Two hundred active-duty soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are training for a worst-case scenario as they prepare to head to the front lines of some of the worst wildfires California has ever seen.
“Usually you think of the Army going overseas to complete missions over there. But it’s nice to do something on the home front,” said Specialist Terron O’Connor.
O’Connor has been through this training before. He was with the last group of soldiers from JBLM that answered the call to help with wild land firefighting back in 2018.
According to Jim Platt with the National Interagency Fire Center, the training is intense. It takes place on the field and in the classroom.
“It’s a pretty tall task to say we’re going to pick up 200 soldiers and turn them into firefighters in a week,” Platt explained.
The soldiers are with the 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion. Their Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Wade, is excited to help.
They are being deployed to the August Complex Fire in Northern California, which is just one of several wildfires burning in the state.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to go out there and assist them with their mission so we can just hold the line to prevent any further spread,” Lt. Col. Wade said.
Once they get there, they’ll get another 2 days of training.
“I’m just glad we can assist really,” O’Connor said.
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