JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Approximately 200 active-duty Soldiers from across the 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion and the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, began drawing firefighting gear and familiarizing themselves with this unique equipment early, Aug. 9, 2018.
This is the initial stage of preparation for the 7th Infantry Division Soldiers as they prepare to assist the National Interagency Fire Center and civilian firefighters in suppressing on-going wildfires in the Western United States, specifically the Mendocino Fire Complex.
"The 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion is a uniquely diverse organization, as all brigade engineer battalions are," said Lt. Col. Eric Parthemore, the 14th BEB commander. "That gives us the diversity and capability to integrate into a complex interagency organization. We are absolutely ready."
The Soldiers preparedness to deploy includes orientation to the equipment and techniques by learning directly from the NIFC officials and the fire crew chiefs they will be working with on the ground.
"This is really 'firefighting 101', where we give them all of the basics of staying safe on the fire-line," said Frank Guzman, the assistant director in fire aviation management for the U.S. Forest Service. "We have agency fire liaisons who will be with the crew for the next 30 days. They will do two days of on the ground training and after that they will be good-to-go like any other firefighting crew."
"We have used Soldiers three times in the last four years," Guzman continued. "They ask questions, they are motivated. They are a real asset to our firefighting capabilities."
The Soldiers assigned to support the wildland firefighting response are simply an extension of the capability that already exists within the response framework.
"We have never used this equipment, so the (firefighters) are training us on this as we go, said Capt. Lyla Furey, 14th BEB. "They are teaching us how to properly pack our equipment, as well as teaching us the proper wear of our gear."
At the completion of this stage, the JBLM Soldiers will move forward to the Mendocino fire suppression base camp.
"They are tremendously excited to fight these fires and to serve our nation. I am tremendously proud of them. We have a great team. We are ready to deploy and eager to help," Parthemore concluded.
For additional photos and video coverage of the training, please go to https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/2018WILDLANDFIREFIGHTING.