AFRC commander unveils "Earth, Blood and Fire” painting

(From Left to right) Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, Col. James Devere, 302nd Airlift Wing commander, Senior Master Sgt. Darby Perrin, artist, and Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, commander of Air Mobility Command unveiled the painting "Earth, Blood and Fire" at the 49th annual Air Mobility Command and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Orlando, Florida. The painting depicts the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems mission of the 731st Airlift Squadron, 302 AW, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Peter Dean)

(From Left to right) Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, Col. James Devere, 302nd Airlift Wing commander, Senior Master Sgt. Darby Perrin, artist, and Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, commander of Air Mobility Command unveiled the painting "Earth, Blood and Fire" at the 49th annual Air Mobility Command and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Orlando, Florida. The painting depicts the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems mission of the 731st Airlift Squadron, 302 AW, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Peter Dean)

(From Left to right) Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, Col. James Devere, 302nd Airlift Wing commander, Senior Master Sgt. Darby Perrin, artist, and Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, commander of Air Mobility Command unveiled the painting "Earth, Blood and Fire" at the 49th annual Air Mobility Command and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Orlando, Florida. The painting depicts the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems mission of the 731st Airlift Squadron, 302 AW, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Peter Dean)

(From Left to right) Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, Col. James Devere, 302nd Airlift Wing commander, Senior Master Sgt. Darby Perrin, artist, and Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, commander of Air Mobility Command unveiled the painting "Earth, Blood and Fire" at the 49th annual Air Mobility Command and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Orlando, Florida. The painting depicts the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems mission of the 731st Airlift Squadron, 302 AW, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Peter Dean)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- During the 49th Air Mobility Command and Airlift/Tanker Association Symposium in Orlando, Oct. 26 through 29, Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander, Air Force Reserve Command, unveiled the painting "Earth, Blood and Fire,” a painting that depicts the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) mission of the Air Force Reserve’s 731st Airlift Squadron, 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson, Air Force Base, Colorado.

The painting, created by artist and boom operator Senior Master Sgt. Darby Perrin, 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker Air force Base, Oklahoma, is the latest edition in the Air Force art program 'Inspire with Heritage.’ A program, designed to showcase the Air Force Reserve story, highlight the Air Force Reserve’s strengths and build pride throughout the ranks.

“That airplane is your squadron's airplane. Those people in the painting are the people you stand in formation with, work with, and go to war with,” said Jim Malachowski, AFRC Director of History and Heritage. “By using historically accurate vignettes and examples of our Airmen as lessons and role models, we help build Esprit de Corps and a sense of belonging.”

Shortly after the reveal, “Earth, Blood and Fire,” the eighth painting in the 'Inspire with Heritage’ series will be transported and displayed with the rest of the collection at the Pentagon. High-resolution lithographs will be distributed for display at the Air Force Reserve Command Headquarters, the Numbered Air Force Command Headquarters and the depicted wing and squadrons.

Below is the full description of the piece, "Earth, Blood and Fire”:

A wildland fire racing down a forested ridgeline towards a small town is a terrifying force of nature. The United States averages more than 73, 000 fires each year that burn 7 million acres. Fire seasons are growing longer and more destructive. Fires are both bigger and demonstrate more extreme fire behavior as they burn more acreage each year. Each fire season, the US Forest Service sends ground and aerial firefighters to protect lives and property. When civilian capability to fight the fires is exhausted, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho calls the US Air Force for help. That help arrives in the form of large, noisy, four-engine Air Force C-130 “Hercules” aircraft with big florescent orange numbers on them. Each of the aircraft are equipped with second generation Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) capable of dropping nearly 30,000 pounds of water or bright red fire retardant in about five seconds covering an area a quarter-mile long and 50 feet wide. Each drop reduces the fire’s intensity and slows the growth of wildfires so that firefighters on the ground can build containment lines.

The aerial firefighting mission is dangerous and the fires are unpredictable. It is often described as the most challenging flying done in the C-130 with low altitudes, low speeds, high-density altitude, and high temperatures. The aircraft drops fire retardant from 150-200 feet above ground level, at 120 knots--just slightly above stall speed, and often through smoke in mountainous terrain. Pilots are max performing the aircraft every time and there is very little room for error. Only the most experienced aircrews are selected for the firefighting mission and they train with the US Forestry Service and are re-certified before each year’s fire season.

In the summer of 2000, Reserve Citizen Airmen flying MAFFS-5 faced challenging conditions as they followed a Forest Service lead plane to its drop on an area where fire and smoke were blowing up in a valley. There were numerous ground crews and fire trucks in the vicinity and multiple air tankers in the air. As they entered the final turn for their run-in to the drop at 120 knots a mere 150 feet above the valley floor, the wind shifted. Large trees erupted into flaming torches shooting fire and thick black smoke into the sky. Unable to maneuver in the valley, the aircraft plunged into a furnace of black smoke. Two engines quit. The crew immediately dumped their fire retardant load and, struggling to keep the aircraft stable, successfully re-started one of the two engines. The added power enabled the aircraft to clear the ridgeline before safely returning to the Channel Islands Air National Guard Base, California.

Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units have flown Aerial Firefighting missions since 1974. The Air Force Reserve’s 731st Airlift Squadron, 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, began training the initial cadre of MAFFS crew members in 1991 and became a fully MAFFS-qualified wing in May 1993. The 302d is the only Air Force Reserve unit with MAFFS capability. The mission is also supported by the Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, California; 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada; and the 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming. Together, the MAFFS aircrews fly an average of 245 firefighting sorties each year.