About 250 soldiers are back at Joint Base Lewis-McChord after a three-week assignment fighting wildfires in Eastern Washington — the first time active-duty troops from JBLM had drawn that assignment in nine years.
The soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade helped suppress fires and protect homes from Aug. 22 to Sept. 11 on the Kaniksu Fire, one of the sprawling wildfires that collectively consumed more than 900,000 acres of land in the state. They returned to JBLM last week.
Firefighting deployments are common for the National Guard but rare for the active-duty Army.
The JBLM troops last month took a basic firefighting course before they headed east to support professional crews.
They represented a “surge” of workers who could free up advanced fire crews for my dangerous work attacking Northwest fires, said Rod Bloom, the military liaison officer for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
Lt. Col. John Dunwoody, who commands the artillery battalion, said his soldiers where quick learners who made a difference in a record-breaking fire season.
“The teamwork has been phenomenal; leadership can’t ask for more,” he said in a news release marking the return of the brigade’s 5th Battalion, 3rd Artillery Regiment.
It’s been a busy year for the battalion. Earlier this year, it completed a nine-month deployment to the United Arab Emirates. On their deployment, the soldiers participated in joint military exercises with allied armies in the Middle East and in shared regional defense.