302nd Airlift Wing
The 302nd Airlift Wing is one of seven Air Force Reserve Command C-130 wings with an airdrop and airlift mission in the nation and the only Air Force Reserve wing supporting the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System mission, or MAFFS mission. About 1,300 Reservists are assigned, and about 200 of the 1,300 are full-time employees as dual military/civilian status Air Reserve Technicians.
The wing is assigned eight C-130H3 Hercules aircraft, operated by the wing’s 731st Airlift Squadron. All units assigned to the 302nd AW can be activated and deployed from the United States to any location in the world within 72 hours. The 302nd AW has three groups and a medical squadron assigned. The groups are the 302nd Operations Group, the 302nd Maintenance Group and the 302nd Mission Support Group. The 302nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron ensures the wing members’ medical readiness.
The 302nd AW comes under the operational control of the Air Force Reserve Command, headquartered at Robins AFB, Georgia through its numbered Air Force, 22nd Air Force, based at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. When called to active duty through presidential order, the wing would be gained by the 18th Air Force and would become an active-duty unit under Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, Illinois.
Established as the 302nd Troop Carrier Wing on May 16, 1949, the 302nd AW was first activated by the Air Force Reserve on June 27, 1949. In the mid-1950s, the wing flew airlift operations in the United States and overseas.
The 302nd AW was called to active duty during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. During the 1960s, wing aircraft and crews performed worldwide airlift missions and participated in numerous tactical exercises. The unit was deactivated April 1, 1981. In mid-1983, the unit, then designated the 901st Tactical Airlift Group, moved to newly constructed facilities on Peterson AFB and reactivated April 1, 1985.
The wing received one of its most challenging tests in 1990-91 with Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. More than 600 wing members — including flying, medical and maintenance personnel — deployed to the Persian Gulf, England and stateside locations to support active-duty operations.
At the end of the Gulf War, the 302nd AW supported Operation Provide Comfort, air dropping food and supplies to Kurdish refugees. The wing supported operations Provide Relief and Restore Hope in Somalia, Coronet Oak in Panama, Provide Promise’s humanitarian airlift to Bosnia and hurricane relief to Homestead AFB, Florida.
In 1999, the wing assisted in humanitarian relief to refugees from Kosovo and Operation Allied Force.
Since 2001, Airmen from throughout the wing to include the mission areas of aircrew, aircraft maintenance, aeromedical evacuation, aerial port, logistics, security forces, civil engineer, communications, medical, public affairs, legal, financial management, chaplain as well as aircraft from the 302nd AW have been deployed in support of numerous operations to include Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom’s Sentinel. In 2010 the wing provided humanitarian aid relief in Haiti during Operation Unified Response and also supported flood relief in Pakistan.
In 2015 the 302nd Airlift Wing was named the Lt. Gen. James E. Sherrard, III, Air Force Reserve Outstanding Air Mobility Wing by the Airlift/Tanker Association recognizing the wing’s contribution to the overall success of the Mobility Air Force mission and total force.
The wing has earned recognition earning the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award multiple times to include awards for the periods of 1990-1991, 1998-1999, 2001-2002, 2004-2006, 2006-2008, 2009-2011 and most recently for 2015.
MODULAR AIRBORNE FIRE FIGHTING SYSTEM
In the 1970s, Congress established the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) Program to aid the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Typically, when all other civilian air tankers are activated but further assistance is needed, the U.S. Forest Service, through the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), can request the aid of the U.S. Air Force’s MAFFS flying units.
MAFFS is a mission that highlights interagency cooperation. The 302nd Airlift Wing is a federal force belonging to the Department of Defense, yet works in concert with NIFC and the U.S. Forest Service. NIFC serves as a focal point for coordinating the national mobilization of resources for wildland fire. When it is determined MAFFS will be used, NIFC through U.S. Northern Command requests the DOD, U.S. Air Force resources.
One Air Force Reserve and three Air National Guard locations participate in the MAFFS program. The 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the only Air Force Reserve unit supporting the aerial firefighting mission. The Air National Guard units supporting MAFFS include the 146th AW in Channel Islands, California, the 152nd AW in Reno, Nevada, and the 153rd AW based at Cheyenne, Wyoming. Each flying unit stores and is ready to activate two of the MAFFS systems for a total of eight nationwide.
The U.S. Forest Service-owned MAFFS systems fit inside the C-130 Hercules without requiring structural modification. This allows the units to be loaded on short notice. MAFFS units can drop water or fire retardant.
It takes about three hours to load and install a MAFFS unit in the C-130. A MAFFS unit can discharge its load — 3,000 gallons weighing 27,000 pounds — in less than five seconds. The retardant can cover an area one-quarter of a mile long and 100 feet wide. After the plane discharges its load, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.
The 302nd AW has flown the Air Force Reserve portion of the mission since 1993. The 302nd AW has supported fire suppression in most of the western states and 2002 was the first year the airlift wing fought fires in its home state of Colorado.
Additional information on the 302nd Airlift Wing (AFRC) can be found at www.302aw.afrc.af.mil.