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145th MAFFS Aircrew builds ties with Colombian counterparts

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran
  • 145th Public Affairs
The state line had no obstacles as North and South Carolina Air National Guard units welcomed the Colombian Air Force (Colombian Fuerza Aerea) to tour and participate in this year's Modular Airborne Firefighting System II (MAFFS) classroom training. The classroom certification and re-certification was held April 29 thru May 3, 2015 at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Since 2012, the Republic of Colombia and the state of South Carolina have been partners under the auspices of the State Partnership Program (SPP), so when the Colombian Air Force was named to be the lead agency in developing an aerial firefighting capability for Colombia, they reached out to their partners at the 169th Fighter Wing, South Carolina Air National Guard. In turn, the SCANG reached out to the NCANG to coordinate a visit during the 2015 MAFFS II training with Wyoming Air National Guard in Charlotte, N.C. 

The visiting officers from the 81st, Escuadrón de Transporte, Bogota, each a senior instructor within the Colombian Fuerza Aerea C-130 community, were given a first-hand look at the MAFFS II unit being loaded in the cargo area of the 145th Airlift Wing's C-130 Hercules aircraft. With the help of Senior Airman Winston Rheinbolt, crew chief for the 145th Maintenance Squadron, and Master Sgt. Pennie Brawley, loadmaster for the 145th Airlift Wing, these Colombian AF officers learned the operations of the MAFFS mission from the loadmaster's position in the back to the aircrew's responsibilities on the flight deck. Each officer gained insight into how aerial firefighting is planned, prepared for and executed with respect to each of their respective career fields during their visit at NCANG.

"We are very grateful for the hospitality each member of the 145 Airlift Wing showed us and our Colombian counterparts throughout this week," said Lt. Col. Andrew M. Thorne, director of the SCANG State Partnership Program. "We look forward to future opportunities to share insights of aerial firefighting and C-130 operations."

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system, owned by the U.S. Forest Service and fits inside special C-130 aircraft. Each wing is required to have five certified crews for each MAFFS unit. The 145th Airlift Wing has 20 qualified crews.