Air Force Reserve Command civic leaders visit 302 AW

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Justin Norton
  • 302nd Airlift Wing

The 302nd Airlift Wing hosted a visit for Air Force Reserve Command’s civic leaders Feb. 22-23 at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado, as part of their tour of 22nd Air Force units.

The 302 AW leadership team greeted the group as they stepped off a C-130J from the 403rd Wing “Hurricane Hunters”. Lt. Gen. John Healy, chief of Air Force Reserve, and Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White, senior enlisted advisor to the chief of Air Force Reserve, accompanied the civic leaders as they visited different sections in the wing and learned more about its mission. 

“Civic leader tours allow us to further relationships with our surrounding communities by sharing our mission through interaction with Airmen,” said Col. Christopher Sedlacek, 302 AW commander. “With this enhanced understanding, civic leaders are better able to support us within local communities. They can share our story with policy and lawmakers who can affect positive change for the wing and the Air Force.”

Sedlacek,  assisted by subject matter experts from throughout the wing, briefed the civic leaders on the 302 AW’s overall mission, their special mission – Modular Airborne Firefighting System - and the overall state of readiness.

“It was fantastic interacting with senior leadership such as Col. Sedlacek face-to-face,” said civic leader Tim Kelley, owner and chief experience officer for Blue Sky EXP. “This gave civic leaders an opportunity to hear what is important to Lt. Gen. Healy, Maj. Gen. Larson and the leadership of the 302 AW and understand how we as civic leaders can be more effective advocates. Our role is not just to learn about the capabilities of AFRC, but more important, it’s to advocate and make a discernable difference.”

The group visited the MAFFS unit in person and met with Master Sgt. Thomas Freeman, 731st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, who has been involved with the MAFFS mission since the 302 AW first received it almost 30 years ago. He talked about what the tank is capable of, the efforts needed to load it into the aircraft and what happens in the air during an aerial firefighting sortie.

“The MAFFS presentation tour was incredible,” said Kelley. “It was fascinating to learn about the mission and the way the retardant is stored and released from the aircraft. I also enjoyed learning how the 302 AW interacts with civilian firefighting capabilities and the U.S. Forest Service.”

Freeman said the MAFFS mission creates containment lines on the ground that slow the spread of a fire and helps the ground firefighting teams in their direct efforts to suppress it. He answered questions about the wing’s participation in recent fire seasons and explained the average flying commitment a crew might be tasked with while fighting a fire, which could be as many as 12 sorties in one day.

“The MAFFS mission goes above and beyond,” said Freeman. “You have to be completely mission ready to be able to go at any time. It’s as if something happens in the world where we need to be ready to go the next day – MAFFS is the same way. We’ll find out Tuesday that we have to be there Wednesday so we always have to be ready.”

The civic leaders ended their trip with a visit to the 302nd Operational Support Squadron’s aircrew flight equipment work center. The specialists offered hands-on experience in a training room outfitted with tools that aircrew members use to fly safely. The group was able to interact with the equipment and see how an airframe would be postured with all the gear loaded. They tried out night-vision goggles, donned protective eyewear and learned how the Airmen maintain crew parachutes. AFE specialists also discussed the shop’s sewing capability and how it enables them to repair frayed and torn materials at the unit-level.

During lunch, before boarding the C-130J for departure, the group spoke amongst themselves about recruitment and retention efforts across the total force. 

“Just look at those Airmen from the aircrew flight equipment shop. They’re proud of what they do and they love doing it,” said Healy. “Show a group of young people that, let them go spend a day in their life and you’re going to get someone that’s going to join as a result. At a minimum, it opens up the aperture and exposes them to the opportunity to see what’s out there.”