KALISPEL INDIAN RESERVATION, Wash. (Sept. 16, 2015) -- For the past two weeks, Soldiers from Task Force First Round out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, have been conducting firefighting suppression operations in Northeastern Washington, and now the task force is shifting its mission to cleanup operations Sept. 9.
The new mission of restoration efforts and cleaning up the forest includes, wood chipping, brush clearing, and the removal of tree debris.
"Today we helped clean out chopped down trees in a camp ground," Spc. Sherman Jones, a native of Linden, North Carolina, and a Soldier assigned to the task force. "I don't think anyone really thinks about who maintains these camp grounds, but it is an important job so the camping spots don't get burned down."
Soldiers have been putting in 10- to 12-hour days to complete any task assigned to them, and the firefighters are very grateful of this.
"The Soldiers have been a big help, they are more willing and open to take information," Charles McNeill, High Country Urban Wildland Firefighters, Almanac, Washington.
"Because the Soldiers are new to this, they don't have any bad habits and they are very eager to learn the correct way to of business out here."
A group of Soldiers spent the day with Charles during a cleanup operation near Brown Lake in the Colville National Forest, Washington, to remove excess timber in the area so it would not give the fire something to grow with.
The cleanup operation is not only removes fuel for future wildfires, but also turns the timber into wood chips, which helps as a natural fertilizer for the soil.
"When the community sees us out doing these types of things, it really raises awareness and I think they support the Soldiers and Firefighters a lot more," added Charles.
"The Soldiers have been doing a tremendous job at fire lines, cleaning up, and other operations in the area."
Some of the Soldiers have even thought about doing this kind of work now that they see what it's all about on the front lines.
"I love doing this, it's something I want to get into after my Army Career," said Sherman. "We are doing a lot of support missions so that the firefighters can go deal with the fire, something that they are very experienced at doing."
Sherman's plan when he gets out of the military is to move back to Linden and become fire rescue, and this mission he was selected to do was the perfect experience for him so he could get great hands on experience he thought.
With only a few days left in Northeastern Washington, the Soldiers will now shift focus again in the coming days, as they focus on turning in equipment and preparing to head back to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.