News: Kirtland Air Force Base, great host to MAFFS mission
Story by 1st Lt. Michael Wilber
Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. – The leadership and airmen of Kirtland Air Force Base’s 377th Air Base Wing have proven instrumental in the success of the MAFFS mission operating out of the Albuquerque Air Tanker Base.
MAFFS, or Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, is a modular tank loaded into C-130 aircraft used to hold and jettison fire retardant to assist the firefighters working on the ground below. One Air Force Reserve and three Air National Guard units are equipped and trained to fly these missions.
These units are located in Colorado Springs, Colo., Charlotte, N.C, Port Hueneme, Calif. and Cheyenne, Wyo. They position at U.S. Forest Service Air Tanker Bases to load fire retardant and perform their life and property saving mission. MAFFS units stage at bases throughout the country as nessarry, often relying on support installations to maintain mission capability.
Kirtland AFB accepted the role of Base Support Installation, agreeing to support the MAFFS mission and aircraft.
“It isn’t easy or free to take the BSI role,” said Maj. Ryan Tanton, 731st Expeditionary Airlift Squadron mission commander. “They have to step up to take on our mission as well as their own.”
Kirtland’s acceptance of their BSI role allows the MAFFS units to tailor down maintenance kits to maintain cost effectiveness and be agile enough to reposition quickly and easily somewhere else in the country, if necessary. This could mean they might have significant downtime if a part is not available.
“[Kirtland personnel] have provided the right person and right part at the right time,” said Tanton. “The fact we never rejected a tasking due to maintenance is because of their help.”
“Supporting [the MAFFS mission] is supporting our community,” said Col. Robert Maness, the commander of the 377 Air Base Wing at Albuquerque N.M.
“On several occasions, Col. Maness personally visited the flight line to voice his personal support for the [MAFFS] mission,” said Tanton.
“Our on base support hasn’t been limited to maintenance,” Tanton continued. “We have had great support from other sections on base like Command and Base Ops.”
So far the MAFFS aircraft have flown over 200 sorties, in over 180 hours of flight time, dropping over half a million gallons of fire retardant on 11 wildfires that have already claimed over 793,000 acres of land across Arizona and New Mexico.