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NEWS | June 24, 2013

306th FTG supports Black Forest wildfire firefighting efforts

By Bekah Clark 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

The 306th Flying Training Group resumed flying Monday after they halted their operations so the airfield could provide critical support to the firefighting efforts for Colorado's Black Forest wildfire last week.

Though the group lost more than 800 sorties and 900 flight hours due to the firefighting support, the group says it was an honor to help in a time of need for the community.

"This is our home too and we're proud to be able to lend our help and expertise in times of need to help the Colorado Springs community," said Col. Joe Rizzuto, 306th FTG commander.

The group opened their airfield for helicopter support, enabling more than 160 helicopter sorties, which dropped more than two million gallons of water on the fire over the course of five days, according to Rizzuto.

According to Mr. Jerry Miranda, 306th Operations Support Squadron airfield management, "within only an hour of notification, the OSS set up an airfield emergency center and converted the airfield into a Helitak firefighting base, supporting five civilian and nine military firefighting helicopters."

For the next five days, the airfield would become home for a 70 member taskforce with the helicopters flying sunrise to sunset to battle the blaze.

The OSS provided a liaison for the Helitak firefighting base and aircrew, enabling immediate communication between the OSS the Army and Forest Service personnel and coordinated all aspects of airfield support for the Forest Service Air Operations director of staff. Additionally, the squadron's tower staff provided air traffic control services and the weather station provided up-to-date information to the battle staff.

Now that the fire has been contained, the group has reverted back to its mission of teaching airmanship and leadership to U.S. Air Force Academy cadets.

"We can't make up the sorties we've lost," said Rizzuto. "But that's OK. Our mission is to teach them leadership and airmanship qualities that they'll carry with them into their Air Force careers; flying time and parachute jumps are just a mechanism we use to do that."

The group, which at one time had approximately 25 percent of its own families evacuated from their homes, provided the same support during last year's Colorado wildfires.