News: NC Guardsmen return home after firefight out west
Story by 1st Lt. Michael Wilber
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. – Airmen from the N.C. Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based in Charlotte, N.C. are scheduled to return home after fighting against the wildfires over New Mexico and Arizona.
“I’m sorry to see them go,” said Darlene Mullins, MAFFS Liaison Officer U.S. Forest Service. “We’ve had such a good time working with them. They are true professionals.”
In their stead, airmen and aircraft from the Air Force Reserve Command's 302d AW based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., will stay to continue supporting the firefighting efforts as the local mission is appearing to wind down, for now.
Airmen from the NCANG have been working alongside their peers from the California Air National Guard and the Colorado Reserve since June 19.
“MAFFS is a multi-unit operation. You are always going to a location that is not home, said Maj. Ryan Tanton, 731st Expeditionary Airlift Squadron ‘mission commander.’ “People have to work together; different bases, maintainers, and flight crews.”
The crews from the NCANG and the other military MAFFS units have effectively integrated with the civilian air tankers. “There are two pits for six aircraft, said Tanton. “Pit crews and flight crews work themselves into a natural flow into the pits to minimize delays.”
Training together has developed the flight crew member’s instincts. “It’s not just math,” continued Tanton, “for instance crews may hold at a high altitude and request a show-me run.
“This way they can see exactly where they will be dropping, increasing safety and efficiency of their drop rather than sit on the ramp waiting for their turn in the pits.”
Now maintenance personnel are also more integrated than ever before. “This year the maintenance footprint is smaller. We use to bring enough maintainers for each unit and if needed they would help each other. Now, maintainers [from multiple units] have to work together to accomplish the mission, said Tanton. “With the reduced maintenance footprint, to date we’ve had no rejected launch orders or delays. That is a credit to the maintainers here.”
So far these N.C., airmen and aircraft have flown over 90 sorties in over 90 hours of flight time dropping over 200,000 gallons of fire retardant over 11 wildfires that have already claimed over 793,000 acres of land across Arizona and New Mexico.