MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
Often unnoticed in the sea of tactical jets and helicopters passing through the air station’s turnstile, one humble workhorse and its crew are constantly called skyward.
Providing nontactical transportation support for a variety of military passengers, the station’s two UC-12B twin turboprop planes fly hundreds of missions annually.
“We’re like an aircraft taxi service for the military,” said Sgt. Garrett Temple, C-12 crew chief.
Operated by Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron here and tasked by the U.S. Transportation Command’s Joint Operational Support Aircraft Center, the C-12 crews can find themselves flying anywhere, sometimes as far as Florida.
“We go all over the place, but usually we are only on deck for a couple of hours,” said Capt. Daniel Groeling, a station C-12 pilot.
Once the approval for a request is received, the pilots prepare the preflight logistics such as weight and clearance forms, mission flight card reports and weather reports.
“Only Department of Defense employees can request flights,” said Cpl. Stolf Short, SAR maintenance administration clerk. “The lowest ranking passenger I’ve ever flown with was a corporal and the highest ranking was a four-star general.”
After the proper paperwork is filled out, the flight’s crew chief will do a preflight inspection of the aircraft, looking for any unsafe conditions that might affect the flight.
When the aircraft is cleared for the flight, it will be towed from the hangar to the flight line and the crew will take off to pick up their passenger.
The Marine Corps started using the C-12 aircraft in 1982 and currently has 19 across the Corps.
The station has 11 C-12 aircraft pilots, seven from H&HS and four from various other units, some of whom also fly the SAR HH-N1 Huey helicopters. The station also has four crew chiefs currently flying with the C-12s.
“I’ve been afforded an opportunity that most pilots don’t get,” said Groeling. “I am a Huey pilot by trade, and I’ve been cross trained to operate and hone my skills and become more competent and confident as a pilot.”
Since June 2008, the planes have flown approximately 1,150 hours for a total of 314 flights. Training flights accounted for 262 of those hours and 885 hours were official JOSAC missions.