Wyoming Air National Guard joins military aerial firefighting support efforts

By Senior Airman Stephen Collier | 302nd Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs | June 29, 2008

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Members of the Wyoming Air National Guard and two of their C-130 Hercules aircraft arrived at McClellan Park June 27 to aid in support of firefighting efforts throughout California.

More than 30 members of the 153rd Airlift Wing, based out of Cheyenne, Wyo., arrived to the former air force base to augment a contingent of ANG and Air Force Reservists already fighting California’s tumultuous fires.

“The members of the Wyoming (ANG) are ready to contribute and are excited to have a chance to limit the damage of these fires,” said Lt. Col. Steve Anderson, an aircraft commander with the 153rd AW. “Most of us have been fighting fires from the air for many years now. This is the most challenging and also the most rewarding job we are trained to do.”

With the Wyoming Airmen on the ground, they will prepare their aircraft to join with other C-130s working a combined effort with the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group to fight the fires. The 302nd AEG is coordinating the employment of the ANG and Reserve aircraft during the wildfire deployment to ensure the necessary support is provided to NIFC and the state of California.

When asked how he expected Wyoming to contribute to the mission, Lt. Col. Roger Williams, commander of the 145th Air Expeditionary Squadron of the 302 AEG, said the mission of modular airborne firefighting systems couldn’t take place without the Airmen of Wyoming.

“Obviously our friends from the Wyoming Air Guard play a pivotal part in the MAFFS mission,” Colonel Williams said. “Being based in a Western state like Wyoming, the 153rd is no stranger to the threat of wildfires. Also, Wyoming has a lot of experience with past wildfire fighting. I expect them to do a tremendous job when this mission is all said and done.”

Colonel Anderson said the deployment of Wyoming Airmen means putting aside some of the things they love the most.

“The men and women of the Wyoming ANG are away from jobs and family,” he said. “But they are getting the chance to perform one of our greatest callings – protecting the lives and property of fellow Americans in need.”

C-130 aircraft crews fly the actual MAFFS mission. The MAFFS unit itself is a series of pressurized tanks that hold 3,000 gallons (30,000 lbs.) of flame-retardant liquid. This equipment is loaded into the aircraft's cargo area. Once airborne, the aircraft is directed by air liaison officers of the U.S. Forest Service, and led to the fire site by a U.S. Forest service lead plane. MAFFS aircraft drop retardant along the leading edge of a fire to inhibit the spread of flames.