BOISE, Idaho —
GOWEN FIELD, Idaho – Less than two years after the most devastating firefighting season in the United States, spring training for the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) took place at Gowen Field, Idaho, du April 25 to 29, 2022.
Since 1974, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Defense have operated under the joint program using the Modular Airborne Firefighting System, more commonly known as MAFFS, which is operated while taxiing in the back of an aircraft military C-130.
MAFFS is activated by the Forest Service to augment wildfire suppression efforts when all commercial air tankers are fully engaged or not readily available. This is thanks to an agreement between the USDA, the Forest Service and the Department of Defense. MAFFS can also be activated for use on state fires by governors of states where Air National Guard flight crews are based.
“Spring training is where we knock down the cobwebs,” the chief master sergeant said. Cameron Pieters, a flight engineer assigned to the 152nd Operations Group. “We haven’t done aerial firefighting since last season and that’s to prepare and prepare for the upcoming fire season.”
During this year’s spring training, the MAFFS-equipped military C-130s flew a total of 149 sorties, 184.52 hours, disbursing a total of 433,065 gallons of water in 902 drops over multiple areas of airdrop around the Boise area and Gowen Field.
“We are grateful for the community support provided by the people near Gowen Field, Idaho, as our flight crew and aircraft on the ground completed intense and life-saving wildfire training to be ready to meet the nation’s needs,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Kirk Pierce, commander, First Air Force, Air Forces Northern. “I am also proud of the dedication and teamwork of the Joint Military Force and the Interagency Team.
MAFFS’s four military units include: 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 either side of the C-130 aircraft and on its tail. Respectively, the Nevada Air National Guard has tails 8 and 9; The Wyoming Air National Guard has Tails 1 and 3; The 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 for us to be successful it takes a lot of relationship building,” said Major Alex Kassebaum, director of operations for the 192nd Airlift Squadron.
Agencies involved in the training included the Department of Defense, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service, National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), Bureau of Land Management, and CAL FIRE.
Spring training is an opportunity for aircrew and ground crew to hone and hone their skills to function as an effective team, as well as train and certify new team members.
“It’s about getting the right mindset,” Pieters said. “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 that we have a safe flight.
“Last season was a great firefighting season for us,” Pieters said. “We were deployed for 96 days and as a MAFFS community we dropped almost 23 million pounds of fire retardant.”
About 70,000 wildfires burn an average of about 6.5 million acres of land in the United States each year. Air tanks are used to drop fire retardants to reduce the intensity and slow the growth of wildfires so ground firefighters can build containment lines around them. Air tanks are generally not used to drop fire retardant to directly suppress wildfires.
When activated during the year of the fire, First Air Force (AFNORTH), the Air Component Command of U.S. Northern Command, is the DoD operational lead for military air efforts to support requests from the USDA Forest Service-National Interagency Fire Center for fire suppression. support.