FORT HARRISON, Mont. –Seven Montana Army National Guard Soldiers with the 1049th Firefighter Detachment, 1051st Firefighter Tactical Group completed pre mobilization training in November on Fort Harrison, Montana. The Soldiers are preparing for a year-long mobilization to Romania next spring to provide fire fighting support.
The 1051st spent their pre mobilization training brushing up on their army tasks, such as qualification with individual weapons and grenades.
“What we're doing here today helps prepare us for the [mobilization],” said Spc. Kyle VanAtta, a firefighter with the 1051st. “Because first and foremost you’re a Soldier before your MOS (Military Occupation Specialty), so if anything goes awry downrange we'll have the tactical capabilities to deal with it.”
This will be the first mobilization for all of the Soldiers. For VanAtta, it is a welcome surprise, having just joined the unit in July, 2020.
For 1051st Crew Chief Sgt. Nicholas Evola, it’s the accomplishment of a long awaited goal.
“I spent four years [as an] active duty [Soldier], expecting to travel and never did,'' said Evola.“I joined the National Guard and I have traveled way more since.”
The 1051st’s pre mobilization training is one of the final steps toward getting boots off the ground, but the efforts it has taken to get to this point go months back. Station Chief Sgt. Jared Rubel has been working for more than a year to get his Soldiers ready to go.
“I got put on orders by the MOB (Mobilization) office to better prepare myself and the unit as a whole,” said Rubel. “[I’ve been working to get] all the different documents and forms that need to be done, training, and putting that together.”
In order to have a successful mission, not only does a team need all their military skills and paperwork up-to-date, they also need good camaraderie. The 1051st has no problems in that department.
“We all have some pretty good camaraderie, it's gonna be a good year down in Romania,” said VanAtta. “We all work well together...and that's going to help us be effective downrange.”
Rubel says he believes this will help immensely when the team is overseas.
Effective training missions are greatly improved when the Soldiers to your left and right are also friends.
“Everybody gets along pretty well and we're pretty close so it helps out quite a bit in keeping morale up and getting through the training,” said Rubel. “They're coming along pretty good, you know, they know what their jobs are, they know what they're supposed to do and they get it done.”
Leaving behind family and friends is a part of the sacrifice service members have to make. Spc. Ryan Thurman, the only parent on the mobilization, is leaving behind his nine-month-old son.
“It's gonna suck, I’m going to miss his first steps and whatnot,” said Thurman. “But it's why we wear the uniform. That's just one of those things we’ve got to sacrifice.”
He believes the experience will only make him appreciate his family more. He also says the training the unit will receive in Romania will be very beneficial.
“I think one of the biggest takeaways from this [mobilization] is how important teamwork is,” said Thurman. “We're a pretty close team, and we're gonna learn a lot over there and be able to bring it back for our unit.”
Other Soldier’s are excited about various experiences they will be exposed to in Romania.
VanAtta says he looks forward to the military benefits that come with serving active duty for a year, such as education benefits. He also values the full-time firefighting experience he will be able to bring home to his unit.
“I've never actually spent a year working as a firefighter the entire time,” said Evola, excited about a year of day-to-day firefighting experience. “So there's going to be a new experience for me.”
He plans to use the training he receives overseas to gain a career as a firefighter.
They will return in spring 2022.