View Full Version : Fat Albert jets through the South

05-12-04, 05:23 AM
Fat Albert jets through the South
Submitted by: 6th Marine Corps District
Story Identification #: 200451112425
Story by Sgt. Matthew Miller

6TH MARINE CORPS DISTRICT(May 4, 2004) -- Blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets roared through the skies over awestruck crowds at the first air show at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., April 16-18.

The Blue Angels are one of the most widely recognized military flight demonstration teams in the world, but while the Navy boasts ownership of the team, several Marines play a pivotal role in each of the more than 70 performances annually.

Two of the six F/A-18 Hornet pilots are Marine officers and the squadron's C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, affectionately known as Fat Albert, is flown by an all-Marine Corps crew of three pilots and five enlisted personnel. It is the only Marine Corps aircraft permanently assigned to support a Navy squadron.

"A lot of people, even a lot of Marines don't know that there are Marines on the team," said Gunnery Sgt. Jim Traenkner, a flight mechanic for Fat Albert Airlines. "We have a total of 16 Marines on the team."

These 16 Marines are in a somewhat awkward situation, according to Traenkner, a Cedar Brook, N. J. native. They are Marines assigned to a flight demonstration unit, which primarily supports Navy recruiting. They try to make the best of the situation by dropping by and visiting the Marine Corps recruiting booth as much as they can at each performance.

While visiting the booth at the NAS Meridian air show, the Marine crew had the rare opportunity to see another iconic recruiting tool for the Marine Corps - the 6th Marine Corps District Event Marketing Vehicle, a scarlet Humvee adorned with several Marine Corps symbols to include the officer's sword and several Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblems.

"The humvee and Fat Albert are similar in a lot of ways," said Gunnery Sgt. Robin Walker, a Fat Albert Airlines flight engineer. "The main reason is they are both used for marketing the Corps, one on land and one through the air."

"Fat Albert sitting out there with the U.S. Marines on the side sparks opportunities for us to talk about the Marine Corps and promote the Corps in much the same way the humvee drivers use their vehicle to get people to ask questions."

Most of the questions the crew answers are ones directly relating to their military occupational specialty. This relieves some of the burden from the recruiters, especially ones that haven't worked with or in an aviation unit.

"They are more qualified than other Marines to talk about the air opportunities in the Marine Corps," said Sgt. Troy Hightower, the 6th Marine Corps District Event Marketing Vehicle driver. "For instance, I am a grunt and know almost nothing about Marine Corps aircraft. When I am out at air show recruiting set-ups, and people ask me about the aircraft, it helps if these guys are around so I can direct people to them."

"They can also draw quite a crowd to begin with because they are wearing the Blue Angel uniform. People see them walking over to the recruiting booth and start following them to see where they are going."

The Fat Albert crew and the other Marines on the Blue Angel team play a pivotal role in the Marine Corps recruiting mission by increasing awareness for the Marine Corps and bringing an area of expertise to recruiters who rarely get this opportunity.


From left: Gunnery Sgt. Rob Walker, Sgt. Baron Morales and Gunnery Sgt. Jim Traenkner, Fat Albert Airlines crew, pose for a photo with the 6th Marine Corps District Enhanced Marketing Vehicle at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss. Photo by: Sgt. Matthew Miller