Bureau's Enlisted Advisor Visits Fire Fighting Certifications
By Tech. Sgt. Stephen Wilkins , 145th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 25, 2009
Channel Islands, California -- During a Spring itinerary which spread him to all corners of the nation, National Guard Command Sergeant Major David Hudson saw much of the 145th Airlift Wing here in March.
He came away from that visit with a fairly comprehensive understanding of the small C-130 unit's vast mission of providing Airlift, Combat and Humanitarian support to Federal and State Authorities. The Wing's units also provide world-wide architectural support to the Air Force, Med-Evac operations, Transport, combat communications and its air support operations squadron works with Army and Marine units to call in strikes on enemy targets.
Hudson has been the Senior Enlisted Leader to National Guard Bureau Chief Lieutenant Gen. H. Steven Blum since late 2006, and the second person to hold the position.
In that capacity Hudson represents the sentiments of more than 450,000 guardsmen. He ardently pursues his tasking, moving quickly around the country to personally touch soldiers and airmen, learning their needs, concerns and missions.
"I want to discuss issues from a grassroots level so that I can take back thoughts regarding the mission that are real, raw and personal when I speak to the Chief, the Senate or Congress," he says.
Hudson completed his education on the 145th AW with a trip to Channel Islands, CA in May for an up-close look at the 145 AW's role in Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System certification flights.
MAFFS was created as a 1974 response to devastating forest fires which ravaged Southern California and the American Southwest not long before, killing four fire fighters in the previous year. It serves as a supplemental solution to battling forest fires when other means implemented by the U.S. Forest Service, including civilian airborne fire fighters have not been enough to contain the blazes.
The concerted effort of National Guard and Air Force Reserve units, with other agencies flying C-130 aircraft equipped with special apparatus designed for aerial delivery of flame retardant has been successful in addressing large-scale forest fires.
The MAFFS mission 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.
Arriving May 7 Hudson got a look at the operation from the air. With the Wing's new Command Chief Master Sergeant Robert "Mike" Annas, a career loadmaster leading the tour, Hudson, with North Carolina's State Command Chief Master Sgt. Dave Earnhardt, Hudson felt the gravitational pull of banked turns, steep climbs and harrowing dives C-130 style.
He understands the difficulty of performing those maneuvers while simultaneously dropping 9,000 gallons of retardant and not only maintaining a balanced attitude, but doing it smoothly. That 9,000 gallons of retardant is highly pressurized!
"The coordination with the Forest Service and the team effort both outside and inside the aircraft to deliver the retardant where it was needed and when was amazing," Says Hudson, continuing, "needless to say it is an awesome experience to be in a C-130 at 150 knots, 120 feet or less off the deck!" Excitedly, he added "As a 130 guy I really love that stuff!" As an Airman aerial weather observer he spent several years on C-130s, logging 3,200 hours during 58 aerial hurricane penetrations.
Debarking the aircraft, Hudson found himself in the midst of constant take-offs and landings during a non-stop pace on the tarmac, simulating authentic fire fighting conditions. MAFFS crews will work as long as there is daylight.
Personnel from a variety of Federal and state agencies, including local fire fighting companies, National Guard units from Wyoming, North Carolina and California, the Air Force Reserve (Colorado), and the USFS join the men and women of the 145th AW in the MAFFS mission, now in its 35th year.
"Prior to my travel to Ventura to meet up with the 145th AW I had spent a weekend drill with the NCANG and visited with Airmen in many different areas of the organization. To say I was impressed would not take into effect how truly impressed I was," Hudson says of his visit to the Charlotte-based Wing. "I had no real understanding of what the MAFFS mission entailed until I saw the training being conducted in Ventura. I left with a fantastic impression of the organization."
The MAFFS operation has continued from inception, with an unblemished safety record and new technology, which Forest Service leaders hope will increase the operation' s effectiveness.
Crew Chiefs from each of the Guard and Reserve organizations directed operations on the ground and hurriedly moved fuel trucks into position, while also coordinating retardant tank recharges for future drops.
After checking for, then correcting any necessary problems, full of fuel and ready for more drops other planes were taxiing by for a continuation of the onslaught the Guard and Reserve forces took to the Los Padres and Los Angeles Forests. Hudson watched intently. Reflecting on the entire experience he offered "Everyone I met, everywhere I went were hospitable and professional. They all seemed excited about the work they did."
Eagle-eyed safety monitors politely stepping around the Guard's Command Sergeant Major checking everyone's activity were oblivious to the special nature of the visitor's stature. But with back pack, teddy bear and a ready smile in hand, weaving through the busy scene, Hudson flashed knowing nods and quick winks to the hard-working airmen.
Concluding his time with the 145th Airlift Wing's enlisted force, Hudson stated, "what else can I say, the NCANG is a group of professional Airmen providing a very important service to the citizens of our nation. That is of course what we do in the Guard and have been doing since 1636."