Air Guard Trains for Firefighting Mission
By Air Force 2nd Lt. Michael Wilber
North Carolina National Guard
GREENVILLE, S.C., Apr. 28, 2010 Airmen from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve are training with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, or MAFFS, at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center here this week.
An inflatable tub is filled with water that will be pumped into a C-130 Hercules equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center, Greenville, S.C., April 27, 2010. MAFFS deploys a fire retardant mixed with fertilizer and red dye, but water is used for training purposes. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
MAFFS units are composed of National Guard and Reserve C-130 aircraft that drop fire retardant ahead of an encroaching fire to assist ground fire crews.
“While it is diminishing, the effects of El Niño are still being felt throughout our country,” said Neal Hitchcock, deputy assistant director of operations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.
“The northwest region of our nation is projected to be hotter and dryer than normal this year, increasing the opportunities and intensity for wildfires in that region,” Hitchcock said.
Aircrews received classroom training April 26 to set the foundation for the week of airborne exercises that revitalize the abilities of veteran crewmembers and certify crewmembers who are new to the MAFFS mission, Guard officials said.
Military flight crews will rotate flying time, performing maneuvers to prepare them for challenges such as low-level flying through gorges and over mountainsides and the intense pace of repeated drops and refills of fire retardant in rapid succession.
Ground crews will learn about equipment operation and will be introduced to the extreme pace of constantly receiving, servicing, loading and launching the aircraft.
“I am proud of the MAFFS mission and our role in protecting the communities and lands throughout this nation,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Onesios, an aircraft electro-environmental maintenance technician with the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing.
Units assigned and equipped to execute the MAFFS missions are the 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte, N.C.; the 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands, Calif.; and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyo. – all Air National Guard units -- and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing out of Colorado Springs, Colo.
MAFFS is a partnership between federal land management agencies and the military to provide supplemental air tankers to assist in fire-suppression efforts nationwide.