Every year in California the National Guard, Cal Fire, and the federal fire agencies get together to refresh, certify, and re-certify as needed for operating National Guard helicopters on wildland fires. This year the training was held at the Cal Fire academy at Ione, California, April 9-11.
The National Guard brought six helicopters, three Blackhawks and three Chinooks.
The 120 attendees spent the first day of the three-day training in classrooms and the last two days were devoted to flying, making water drops on mountain targets. In addition to certifying or re-certifying the military pilots, civilians with extensive helicopter manager experience can receive training for the Military Helicopter Manager position. New Managers fly as a trainee until they can complete all items in a Military Helicopter Managers task book. The military does the same with pilots. The chief pilot in the military does the “check ride” and signs off those pilots who are ready for the fire mission.