☷Guard airborne firefighting units train in Idaho
National Guard ( By Press Release office)
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GOWEN FIELD , Idaho – Less than two years after the nation’s most devastating firefighting season , the National Guard participated in Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System spring training with state and federal partners . Since 1974 , the U . S . Forest Service and Department of Defense have operated under the joint program , more commonly known as MAFFS , which is employed by rolling into the back of a military C - 130 aircraft . The Forest Service activates MAFFS to bolster wildfire suppression efforts when all commercial air tankers are committed or unavailable . MAFFS can also be activated for use on state fires by the governors of the states where the Air National Guard flight crews are based . “Spring training is where we knock off the cobwebs , ” said Chief Master Sgt . Cameron Pieters , flight engineer assigned to the 152nd Operations Group . “We haven’t flown any aerial firefighting since last season , and this is to prepare us and get us ready for the upcoming fire season . ”During this year’s spring training April 25 - 29 , MAFFS - equipped military C - 130s flew 149 sorties and 184 . 52 hours , disbursing 433 , 065 gallons of water in 902 drops around Boise and Gowen Field . “We are grateful for the community support provided by the people near Gowen Field , Idaho , as our flight and aircraft ground crew members accomplished intense and vital wildfire training to be ready for the nation’s needs , ” said Air Force Lt . Gen . Kirk Pierce , commander , First Air Force , Air Forces Northern . “I’m also proud of the dedication and teamwork of the military joint force and interagency team . ”The four military MAFFS units are the 152nd Airlift Wing , Nevada Air National Guard; the 153rd Airlift Wing , Wyoming Air National Guard; the 146th Airlift Wing , California Air National Guard; and the 302nd Airlift Wing , Air Force Reserve , Colorado Springs , Colorado . Each MAFFS unit has two C - 130s identified by a large orange number on the tail and every side of the aircraft . The Nevada Air National Guard has tails 8 and 9; Wyoming Air National Guard has tails 1 and 3; California Air National Guard has tails 4 and 6; and the 302nd Airlift Wing , Air Force Reserve has numbers 2 and 5 . “This is a huge joint operation , and in order for us to be successful , it takes a lot of relationship building , ” said Maj . Alex Kassebaum , 192nd Airlift Squadron director of operations . Agencies involved with the training included the Department of Defense , the Agriculture Department , the Forest Service , the National Interagency Fire Center , the Bureau of Land Management and CAL FIRE . The training is an opportunity for the air and ground crews to refine and sharpen their skills to operate as an effective team and to train and certify new members . “It’s about getting into the right mindset , ” said Pieters . “As a flight engineer , it’s our responsibility to support the pilots . We go through the checklists . We monitor all the systems . Having good communication with the other crew members ensures we have a safe flight . ”“Last season was a big firefighting season for us , ” said Pieters . “We were deployed for 96 days , and as a MAFFS community , we dropped nearly 23 million pounds of fire retardant . ”Approximately 70 , 000 wildfires burn about 6 . 5 million acres of land in the United States each year . Airtankers drop fire retardant to reduce the intensity and slow the growth of wildfires so firefighters on the ground can build containment lines around them . Airtankers are not typically used to drop fire retardant to suppress wildfires directly . In the event of activation during the fire year , First Air Force , U . S . Northern Command’s Air Component Command , is the DOD’s operational lead for the aerial military efforts to support USDA Forest Service - National Interagency Fire Center requests for fire suppression support .
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