Aircrews, maintainers and two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130 aircraft assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing returned†Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., July 7 after supporting aerial fire fighting operations for five days at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Ariz.
The 302nd AW MAFFS teams have been activated since June 11, when they were requested by the U.S. Forest Service to assist with fires in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions. This activation included multiple drops of retardant on the Black Forest Fire outside of Colorado Springs, Colo.
As part of the scheduled monthly MAFFS rotations, the 302nd MAFFS-equipped aircraft and crews, along with aircraft from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard were relieved in Arizona by the two other MAFFS wings, the 153rd AW, Wyoming Air National Guard, and the 145th AW, North Carolina Air National Guard.
The stand-down is welcome as there were very few days off since the activation. With the increased activity of the wildland fires, it typically meant a twelve-hour shift most days.
“Some were busier than others, I was on the first week, then had a few days off, then came back on the 26th and did about twelve days between here and Arizona. A couple of folks were in the same boat,” said Lt. Col. Brad Ross, a MAFFS aircraft commander and instructor pilot with the 302nd AW.
While the aircrews were working long hours, they were not the only ones. The 302nd Maintenance Group, 39th Aerial Port Squadron, and 731st Airlift Squadron loadmasters had some new requirements this year that increased their workload which made for longer days.
“The maintainers have been great. They’ve had some additional challenges put on them as a result of new inspection requirements. With help from APS and the loadmasters, they’ve taken the MAFFS units off the airplanes and put onto new airplanes so they could accomplish the inspection. They did that in a very minimal amount of time. There were some long days for those guys,” said Ross.
And while now is “downtime” for the 302nd AW MAFFS crews fire fighting portion of their mission, the thought of wildfires are not forgotten. They still keep up with what is happening around the country.
“Every couple of days I’ll look at the [National Interagency Fire Center] website to see if there are new fire activities in the country and what the active areas are. I want to get a picture to see if they might request further assistance,” said Ross. “It becomes a long summer when we are going nonstop. I think most people enjoy the mission and want to keep involved with it, but at the same time their civilian job is back here. It’s good to get back and take a little time off. But for the most part I think we are all ready and willing to go back when we are needed.”
During the 2013 firefighting season, that began June 11, MAFFS aircrews have made 88 drops with more than 240,000 gallons of retardant total as of July 9.