302nd AEG Continues to Provide California Fire Support

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Aircraft of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group have launched their seventh day of support missions July 2 in a coordinated effort to control wildfires in northern California.

          Airmen of the 302nd AEG are operating out of McClellan Airfield in Sacramento and are flying C-130 Hercules aircraft equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system, better known as MAFFS, which can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant per mission.

          The 302nd AEG aircraft units include two Air National Guard units -- the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyo., and the 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte, N.C. -- and one Air Force Reserve unit -- the 302nd Airlift Wing from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

          Also fighting the fires throughout California are Navy and Marine air crews also assigned to the 302nd AEG.

          The Marine Medium Helicopter Training (HMMT) Squadron 164 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 268 based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego are flying CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters equipped with 2,000-gallon specialized fire fighting buckets and are deployed to Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.

          Navy Reserve helicopter assets are from the Helicopter Sea Combat Support Squadron 85 based out of Naval Air Station North Island, Calif. The squadron is flying MH-60S helicopters with 420- and 360-gallon specialized fire fighting buckets.

          The joint force operations in California are part of a unified effort under U.S. Northern Command to provide assistance to the U.S. Forest Service, the California Department of Forestry and Protection, and the National Interagency Fire Center.

          The Air Force units are flying C-130 aircraft with the Modular Aerial Fire Fighting System loaded in the cargo bay. The MAFFS unit itself is a series of pressurized tanks that hold 3,000 gallons (30,000 lbs.) of flame-retardant liquid. Once airborne, the aircraft are 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.

          These aircraft and their crews are a combination of Air National Guard assets working with U.S. Air Force Reserve and active-duty forces. Air Reserve and active duty forces fall under the authority of the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC) at Headquarters Air Forces North (AFNORTH) at Tyndall AFB, Florida. U.S. Northern Command has directed the JFACC to conduct these operation as part of the AFNORTH mission of the Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA).

          Working as one team in support of the National Interagency Firefighting Center (NIFC), the U.S. Forest Service and California firefighting personnel, these Air Force assets are working to prevent further damage and loss of life as part of the DSCA mission to use air assets to support local, state, regional, and federal emergency service agencies.

          As of now, MAFFS-capable aircraft have deployed from Air National Guard units in California, North Carolina and Wyoming, along with Air Force Reserve support from Colorado to ensure total force support for NIFC. Military members from various units have also deployed from other Air Force units around the country.

          The California National Guard 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. is also providing support missions by transporting personnel, cargo, and equipment for the other MAFFS units.

          To date the military airborne assets in California have flown approximately 140 missions and dropped close to 287,000 gallons of fire retardant since June 26.