Traditionally, governors called out National Guard units when faced with natural but localized disasters such as blizzards, earthquakes, floods, and forest fires. The president could also federalize them in major disasters that threatened to overwhelm the resources of individual states or communities. According to the National Guard Bureau, “The indigenous skills and capabilities National Guardsmen to respond to natural disasters are the same skills and capabilities that enable us to successfully respond to potential terrorist threats.”
The Air National Guard’s main tool for fighting forest fires is the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), which has underwent several updates since its first use in September 1971 by the California ANG’s 146th Tactical Airlift Wing and North Carolina ANG’s 145th Airlift Wing. Housed in C-130s, MAFFS could disperse up to 27,000 pounds—almost 3,000 gallons—of commercial fire retardants or an equivalent amount of water. Newer aircraft like the C-130J carry the MAFFS II, which carry even more fire retardant, can disperse it more rapidly over a wider area, and is easier to recharge after a mission than its predecessor.
Blizzards also created the need for National Guard support. Often both Army Guard and Air Guard units assisted with health and welfare matters, conducted debris removal and power generation, and provided supply and transportation support in connection with snowstorms. For example, a Christmas-time 2006 blizzard at the airport hub of Denver International Airport closed that facility down for two days. Army and Air Guardsmen took food and water to thousands of travelers trapped there. In the same storm, western Kansas received between 15 and 36 inches of snow with drifts as high as 13 feet. The Air National Guard not only assisted people, but also dropped bales of hay to feed stranded cattle.
Read more about this topic: Air National Guard, History, State and Local Government Support
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