthquake in 2011, to rescuing a crew of mariners off the coast of Chuuk Island, Micronesia, in 2013.
Each mission is unique, with a different set of constraints, but we plan and execute every mission with precision,” said VR-62 Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Bryon “BT” Smith. “We can be called to airlift just about anything to anywhere on the globe, and we do it with pride and professionalism.”
The Nomads follow in the footsteps of previous VR squadrons like VR-6 and VR-8 that participated in the Berlin Airlift, and proved the Navy Unique Fleet Essential Airlift (NUFEA) concept. NUFEA means that the Navy is in control of its own airlift. The Nomads are part of the Fleet Logistics Support Wing (FLSW) and can respond to Navy requests for airlift at a moment’s notice.
There are two groups of FLSW personnel, Full-time Support (FTS) and Selected Reservists (SELRES). FTS officers and enlisted are full-time, active reserve personnel tasked with training SELRES officers and enlisted personnel and adding day-to-day continuity to squadron operations. SELRES are traditional reservists serving one weekend a month and a two-week annual training period.
“We operate as a reserve community, but we are anything but weekend warriors,” said Master Chief Aviation Maintenance Administrationman (AZCM) Karen Quinn, VR-62 Operations Master Chief. Quinn said FLSW is supporting a wide variety of units including air, surface, sub-surface and flying missions around the globe.
Based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, the Nomads flew 3,209 hours in fiscal year 2013 and beat that record in fiscal year 2014 flying 3,545 hours. Of those hours, 97 percent were flown on airlift missions. The Nomads have an average of 200 personnel with about 30 percent of those serving as reservists. There are usually 30 pilots, 10 flight engineers and 23 loadmasters. Additionally, there are flight engineer and loadmaster trainees. The Nomads are constantly training the next cadre of C-130T aircrew.
Training is always a priority at VR-62. There is a constant pipeline of enlisted aircrew and pilots preparing for the airlift mission. The Nomads have eight pilot instructors, three flight engineer instructors and four loadmaster instructors. There is a similar pipeline of maintainers arriving from the fleet and schoolhouse to keep aircraft ready for the squadron’s high operations tempo.
Established at Naval Air Facility Detroit, Michigan, July 1, 1985, as the “Motowners,” VR-62 began flight operations with the McDonnell Douglas C-9B Skytrain II aircraft in February 1988. When NAF Detroit closed, VR-62 moved to Naval Air Station South Weymouth, Massachusetts, and was renamed “Mass Transport” on April 1, 1994.
The real magic happened when VR-62 became a C-130 squadron. In January 1995, the Nomads received the first of five C-130T aircraft. The upgrades and in-flight refueling capability in the T model made it an extremely versatile asset. The standard crew for the C-130T is two pilots and one flight engineer in the flight station and two loadmasters in the cargo compartment.
On June 1, 1996, VR-62 again changed homeports, this time to Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, as the “Nor’easters.” When NAS Brunswick closed, VR-62 relocated to NAS Jacksonville, this time as the Nomads on Sept. 1, 2009.
“The moniker Nomads fits perfectly when you see our history, four home ports in 20 years,” said Nomads Command Master Chief Freddy Pacheco.
The annual operations plan is much the same year to year. There are three detachments: Central Command, European Command and Pacific Command. The operations average 90 days and then another VR squadron assumes duties in theater. The detachments include one aircraft, a team of maintainers and two sets of aircrew. While one aircraft is on detachment, the remaining squadron aircraft are available for Navy Air Logistics Office (NALO) missions and maintenance.
“We can be called upon to deliver the most urgent cargo in the Navy,” Smith said. “The Nomads take pride that we are entrusted with airlifting extremely high priority cargo for the Navy’s most important missions.”
AWFCS (ret) Michael Wendelin was a loadmaster with VR-62 from 2002-2014.