About 200 soldiers from the Army’s 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division are being mobilized this week to help fight historical wildfires currently ravaging America’s northwest, officials said Tuesday.
The soldiers hail from across the brigade and will be working with civilian firefighters and the National Interagency Fire Center to prepare for the mission, which could begin within a week, according to an Army release.
As the Mendocino Complex fire continues to ravage northern California with an historic inferno, Army officials said it was not clear whether the soldiers would be sent there or if they were needed to battle fires elsewhere.
Fire center officials did not immediately respond to questions about where the soldiers are headed.
While the majority of soldiers deploying for the 30 days requested by the fire center are combat engineers, the jobs required of the soldiers don’t require particular Army skill sets, according to 7th Infantry Division spokesman Lt. Col. Roger Cabiness.
“Soldiers are well suited for this strenuous mission because they are smart, disciplined, physically fit, well led, and they come with an established command structure that enables mission accomplishment,” Cabiness said in an email.
Soldiers begin training on Thursday at Washington State’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord and will be certified by fire center officials “through a rigorous training environment prior to participating in the mission,” according to the Army release.
They will learn fire terminology, behavior and safety, while getting trained up on “watch out situations” and standard firefighting orders, among other topics.
“Paramount to this mission is the safety of our soldiers,” Cabiness said. “NIFC will conduct wildlife safety training at [Joint Base Lewis-McChord] prior to deployment and upon arrival to the fire suppression base camp,” he said. “This training includes classroom instruction, safety equipment training, and hands-on learning.”
Soldiers will train with the civilian team leaders and crew bosses that they will deploy with, Cabiness said.
“These teams will not leave the base camp until both the civilian and military leaders are assured that the soldiers are trained and ready,” he said.
Soldiers will begin with basic tasks like clearing brush and creating fire breaks and may end up doing more advanced jobs like mop ups and burn out operations, Cabiness said.
Division soldiers helped the fire center last September, when about 200 soldiers were deployed to fight the North Umpqua Complex fires in Oregon.
About 150 Washington National Guard soldiers were mobilized last week to help fight wildfires in the eastern part of the state.