set up
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, part of the 214th Fires Brigade Quick Reaction Force, organize food, water and ice at a resupply point to support firefighting efforts near Medicine Park, Okla., June 24.

FORT SILL, Okla. -- During a recent wildfire that spread into the Medicine Park community, Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery provided around-the-clock support to firefighting efforts.

Resupplying firefighters with food, water and ice, the unit also provided drinking water for those at the Lake Elmer Thomas Recreational Area, said 1st Lt. David Casey, B Battery, 1st-14th FA operations officer.

"We got a call late [June 23], letting us know that A Battery was already activated and that we were next," he said.

The members of 1st-14th FA became part of the firefighting effort by virtue of their designation as the post-level quick reactionary force, said Casey, a task that quickly tested their training.

"We never trained for this particular mission, but we worked several different scenarios before our battalion's QRF rotation," he said. "All of those things together helped prepare us for this."

Since May, the battalion has been preparing for its turn by running weekly alerts and practicing various scenarios, said Maj. Timothy Diley, battalion operations officer.

For some of the Soldiers it was a chance to tackle unplanned missions, said Casey. For others, like Pvt. Mitchell Jones, it was an opportunity to put his military training to use.

"I'm an ammo specialist. I'm trained on moving heavy loads to people who need them in a hurry," he said. "So, even though I'm new to the unit, I can still jump in and help."

However, most of the planning and execution of the task was left to junior officers, said Maj. Kevin Crooks, 1st-14th FA executive officer, who saw in it an opportunity to develop the young leaders and test their organizational capabilities.

"The success of this mission all comes down to platoon-level responsibilities. This is their fight," Crooks said.

For the Soldiers of the Steel Warrior battalion, answering their call to duty meant nearly 48 hours of around-the-clock operations. But, said Casey, "that was not a problem for the Soldiers in his battalion."

"When you get that call, you just 'switch on,'" he said.

Page last updated Thu July 14th, 2011 at 00:00