US Marine Corps, February 12, 2016 - By Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson - Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165 supported the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) in a fire fighting exercise aboard Hemet-Ryan Air Attack Base, California, Feb. 11.
The Marines with VMM-165 flew out to Diamond Valley Lake on Hemet-Ryan Air Attack Base in an MV-22B Osprey to perform bucket dips in an effort to prove the aircraft was capable of supporting Cal Fire operations.
Cal Fire is a state wide California fire-fighting agency that Marine Corps bases such as Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Camp Pendleton support, according to George Shinrock, the program manager for Fire Emergency Services Marine Corps Installations West, and a Huntington Beach, California, native.
“The Marine Corps supports Cal Fire in the San Diego region through a series of agreements of operational plans,” said Shinrock. “If [Cal Fire] have no aviation resources available for firefighting efforts, they will request an aircraft to support firefighting and we will step forward with that.”
Aside from just supporting Cal Fire in a bucket drop exercise, the training tested the abilities of the Osprey, an aircraft not typically used for fire fighting.
“We came out to show Cal Fire that we can employ the MV-22B for firefighting efforts,” said Maj. Elio Marcillo, assistant current operations officer with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and a Queens, New York, native. “[The Osprey] could be one of the platforms that we use besides the CH-53 Super Stallion and the UH-1Y Hueys.”
VMM-165 Marines hooked the bucket to the Osprey and made two dry runs, flying the aircraft around the drop area, before making four runs where they actually dumped water on the targets.
“The pilots don’t have any visibility on the bucket, so the crew chiefs have to guide it in over the water, that’s the first step,” said Cpl. Aaron Culler, a crew chief with VMM-165 and a Winston-Salem, North Carolina, native. “We line the pilots up because we have a better visual of outside the aircraft. The crew chiefs line everything up and call target drops.”
The training was successful, according to Shinrock.
“Today’s evolution answered all the questions for Cal Fire,” said Shinrock. “If the need arises and they request our assistance, we’re very confident the MV-22B will perform the mission with great success.”