Colorado wildfires affect SMDC team
June 29, 2012
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Numerous Department of Defense personnel are among the more than 30,000 (including the families of at least three U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Soldiers) people who have had to pack up their homes and move to safety.
Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in Colorado Springs, Colo. areas of High Park and Waldo Canyon by a raging wildfire that has encroached on the state's second-largest city and threatened the U.S. Air Force Academy. In Colorado Springs, there are more than 435 Soldiers and 270 civilian members of the USASMDC/ARSTRAT team.
"We have been watching with interest and concern the wildfire situation in Colorado Springs," said Lt. Gen. Richard P. Formica, SMDC commanding general. "We can't truly imagine the magnitude of the loss for those who have lost homes; the concerns of those who have been evacuated; and the anxiety of those living in the area and affected by this. Our hearts go out to the three in SMDC/ARSTRAT (that I'm currently aware of) who have already lost homes.
"We look to have a fund/article drive to help with incidentals as those (individuals) piece back their lives," he added. "It would be wonderful to see communities across the command pitch in to help. We will keep the residents of Colorado Springs -- particularly our Soldiers, Civilians and Families -- and all those fire fighters and emergency services personnel in our thoughts and prayers. Our priorities remain: 100 percent accountability; assistance for those affected; and timely reporting within the command and to Department of the Army Headquarters and U.S. Strategic Command."
On June 14, the Mission Management Center began coordination with U.S. Northern Command and elements from the Kansas and Colorado National Guard for the employment of Friendly Force Tracking devices being used in Colorado wildfire operations.
The MMC is currently processing data from approximately 30 devices and providing that information to the USNORTHCOM Common Operational Picture. Currently there is a mix of devices used to track both ground and aviation assets.
USNORTHCOM, in turn, is providing access to the FFT data to the National Guard and the U.S. Forest Service Operations Centers. In addition, the MMC is monitoring for any "911" emergency activations from the field.
The National Guard anticipates supporting the operation until it is relieved by state officials.
"We are providing Friendly Force Tracking display support, on NORTHCOM's request, of FFT-equipped Colorado and Kansas National Guard fire-fighting support crews and fire-attack aviation platforms at both High Park and Waldo Canyon fires," said Lt. Col. Andy Riter, SMDC (Colorado Springs) G-3 Current Operations Branch chief. "Our Mission Management Center is enabling the tracking beacons to be displayed on state and federal incident command displays to assist incident command with their situational awareness as to the location, and if necessary of any emergency involving the beacon-equipped crew."
In response to a request from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Fort Carson is providing engineer support to the academy's firebreak efforts. Approximately 120 Soldiers from nearby Fort Carson have built firebreaks around parts of the U.S. Air Force Academy, aided by equipment including 10 heavy bulldozers, four excavators, two wreckers, two flatbed trucks, two fuel trucks, 13 military transportation and support vehicles and one commercial road grader.
Air Force Academy officials announced they were relocating more than 500 cadets off academy grounds. Nearly 200 cadets in summer academics are being moved to the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and others have been released to local sponsor families.
The Waldo Canyon fire has burned nearly 10 acres at the southwest corner of the 28-square-mile campus. No injuries or damage to academy structures have been reported.
With people having concerns about medical treatment, Col. Kevin P. Michaels, SMDC command surgeon, said that the medical treatment facilities at Peterson Air Force Base and Fort Carson have not been impacted by the fire emergencies at this time and TRICARE Regional Office West is currently working on contingency plans to support beneficiaries displaced by fires.
Michaels also said that Express Scripts has made arrangements at all network pharmacies to provide an "emergency refill too soon" for patients who have need of their chronic medications during this fire emergency. The number for Express Scripts is (877) 363-1303.