BOISE - One by one, C-130 tail flashes adorned with vibrant orange numbers arrived Wednesday on the flight line here at the Idaho Air National Guard Base.
Each orange number represents one of the eight planes on the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System team, including three Air National Guard units and one from the U.S. Air Force Reserve, each stationed around the western U.S.
More than 400 personnel from the four units — of California, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming, making up the Air Expeditionary Group — descended here for a week-long training and certification sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service.
"We look forward to this joint training with our military and civilian partners," said Col. Bryan Allen, commander of the AEG. "Training together with all four MAFFS wings alongside U.S. Forest Service and other wildland firefighting agencies here in Boise provides a significant opportunity as we prepare for another challenging wildfire season."
The U.S. Forest Service's large MAFFS equipment — rolled into the back of a C-130 aircraft — can drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in six seconds through a nozzle on the rear left side of the plane.
The certification training includes classroom sessions and flight operations for military flight crews, lead plane pilots and other support personnel from the U.S. Forest Service and other wildland firefighting agencies.
"MAFFS have played a critical role in wildfire suppression for more than 40 years by providing surge capacity when commercial air tankers are fully committed or not readily available as they frequently are during periods of high wildfire activity," said Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the U.S. Forest Service.
Participating Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units include the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyoming; the 302nd Airlift Wing from Colorado Springs, Colorado; the 146th Airlift Wing from Port Hueneme, California; and the 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nevada.
Water drops for training will be executed on lands within the Boise National Forest and Boise District Bureau of Land Management. Boise area residents in these areas may see low-flying U.S. Forest Service lead planes and C-130s dropping water starting Friday and throughout the weekend.
In the past decade, military C-130s equipped with MAFFS delivered about 8 million gallons of fire retardant on wildfires around the U.S.
"Training collectively as a large group is vitally important as it ensures overall standardization of operations while continuing to build working relationships with the key players in the wildland firefighting community," Allen said. "It is rewarding as Guardsmen and Reservists to stand alongside our wildland firefighting agency partners, knowing that we help make a difference protecting our citizens and their property."