Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 1-Star Lifters

Elite Navy/Marine unit uses 2 Gulfstream IIIs and 3 G550s to carry top leaders around the world.

By Phil Rose
Managing Editor

VR1 personnel with C37B at ADW (Andrews AFB). Unit strength of 73-pilots, crew chiefs and transport safety specialists is supplemented by civilian contractors.

Established on May 1, 1997, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 1 (VR1) operates as part of the Fleet Logistics Support Wing and the Naval Air Force Reserve. The primary mission of VR1 "Star Lifters" is to provide safe, secure, connected, reliable and effective on demand worldwide air transportation for Department of the Navy senior civilian and military leadership.

Squadron missions are considered an essential element of US national security strategy and execute under stringent schedule and protocol requirements as well as intense media scrutiny. Operations and communications security are paramount, as are physical security and adherence to the highest standards of professionalism. VR1 is an elite unit.

It serves 7 primary customers the Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC), Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Commander US Fleet Forces Command and Dir Naval Nuclear Propulsion. The squadron is certified to transport personnel up to, and including, the Vice President of the United States.

It supports Department of Defense tasking and has provided air transportation to Congressional delegations, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and various combatant commanders. VR1 carries foreign counterparts of the CNO and CMC as directed, and has recently flown distinguished personnel including former President and Mrs George H W Bush.

Squadron composition

Former CO Cdr Rob Lee (L) handed over squadron command to Cdr Larry Artman in Sep 2008. Models represent a VR1 C37B (L) and C20D.

Based at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Washington-which is located at ADW (Andrews AFB, Camp Springs MD)-VR1 flies 2 Gulfstream C20Ds (GIIIs) and 3 Gulfstream C37Bs (G550s). The C20Ds date back to 1987, while the C37Bs were acquired in 2005 and 2006.

VR1 is a reserve squadron staffed with a mix of active and reserve component sailors, contractors and marines. The sailors are led by Commanding Officer (CO) Cdr Larry Artman (USN), while the marines of the Commandant's Flight Detachment are led by Officer in Charge Lt Col Marc Sehrt (USMC).

A hybrid unit in every respect, VR1 follows standard US Navy/US Marine Corps operating procedures. Squadron complement is 29 pilots (14 USN full-time support reserve, 10 USN selected reserve, 4 USMC active and 1 USMC reserve), 10 crew chiefs (CC) (9 USN, 1 USMC) and 9 transport safety specialists (TSS) (7 USN, 2 USMC).

A further 25 USN/USMC maintenance and support personnel are augmented by civilian contractors to meet VR1's maintenance and administrative requirements.

Mission aircrews are made up of 2 pilots, 1 CC-who also performs the duties of communication systems operator (CSO) and 1 TSS.

Upholding excellence

Senior Marine Lt Col Marc Sehrt oversees VR1's Marine Corps component the Commandant's Flight Detachment.

VR1 holds numerous awards for success and performance. In 2007 alone the unit received the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award, the Congressman Bill Young Operational Excellence Award, the Golden Anchor Retention Award, the James M Holcombe Award for Maintenance Excellence and the Noel Davis Award for Battle Efficiency.

Cdr Larry Artman (USN) took over as CO of VR1 on Sep 5, 2008 after serving as executive officer (XO) for 15 months. This is normal routine COs change every 15 months, each new CO having served as XO under his/her predecessor. Commissioned in 1990 and designated a naval aviator in 1992, Artman has more than 4400 hrs TT, both rotary and fixed-wing, including almost 500 hrs in the C37B.

Before he joined VR1 in Jun 2007, Artman was the aviation requirements and capabilities officer for the Office of the Chief of Navy Reserve in Washington DC. Like other VR1 aircrew, he flies 250-300 hrs a year.

He also has total responsibility for all aspects of VR1 performance, including chief pilot, director of operations and director of maintenance issues. While VR1 accomplished more than 2700 mishap free flight hours in 2008, Artman notes that meeting customer requirements not amassing flight hours constitutes what he calls "the metric of success."

Missions may range from little more than 90 min of flight time in a 16-hr day to a "back side of the clock" trip starting at ADW and landing in a combat zone. VR1 personnel are hand picked. "Their backgrounds range from antisubmarine helicopters to the Blue Angels," says Artman, "but they have one critical trait in common a record of outstanding performance across all parameters in the air and on the ground." VR1 pilots have an average military flight time in excess of 2500 hrs.

Crews are expected to achieve mission success autonomously (with a concurrent reduction in total cost for a lean organization), and all military personnel and contractors are held to the highest professional and personal standards. Any who fail to maintain such standards face immediate transfer.

VR1 C37B takes off from ADW. Squadron aircraft carry no national insignia or titles.

Around 20% of all squadron missions (representing 40% total flight time) are outside the continental US (OCONUS). Such overseas trips always require obtaining diplomatic clearances. Last year alone, VR1 conducted operations in 49 different countries, including Afghanistan, Argentina, Chile, China, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Georgia, Iraq and Kuwait. "Last minute OCONUS trips are a part of our business," says Artman.

"They require VR1 to maintain a continuous high state of readiness." In many cases the squadron receives 2-4 weeks' notice for aircraft use. Details are finalized around 48 hours out, and the aim is for the aircraft to arrive on time every time.


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