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Botswana Airmen prepare to bring MAFFS mission home

Tucson, Ariz. (May 6, 2009) ? C-130 Aircraft flown by the 145th Airlift Wing, an Air National Guard unit from Charlotte, NC maneuvers close while contour flying to drop a load of simulated retardant during Modular Aerial Fire Fighting training May 3-9 in the Coronado National Forest of Southeastern Arizona. The 145th AW is a contingent of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group, part of a unified military support effort of U.S. Northern Command to provide assistance to the U.S. Forest Service, state and local agencies, and the National Interagency Fire Center in battling large, uncontrolled wildfires throughout the nation.  The 145th AW is performing upgrade and initial training of aircrews, maintenance crews, and aviation resource management staff as they and three other Airlift Wings from Colorado, California and Wyoming qualify for MAFFS operations in Annual training exercises this week. (Photo by MSgt Dan Beaudreau)

Tucson, Ariz. (May 6, 2009) ? C-130 Aircraft flown by the 145th Airlift Wing, an Air National Guard unit from Charlotte, NC maneuvers close while contour flying to drop a load of simulated retardant during Modular Aerial Fire Fighting training May 3-9 in the Coronado National Forest of Southeastern Arizona. The 145th AW is a contingent of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group, part of a unified military support effort of U.S. Northern Command to provide assistance to the U.S. Forest Service, state and local agencies, and the National Interagency Fire Center in battling large, uncontrolled wildfires throughout the nation. The 145th AW is performing upgrade and initial training of aircrews, maintenance crews, and aviation resource management staff as they and three other Airlift Wings from Colorado, California and Wyoming qualify for MAFFS operations in Annual training exercises this week. (Photo by MSgt Dan Beaudreau)

Tuscon, AZ.  Corporal Monty Reakae (ri-ki) from Botswana watches the compressor gages of the MAFFS system as a North Carolina Air National Guard aircraft is reloaded with simulated fire retardant.  Photo by Staff Sgt Richard Kerner

Tuscon, AZ. Corporal Monty Reakae (ri-ki) from Botswana watches the compressor gages of the MAFFS system as a North Carolina Air National Guard aircraft is reloaded with simulated fire retardant. Photo by Staff Sgt Richard Kerner

Tuscon, AZ. Master Sgt. Robert Bartlett, a loadmaster with the 156th Airlift Squadron, covers essential checklist items with Corporal Monty Reakae (ri-ki) of the Botswana Defense Force (Air Arm).  the Botswana government would like to adopt a similar system to help fight wildfires in its own country. Photo by Staff Sgt Richard Kerner

Tuscon, AZ. Master Sgt. Robert Bartlett, a loadmaster with the 156th Airlift Squadron, covers essential checklist items with Corporal Monty Reakae (ri-ki) of the Botswana Defense Force (Air Arm). the Botswana government would like to adopt a similar system to help fight wildfires in its own country. Photo by Staff Sgt Richard Kerner

Tucson, AZ -- Tucson, AZ - An annual aerial fire-fighting recertification exercise took on greater international tones this year in the Coronado National Forest.
In addition to recertification, while also spinning up new Airmen from the 145th Airlift Wing, additional time was spent introducing the Modular Aerial Fire Fighting System operation to representatives from the Botswana Defense Force Air Arm during the week-long MAFFS recertification exercise, sponsored by the US Forest Service at the Arizona National Guard Base on the Tucson International Airport in Tucson, Arizona May 3 through 9.

Lt. Col. H.T. Rakgantswana (rak-en-swana) of the Botswana Defense Force, Air Arm and other members of the Botswana Defense Force Air Arm, North Carolina's partner in the State Partnership Program have joined members of the 145th AW as they and three other Airlift Wings from Colorado, California and Wyoming participate in Annual MAFFS recertification exercises this week. 

The Botswana government intends to adopt a similar fire fighting program of their own soon, and is using the opportunity to gain experience and knowledge about the aerial procedure. Rakgantswana says the apparatus will make a huge difference battling fires in his homeland. 

But he claims the topography is quite different than the mountainous regions often ravaged by fire in the U.S. Still, the Colonel, with more than 23 years flying experience feels he is taking away valuable information from his observation of the operations. "It was helpful to see how the aircraft operate so close to stall speed at [low levels], and to see the maneuverability according to correct parameters. We will not have lead planes for our crews, but the flying will be over flat plains," he says, adding although they fly as smaller units per plane, he feels confident his crews will adapt to flying with the extra payload of retardant without difficulty. 

Rakgantswana, who traveled 52 hours round-trip for the observation with loadmaster CPL Monty Reakae (ri-ki) says he and his organization hope that this type of cooperation will continue into the future. 

In recent years the National Interagency Fire Center operation, headquartered in Boise, ID, has combined military units with the USFS and state forestry and fire protection services to supplement commercial efforts in the annual struggle to contain fires. 

The MAFFS mission, originated in 1974, has been part of the 145th AW commitment as a National Guard unit to state and federal needs including emergency response and federal defense since 1985. 

Troops from the 145th AW as well as other units in the North Carolina National Guard are currently deployed in the Global War on Terror and continue to stand ready to meet future catastrophes within North Carolina.