CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Charlotte- and Cheyenne-based Air National Guard air crews and ground support personnel have wrapped up a week of training here today that certified or recertified them to fight forest fires using C-130 aircraft equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System known as MAFFS.
“Everyone has worked very hard to get ready for this year’s fire season,” said Col. Charles Davis of North Carolina’s 145th Airlift Wing. Davis is the 2013 commander of the MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group (AEG), which is made up of the four units that operate the fire fighting system.
The 145th deployed two MAFFS-equipped and one support aircraft along with 87 Airmen for the week. It flew 28 training missions over remote areas of Wyoming and Colorado making 184 water drops and logging 54 hours of flying time. The Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, which hosted the week’s training, involved 73 of its Airmen and three aircraft, flew 21 missions and made 189 drops over nearly 27 hours of flying time.
Sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, MAFFS aircrews spent time in the classroom as well as in the air where they dumped potable water at designated drop sites. Crews operated from an air tanker base set up at the Cheyenne Air National Guard Station here.
MAFFS C-130s are equipped with modules owned by the U.S. Forest Service. The modules slide into the cargo bays of the aircraft and carry up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, which are dropped on wildland fires. Forest Service lead planes guide the C-130s to the drop point.
MAFFS is a joint partnership between the Department of Defense and Forest Service and is activated during peak periods of wildland fire activity when all civilian air tanker resources are exhausted. A MAFFS activation is requested by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Id., through U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. NORTHCOM boasts MAFFS will “not be late to the need” when supporting civilian responders.
In addition to the North Carolina and Wyoming units, the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard and the 302nd Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command from Peterson in Colorado make up the only four units that perform the MAFFS mission. The 302nd trained in April, and the 146th will begin its annual training May 13.
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NOTE TO PRODUCERS AND EDITORS: Video and still imagery of the MAFFS training can be found on the AEG Facebook page at www.facebook.com/145AEGMAFFS, at www.flickr.com/photos/ncngpao , www.flickr.com/photos/wyoguard and on the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) page at www.dividshub.net. Follow the AEG on Twitter at @AEGMAFFS.