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Airborne Firefighting units participate in interagency spring training in Idaho

U.S. Air Force personnel from the 146th Airlift Wing load the U.S. Forest Service's Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) inside a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft

U.S. Air Force personnel from the 146th Airlift Wing load the U.S. Forest Service's Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) inside a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft attached to the 115th Airlift Squadron at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Port Hueneme, California, Apri 21, 2022. MAFFS is a portable fire retardant delivery system that can be inserted into an aircraft, temporarily converting it into a fire fighting airtanker that can lay retardant lines to help control wildfires. The MAFFS program has been a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Defense since the early 1970s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Ulber)

U.S. Air National Guard units from the 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada Air National Guard, 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard and the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserves, Colorado Springs, equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems conduct annual training operations at Gowen Field, Idaho

U.S. Air National Guard units from the 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada Air National Guard, 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard and the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserves, Colorado Springs, equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems conduct annual training operations at Gowen Field, Idaho April 27, 2022. The MAFFS units are training for a U.S. Northern Command mission. In the event of activation during the fire year, First Air Force (AFNORTH), 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.

Cameron Seals, a U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS) Airtanker Base Specialist (MABS) trainee, marshalls a Nevada Air National Guard C-130H Hercules during the annual MAFFS Spring Training in Boise, Idaho

Cameron Seals, a U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS) Airtanker Base Specialist (MABS) trainee, marshalls a Nevada Air National Guard C-130H Hercules during the annual MAFFS Spring Training in Boise, Idaho, April 26, 2022.The MAFFS units are training for a U.S. Northern Command mission. In the event of activation during the fire year, First Air Force (AFNORTH), 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. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Thomas Cox)

Capt. Dylan Weber, the Air Expeditionary Group’s MAFFS Scheduler, 152nd Operations Group, stands in front of a Nevada Air National Guard C-130 equipped with the MAFFS unit.

“These four additional aircraft pilots will give us great flexibility when it comes to deploying during the MAFFS season,” said Capt. Dylan Weber, the Air Expeditionary Group’s MAFFS Scheduler, 152nd Operations Group. The MAFFS units are training for a U.S. Northern Command mission. In the event of activation during the fire year; First Air Force (AFNORTH); 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.

Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 aircrew practice drops at Hot Tea drop zone near Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho.

Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 aircrew practice drops at Hot Tea drop zone near Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, April 26, 2022. The MAFFS units are training for a U.S. Northern Command mission. In the event of activation during the fire year; First Air Force (AFNORTH); 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.

A California Air National Guard C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 146th Airlift Wing flies a training route during the 2022 Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems spring training in Boise, Idaho, April 29, 2022.

A California Air National Guard C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 146th Airlift Wing flies a training route during the 2022 Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems spring training in Boise, Idaho, April 29, 2022.

BOISE, Idaho --

GOWEN FIELD, Idaho – Less than two years after the most devastating firefighting season in the United States, the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) spring training took place at Gowen Field, Idaho, April 25-29, 2022.

Since 1974, the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Defense have operated under the joint program using the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, more commonly known as MAFFS, which is employed by rolling into the back of a military C-130 aircraft.

MAFFS is activated by the Forest Service to bolster wildfire suppression efforts when all commercial air tankers are fully committed or not readily available. This is through an agreement between the USDA, Forest Service and the Department of Defense. 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, MAFFS equipped military C-130s flew a total of 149 sorties, 184.52 hours, disbursing of a total of 433,065 gallons of water in 902 drops across multiple drop zones around the Boise and Gowen Field area.

“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 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 big orange number on every side of the C-130 aircraft and on its tail. Respectively, 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.

The agencies involved with the training included the Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Forest Service, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the Bureau of Land Management and CAL FIRE.

Spring training is an opportunity for the air and ground crews to refine and sharpen their skills to operate as an effective team, as well as to train and certify new members of the team.

“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 an average of about 6.5 million acres of land in the United States each year. Airtankers are used to drop fire retardant to reduce the intensity and slow the growth of wildfires so that 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 (AFNORTH), 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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