MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Service members from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Navy Region Southwest and personnel from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department supported California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) in the 2016 Wildland Firefighting Exercise aboard Camp Pendleton, California, May 5.
The firefighting exercise was a multiaircraft operation with both ground and air units working together for maximum firefighting efforts.
“This was an exercise with multiple type, model, series aircraft from the Marine Corps, Navy and the state of California,” said Capt. Michael Shuman, a pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165. “We put together our assets for a team to drop water on fires in preparation for this summer’s fire season.”
Marines with VMM-165 supported the exercise with an MV-22B Osprey. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465 provided a CH-53E Super Stallion and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267 provided an UH-1Y Huey. The Navy’s U.S. 3rd Fleet and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department provided aircraft as well.
Marines trained months in advance for the wildland firefighting exercise, according to Capt. Evan Bernstein, a pilot with VMM-165. For VMM-165, the exercise was a chance to demonstrate the MV-22B Osprey’s tremendous firefighting capabilities.
The Osprey is equipped with a Bambi bucket, a bucket that hangs approximately 130 feet below the aircraft and holds approximately 900 gallons of water, according to Shuman.
The participants of the exercise took turns maneuvering the aircraft above Las Pulgas Lake on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, lowering the Bambi bucket into the water, carrying it, and dumping it onto the drop zone.
The exercise proved to be effective with the different platforms working together, said Cpl. Aaron Culler, a crew chief with VMM-165. The training enabled military and civilian forces to be more prepared to fight potential wild fires in the Southern California area.
“In the Marine Corps you always train for overseas operations and how to combat the enemy, whether that be directly, or supporting like we do,” said Culler. “But it’s good to do something like supporting CAL FIRE. We can make a direct impact on the civilian population in the area and give back to the community. We’re saving people’s lives, homes and property. I think that broadens the horizons of the Marine Corps and allows us to have more capabilities home and abroad.”