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Fort is diligent in preparing to battle fire
SIERRA VISTA Herald/Review ^ | Bill Hess

Posted on 06/25/2011 8:23:21 AM PDT by SandRat

FORT HUACHUCA — This southern Arizona Army post is on a war footing.

But the enemy is not a foreign power — it’s fire.

As with anything involving the nation’s armed forces, operational plans have been developed and additional resources called forward to deny Mother Nature her way.

The fort’s response is both defensive and offensive, Garrison Commander Col. Timothy Faulkner said, adding commanders of all units are being kept in the loop to provide manpower and other assistance needed to fight the Monument Fire’s attempt to breach the post’s boundaries.

A large portion of military intelligence training has been curtailed, especially in the areas where soldiers would have been participating in field training exercises, the aviation battalion which is training soldiers in operating and maintaining unmanned aerial systems have seen flights canceled, Signal Corps soldiers who were scheduled to go on leave after returning from Iraq or to leave the fort for permanent assignment to a Texas installation, and who recently returned from Afghanistan, and others are preparing defensive lines — fire breaks — and clearing vegetation from around structures, he said.

During a Friday interview with the Herald/Review, Faulkner said a plane with more than 200 soldiers was to arrive at the fort’s Libby Army Airfield in the afternoon bringing soldiers from basic training to start advance individual training in a number of intelligence disciplines.

“We might hand them a rake or shovel,” as they leave the airplane and say, “Welcome to Arizona,” the garrison commander said.

The seriousness of the situation is well known and having the military do what it does best — plan an operation, execute it and complete a mission — is happening, the colonel said.

General issues strict order

The commander of the Intelligence Center of Excellence and the fort, Brig. Gen. Gregg Potter, recently issued “General Order Number 1,” Faulkner said.

Although he expects the order to be lifted as the situation improves, until it is the general directed all military personnel assigned to the post, regardless of military service, to be able to respond to the fort’s recall within two hours, not be more than 50 miles away and not to drink alcoholic beverages, Faulkner said.

Additionally, a number of other military assets, including extra military police and firefighters, have arrived on the fort to assist in security and operations involving the blaze, he said.

The additional resources are from Fort Bliss and Fort Hood, Texas, White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and Fort Carson, Colo., the garrison commander said.

One of the major efforts happened late Thursday night and continued into Friday when a 1,000-acre controlled burn, along with a similar fire outside the gate’s perimeter, were set to deny the Monument Fire any access to not only the post but to some civilian housing areas near he installation, Faulkner said.

The large fire on the fort Thursday and Friday had a number of supporting firefighters, including Fort Bliss personnel and local off-post departments, as well as assets combating the Monument Fire, the garrison commander said.

Post integral in fighting fire

As the post prepares to protect its functions and families, it also is an area where multiple agencies are using facilities to attack the fire, which began on June 12, he said.

“My airfield (Libby) has been doing nonstop operations,” Faulkner said.

The airfield supports the U.S. Forest Service Air Tanker Base, where fixed-wing planes are located, and on the municipal side of the runway where helicopters have been extremely busy, the colonel commented.

Beside the troops working on defensive lines and supporting major efforts of others to bring the fire under control, Faulkner said leaders on the fort have to ensure if an evacuation is necessary, military families are provided for, as the military continues with it efforts.

From the time the fire began at the Coronado National Memorial nearly two weeks ago, efforts by those who are working for the Northern Rockies Incident Command have aggressively attacked the blaze.

“We are cautiously optimistic, even though we are under a pre-evacuation plan,” Faulkner said of the post. “It has slowed down.”

But it doesn’t mean anyone can stop being concerned, he said.

The post’s command center is operating 24 hours a day, responding not only to local needs but keeping higher headquarters, the Installation Management Command, Training and Doctrine Command and Army headquarters, informed many times a day of what is happening on the ground and what is needed, the colonel said.

Staff support is fortwide

Noting some of his staff and others on the fort who live off post have had to evacuate, Faulkner said it could have negatively impacted the emergency operations center, but other units on the fort stepped up to provide experts.

The Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command (Army) provided a highly experienced plans person, the Intelligence Center an equally qualified operations officer and the list goes on, he said.

A special account for obligating funds to obtain equipment and to pay for movement of support systems has been set up, the colonel said. So far, the amount which has been obligated is more than $4 million.

Part of the money was to pay for trucking firefighting equipment from other installations to Arizona, to save time, Faulkner said.

When it comes to soldiers, they expect “good old-fashioned leadership … they want to be given a specific mission and the means to accomplish it,” the garrison commander said.

Standing on one of the main ranges on the post, with smoke coming up from Garden Canyon, where the controlled burn was, Faulkner said there is danger in fighting any fire.

It also includes controlled burns, he said.

Where the 1,000 acres were put to the torch Thursday night is a major training area which in the past the fort used for tank gunnery and continues to use for mortar fire training.

Those who were going to be involved in the controlled burn “listened intently” during the safety briefing about the various types of rounds previously fired, what they look like and even though inert, they carried some explosives.

“I’ve never seen such a quiet bunch at a safety briefing,” Faulkner said.

While the current signs are that the Monument Fire is abating, the garrison commander only could say he continues to keep an eye on what could happen, especially in the weather realm.

“We don’t want any dry lightning,” Faulkner said, as he watched small wisps of smoke continuing to rise in Garden Canyon.

TOPICS: Military/Veterans; Outdoors
KEYWORDS: arizona; fire; forest; huachuaca

1 posted on 06/25/2011 8:23:25 AM PDT by SandRat
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To: SandRat
But the enemy is not a foreign power

Yes it is, since ultimately, it was illegals who set the fire.

2 posted on 06/25/2011 8:44:11 AM PDT by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus ("Armed forces abroad are of little value unless there is prudent counsel at home." - Cicero)
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To: SandRat; zot; Interesting Times

SandRat, thanks for the post. I went through the basic and advanced MI courses there back in the late 70s and early 80s.

3 posted on 06/25/2011 11:41:07 AM PDT by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: GreyFriar

Ah, another fine member of the MI Corps. My basic / advanced was in 83 and 86, ets there in 1993. Fond memories, beautiful country.

4 posted on 06/25/2011 11:57:14 AM PDT by Godzilla (3-7-77)
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To: SandRat

I miss old Fort woochie coochie... :)

5 posted on 06/25/2011 6:09:27 PM PDT by ColdSteelTalon (Light is fading to shadow, and casting its shroud over all we have known...)
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To: GreyFriar

Thanks for the ping.

The article didn’t say whether the backfire set off any old artillery or mortar shells in that firing range.

6 posted on 06/25/2011 8:33:35 PM PDT by zot
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