By Master Sgt. Daniel Butterfield
302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado — Airmen from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing and their U.S. Forest Service partners wrapped up their annual Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System training May 18 here.
The four days of currency and re-currency certification ensured the Wing’s 10 MAFFS aircrews, support personnel and MAFFS-equipped C-130s are ready when requests for assistance are made by the U.S. Forest Service through the National Interagency Fire Center. The aircrews flew 23 sorties and performed 119 training drops in remote target sites in the Pike-San Isabel National Forest, Bureau of Land Management land and military ranges.
With so many moving parts for both the civilian and military agencies involved in the certification process, it is vital for all to come together to ensure successful training.
“Teamwork was great, as far as the forest service and other civilian agencies, [training] worked fantastic. [302nd AW aircraft] maintenance did a great job, having the planes ready. It’s extra work having the spare airplane prepped and ready, kudos to them. It enabled us to get all of our training done, on time,” said Lt. Col. Luke Thompson, chief of aerial firefighting for the 302nd AW.
Once the MAFFS units are loaded into the C-130s by teams comprised of personnel from the wing’s aerial port squadron, aircraft maintenance and loadmasters from the flying squadron, , it is up to the U.S. Forest Service to make sure the aircrews get the most out of their sorties and drops.
“With each of the training sessions it’s very important that we train like we are going to play,” said Kim Christensen,” Deputy Assistant Director of Operations for the U.S. Forest Service. “We want to make sure that the training drops are as realistic as they can be to what they are going to experience.”
The training this year also gave the aircrews an opportunity to get back into aerial firefighting mode after a slower 2014 season for most of the MAFFS-trained Airmen.
“[I enjoy] just getting everyone together, knocking the rust off. Last year many of us didn’t fly MAFFS so we are just getting back into the swing of things. We all take this mission seriously. We know that we are training for something that we are likely to be called out for and be utilized for all our abilities,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joe Rorick, MAFFS C-130 loadmaster instructor.
In the 1970s, Congress established the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) Program to aid the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Typically, when all other civilian air tankers are activated but further assistance is needed, the U.S. Forest Service, through the National Interagency Fire Center, can request the aid of the U.S. Air Force’s MAFFS flying units.
The training included both classroom and flight certification for military flight crews, civilian lead plane pilots and various support personnel to include Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Tanker Base personnel, Pueblo Tanker Base personnel and the Pueblo Interagency Dispatch. Additional personnel from CalFire, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the State of North Carolina also provided support during the certification training at Peterson AFB.
“As the years have gone on, we’ve continued to refine the MAFFS mission. We’ve continued to define training and experience requirements, both for DOD personnel and our personnel. We’ve gotten to a point now, where I would say, with MAFFS it’s plug and play,” said Christensen.