Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 53 routinely deploys one C-130 aircraft, two five-person aircrews and 11 maintenance personnel for two-to-four weeks in support of operations worldwide. VR-53 detachments based out of NAS Sigonella often support the entire European theater.
Due to increased demands of Operation Allied Force, two separate aircrews alternated missions in May 1999 to keep C-130 aircraft flying 24 hours a day. In between, maintenance personnel refueled, conducted routine inspections and repaired malfunctions. Members of Naval Air Reserve squadron VR-53 deployed to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, from April 28 to May 27. VR-53 aircrews returned to the European theater again on June 21 for an additional month of Allied Force operations. VR-53 carried supplies to help establish a Marine F/A-18 squadron in Taszar, Hungary. They transported personnel, aircraft parts, and vehicles throughout various Italian ports. Also, they were a major carrier of mail for the Sailors stationed within the Adriatic Sea.
Hours after the terrorist bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa, the Navy’s SIXTH FLEET was tasked by EUCOM to transport 50 Marines of the Fleet Anti-Terrorist Security Team (FAST) from Naples, Italy, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Naval Reservists in the Med responded immediately and flew the mission. Providing logistics support for SIXTH Fleet’s EISENHOWER Battle Group were members of Naval Air Reserve squadron VR-53 from NAF Washington, D.C., on Annual Training to man VR-53’s detachment in the Mediterranean. Just before midnight 07 August 1999, the VR-53 Detachment received word from ASCOMED to report to Naples at 0800 the next day. The Reservists worked through the night on phone patches with the State Department to obtain overflight clearances for Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya and Greece. At the same time, VR-53’s maintenance crew readied the plane that had returned from another mission the previous evening. Flying their C-130 to Naples, VR-53’s crew embarked the Marine FAST team and flew to Tanzania, stopping only to refuel in Cairo, Egypt. The first U.S. military personnel to arrive in Dar es Salaam after the bombing were these 50 Marines and VR-53’s three pilots, two flight engineers, one loadmaster and one flight attendant. Returning from the 22-hour flight evolution, the crew and other Naval Reservists following them on two-week ATs continue to respond to SIXTH Fleet mission requirements.