November 24, 2017 (by TSgt. Louis Vega Jr.) - The Wyoming Air National Guard stands faithfully in support of both domestic and federal missions assisting victims in need throughout the world by providing aid when called upon.
CMSgt. Raymond Arnold, 737 EAS flight engineer (left), and Capt. Jonathan Lemley, EAS pilot, initiate preflight preparations on the C-130H Hercules on November 14, 2017, before departing for a mission to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. [USAF photo by TSgt. Louis Vega]
More than 100 Airmen from the 153rd Airlift Wing based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, deployed to the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron recently in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Of those deployed, approximately half were battling the wildfires in northern California with their Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System capability in September and October. The fires tore through California, scorching more than 160,000 acres and leaving more than 15,000 people homeless.
MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the U.S. Forest Service and operated by three Air National Guard wings, and one Air Force Reserve wing. It can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.
"What we hope is gained is everything our Airmen put forth in their training aspect, they can apply here flying real world missions," said Lt. Col. Todd Davis, 737 EAS director of operations.
At home station, Davis is the commander of the 187th Airlift Squadron and part of the153rd Airlift Wing. He and his guardsmen joined forces with the 158th Airlift Squadron from Savannah Air National Guard Base, Georgia, to make up the 737th EAS.
"Working with the Savannah team has been a great experience. We have deployed with the Savannah wing previously and it has been a great opportunity to work with them again," explained Davis.
Wyoming deployed C-130H Hercules aircraft with crew members; including pilots, navigators, flight engineers, and loadmasters. In addition, they have a maintenance support team to work and maintain aircraft while deployed. They also have medical technicians and logistics readiness squadron members to handle their supply needs.
"On one end of the country we are fighting fires and on the other end we are helping with hurricane relief," said Capt. Jonathan Lemley, 737th EAS pilot, of his unit's missions at their home station.
For 12 days this past summer Lemley relentlessly fought fires and after a brief break, he was activated to support the hurricane relief efforts before transitioning to Southwest Asia.
"The transition between those missions and this one made it relatively seamless," Lemley continued. "The challenges we had during the hurricane are very similar to here."
The highly experienced men and women of the Wyoming ANG have proven to be valuable during a crisis and have demonstrated their ability to answer their nation's call.
"Our goal is to get everybody home safely without incident, support the warfighter on the ground, and gain valuable experience that will allow us to continue to build our core of elite tactical airlifters from the state of Wyoming." Davis said.
Natural disasters and real world missions will continue to present themselves, but Lemley said the ability to help people in need is an honor and gratifying experience for this team.
"There is nothing better than a real world mission and seeing how hard people will work when it comes to helping others out," concluded Lemley.