Multiple agencies gather for annual MAFFS training
By Senior Airman Ashley Moore, 146th Airlift Wing
/ Published May 16, 2013
CHANNEL ISLANDS AIR NATIONAL GUARD STATION, Calif. -- Members of the 146th Airlift Wing along with participants from CAL FIRE, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service assembled here at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Port Hueneme, Calif. for a week long training and certification exercise. C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, known as MAFFS, performed several training water drops throughout the week.
MAFFS units, owned by the Forest Service, are a removable firefighting unit capable of dropping 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant from a military C-130 cargo plane. There are 8 MAFFS units altogether; two are stationed at the 146th Airlift Wing (AW), while the other six are staggered throughout the country, specifically located at 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, N. C., 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne, Wyo. and 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado Springs, Colo.
C-130 and Forest Service lead plane pilots and crewmembers ran several water drops each day dropping in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest near the Palmdale area. Ground crews from all agencies also trained on reloading the aircraft on the flightline while others performed aircraft coordination and radio operations in the tower.
The annual training brings together several different agencies and participants from all over the country to work together as one towards a common goal. "We need to make sure we all are speaking the same language," said Teri Corning-Sevey, a MAFFS Liaison Officer for the Forest Service. Knowing the codes, acronyms and even different hand signals on the flightline for each agency that works on MAFFS is important for a smooth and safe firefighting season, she said. Corning-Sevey started training with MAFFS in North Carolina in 2000, and explained that this multi-agency training helps their new trainees see a different side to firefighting. "This was a new experience in firefighting when I joined," she said. "This has taken me to more places than I would have ever been as a normal firefighter."
Although this training was already scheduled, several of the participants were given the opportunity to test their skills early when the 146th was called on to assist in several California fires the week prior, to include the Camarillo Springs fire, which was burning within just miles of the base.
"A lot of the time we are deployed away fighting fires in Colorado or elsewhere, but this time we were able to help citizens in our hometown" said Colonel Paul Hargrove, wing commander for the 146th AW. "It just added to the satisfaction of the mission."
Hargrove said he is grateful to his Airmen who worked hard and responded so quickly even though the fires were so close. "I know it's hard when you have a fire in your own backyard," he said. "I'm happy that we were ready for CAL FIRE when they needed us and we were able to respond as quickly as we did."
Hargrove, who is also a MAFFS-trained pilot, knows first-hand the importance of this annual training, "MAFFS is a demanding mission; it can be taxing at times," he said. "It is also one of the most satisfying... it's one of the reasons why I have stayed in."
When asked how new Airmen of the base can find their way someday onto the flightline, Hargrove says, "Work hard, learn your AFSC and be good at what you do. They will get there."