145th Returns To Fight Fires
Lt. Colonel Steve Mallette is a training officer with the unit. Photo: Tanner Latham The North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing leaves Charlotte Monday to resume fighting wildfires in the western U.S. "We all expected at some point we'd have to go back," says Lieutenant Colonel Steve Mallette, a training officer in the unit. "That's the mission that we do. And we certainly want to take care of this mission as best we can. We want to do our part." The deployment comes six weeks after four airmen from the unit were killed in a plane crash while fighting fires near Edgemont, South Dakota. Two airmen in that crash survived. The cause of the accident is still under investigation. The 145th will send two aircraft and 16 airmen to the base in Boise, Idaho. One aircraft will carry the firefighting equipment, and the other will carry support equipment and personnel. From there, the planes will be dispatched to fires at the discretion of the U.S. Forest Service. The mission is planned to last until early September.