Fort Bliss firefighters, DES assets to return from Huachuca Monument wildfire effort
June 29, 2011
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- “I appreciate you guys saddling up at Fort Bliss. We fight wars wherever our nation needs us and sometimes it’s right in our own backyards,” said Col. Timothy Faulkner, Fort Huachuca’s garrison commander, to Fort Bliss firefighters as he thanked them for their support and augmentation efforts at the Arizona post in response to the Monument wildfire, June 27.
The Team Bliss firefighters, who were joined by military police Soldiers from 3rd Platoon, 978th Military Police Company, 93rd MP Battalion, traveled to Huachuca to augment Department of Defense firefighters and MP Corps Soldiers there as they continued wildfire operations, as they have been for almost a month. According to reports as of June 26 the fire was approximately 75 percent contained.
At the request of Huachuca and U.S. Army Installation Command, once it was decided locally at Bliss that a proposed manpower share wouldn’t put Bliss at any heightened risk, firefighters and a 25-ton fire truck headed west and was joined by emergency responders from other posts such as Fort Carson, Colo., and Fort Hood, Texas. Bliss Fire Department Capt. Daniel Morales, a supervisory firefighter and one of four firefighters from Bliss, said while they came to reinforce cantonment fire and emergency operations, they were prepared to help take a more active role in defending the post from the wildfire if needed be.
“We got the call Wednesday morning and of course accepted,” said Morales. “Our primary task was to support operations here on their main post, but we did come prepared with our wild land gear in case they needed us to help them with contingencies.”
The 17-year veteran firefighter said post activity was “relatively quiet” during their augmentation, but the nearby canyons showed a different story.
“When you see devastation on a map, it’s hard to get a grasp,” he said. “We had the privilege to get up in the [extinguished] areas and there were miles and miles of burned trees and homes burned to the ground.”
He added that he felt anything less than the professional response provided by the approximately 1,500 firefighters who continue to fight in the Huachuca Mountains could have meant a lot more destruction for the region.
“I tip my hat to the forestry service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the surrounding departments are doing a phenomenal job,” he said. “With everything that’s been lost, there’s also a lot that’s been saved and for this many people to do so much was beyond belief.”
Huachuca Fire Capt. Daniel Manning said not only did he appreciate seeing fellow firefighters from Bliss and other installations, but also respected the work ethic they showed in support of defending his post from danger.
“All firefighters are part of a brotherhood and the brotherhood and loyalty they felt was obvious,” he said. “Crew cohesion happened soon after everyone arrived; it was like they worked here. They were willing to do whatever they needed to in order to help out.”
He added that as big as DoD firefighting circles may be in terms of numbers, they’re not that big in consideration of the type of people who serve within those circles.
“Even though we all have our separate departments, in the DoD there’s a sense of unity and a lot of love,” he said.
Just as appreciative as Manning, Sgt. Maj. Robert Parker, Bliss Directorate of Emergency Service’s sergeant major, said he was proud to be affiliated with the firefighters and MPs who brought the Huachuca community added confidence in uncertain times, and said the effort was an example of the strength of our military and those dedicated to support it.
“Whether you’re or a Soldier, or a civilian employed by the government, you devote your life to public service,” he said. “In that spirit you’re willing to give at a moment’s notice and if it requires travel to an installation, or even a county, that’s not organic to your organization then that’s what you do. You do it selflessly, 365 days a year for as long as you choose to serve and that speaks volumes about the type of people we have in this profession.
“My hat goes off to each and every one of them. I’m proud to serve with all of them.”