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Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen Train for Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System Mission

Greenville, S.C. -- Airmen from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves are training for use of the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center in Greenville, S.C., April 25-30.

MAFFS units are comprised of National Guard and Reserve C-130 aircraft that drop fire retardant ahead of an encroaching fire to assist ground fire crews in containing a spreading fire.

"While it is diminishing, the effects of El NiƱo are still being felt throughout our country," said Neal Hitchcock, the deputy assistant director of operations for the USDA Forest Service.

"The northwest region of our nation is projected to be hotter and dryer than normal this year increasing the opportunities and intensity for wildfires in that region," said Hitchcock.

Aircrew from the National Guard, and Reserve underwent training in a classroom setting Monday to set the foundation for their following week of airborne exercises.

These exercises revitalize the abilities of veteran crewmembers and certify crewmembers that are new to the MAFFS mission.

In the ensuing week, military flight crews will rotate flying time, performing maneuvers to prepare them for the unique challenges which entail the MAFFS mission such as low-level flying through gorges and over mountain sides and the intense pace of repeated drops and refills of fire retardant in rapid succession.

Ground crews will also be familiarized with equipment operation as well as be introduced to the extreme pace of constantly receiving, servicing, loading, and launching the aircraft.

"I am proud of the MAFFS mission and our role in protecting the communities and lands throughout this nation," said Tech Sgt. Robert Onesios, an aircraft electro-environmental maintenance technician with the North Carolina Air National Guard.

The four military units assigned and equipped to execute the MAFFS missions are three National Guard units comprised of the 145th AW from Charlotte, N.C., 146th AW from Channel Islands, Calif., 153rd AW from Cheyenne, Wyo., and the Air Force Reserve's 302nd AW out of Colorado Springs, Colo.

MAFFS is a partnership between federal land management agencies and the military to provide supplemental air tankers to assist in fire suppression efforts nationwide.