By Sgt. 1st Class Andrew PorchSeptember 14, 2015
KALISPEL INDIAN RESERVATION, Wash. - For a field artillery brigade, the word fire is something heard often, but for the Soldiers that make up Task Force First Round, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the word will forever have a new meaning after being deployed to help suppress wildfires burning throughout Northeastern Washington.
The task force, comprised of more than 250 Soldiers assigned to the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, deployed to the Colville National Forest Aug. 22, and recently conducted their last day of direct operations Sept. 11.
"The Soldiers are remarkable," said Lt. Col. James Dunwoody, commander, Task Force First Round. "It's hard to even express the pride in the formation. We are relatively young as far as redeployment. We have gone through redeployment, reset, reintegration and right into this mission. Truly this is the first opportunity I have had to see the Soldiers interact in this level of capacity that they have. The teamwork has been phenomenal; leadership can't ask for more."
The redeployment Dunwoody mentions was a nine-month tour his battalion served in the United Arab Emirates in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. With the quick turn around of missions, the unit had to zero in on learning wildland firefighting quickly.
"The success in transition from Soldier to firefighter is largely based on the Soldiers' desire and willingness to accomplish the task at hand," said Dunwoody. "Soldiers are quick to pick up on tasks, quick to pick up on techniques, tactics, procedures; the things that allow them to rapidly accomplish any objective."
The obligation of the Soldiers while supporting wildland firefighting operations; work together, contain the fire and meet objectives set by their Military Crew Advisors.
"The incident or complex had a set of objectives and to meet those objectives, you needed that crew capability to go out and do various work assignments," said Rod Bloom, military liaison officer, National Interagency Fire Center. "You want that advisor to be able to share their knowledge and experience. MCADs, all the way through this leadership on the NIFC side, have all learned something."
With the Soldiers helping contain the wildfires at 79 percent, conducting structure protection to local homes and interacting with the community, leadership can say with full confidence the work done here has long-reaching effects.
"Having the support of 200 Soldiers in the bigger picture, it was able to free up, in the Pacific Northwest and Nationally, some of the more advanced crews that are self-sufficient," said Blooms, a native of Bosie, Idaho. "They were able to put those on priority fires or sections of fires that needed their capabilities. Having 200 Soldiers, ten crews, provided that surge capability or supplemental capability nationwide."
For the Soldiers, this mission might have come to a close, but the next mission is right around the corner, as the main element of the task force will be heading into multiple training events.
"All I can hope is they take the lessons learned here, leadership and from a followership perspective, and apply it equally upon redeployment back to our military task," said Dunwoody.
As the Soldiers look back on this deployment, they will be able to hold their heads high in support of their nation and say what they did was important and effective.
"The mission was a success simply because it was joint, it was interagency, it was multinational," said Dunwoody. "Everybody was here for a common cause, understood a common end state and worked together through a process to achieve that end state. It was strength in numbers and there were no individuals across the entirety of the 700-man spectrum."