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107th Attack Wing Airmen assist with California wildfires

Tech. Sgt. Andrew Pajak, an MQ-9 sensor operator assigned to the 107th Operations Group, 107th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard, Niagara Falls, N.Y., poses for a photo upon his return to home station. Pajak was joined by two other Airmen assigned to the 107th serving as guest help for the 163rd Attack Wing, California Air National Guard, March Air Force Base, Calif., in response to a state of emergency declared due to the wildfires. The team spent several months providing skills to protect lives and property and to preserve peace, order and public safety for the residents of the state of California. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Brandy Fowler)

Tech. Sgt. Andrew Pajak, an MQ-9 sensor operator assigned to the 107th Operations Group, 107th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard, Niagara Falls, N.Y., poses for a photo upon his return to home station. Pajak was joined by two other Airmen assigned to the 107th serving as guest help for the 163rd Attack Wing, California Air National Guard, March Air Force Base, Calif., in response to a state of emergency declared due to the wildfires. The team spent several months providing skills to protect lives and property and to preserve peace, order and public safety for the residents of the state of California. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Brandy Fowler)

NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. — Members of the 107th Operations Group, 107th Attack Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, N.Y., deployed three Airmen to California to assist firefighters battling wildfires. There have been more than 8,500 fires, burning more than 4 million acres in California.

The New York Air National Guard (ANG) Airmen served as guest help to the 163rd Attack Wing at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California, to support the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) using MQ-9 Reaper capabilities to assist in the domestic operation mission.

“The live video feed was a new technology to Cal Fire,” said Tech. Sgt. Andrew Pajak, sensor operator assigned to the 136th Attack Squadron, 107th Attack Wing. “Cal Fire and front line responders were able to relocate fire fighting assets where they needed most based on the 24/7 coverage we were providing.”

The MQ-9 is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily against dynamic execution targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset.

The on-board video system provided real-time full-motion video to Cal Fire and emergency responders, using a Multi-Spectral Targeting System, housing a robust suite of visual sensors that can see through smoke.

“The first thing we do it map the overall fire line tracing the location for intelligence and surveillance” said Pajak. “This allows incident commanders to utilize ground forces deploy countermeasures to extinguish the fire.”

Senior Airman Matthew Kohlmyer, a tactical air control party Airman assigned to the 274th Air Support Operations Squadron, 107th Attack Wing, advised firefighting and emergency response personnel on MQ-9 capabilities and served as the ground communications liaison.

“I was glad to be able to use my skills and experience I gained during combat operations to help save American lives and to prevent fires from spreading further,” said 1st Lt. Timothy Morgan, 107th Operations Support Squadron MQ-9 Reaper pilot.

The state mission of the Air National Guard is to provide protection of life, property and preserves peace, order and public safety. The ANG helped to accomplish this mission by providing emergency relief and support during this natural disaster.

"We are always prepared to lend a helping hand and our expertise whenever we're called upon to assist a state in need,” said Major General Ray Shields, Adjutant General of New York. “We’re proud of our personnel and what they accomplished in working with our counterparts in the California National Guard.”

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