CHEYENNE, Wyo. – How best to streamline firefighting efforts across state lines was the topic of discussion for more than 70 military members attending a planning conference in Cheyenne March 10.
Members from 17 states’ National Guards, and representatives from U.S. Northern Command, the National Guard Bureau, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Forest Service and many others convened at Little America in Cheyenne, to discuss how Army National Guard rotary wing assets can be utilized and synchronized to expedite response to individual states when a fire occurs.
A number of issues were discussed such as rotary wing fleets, travel distance, crew availability and capability, fiscal responsibility, training requirements, and how forces are requested and funded.
“It is important to discuss as a region, our assets, concerns and worries,” said Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, Wyoming’s adjutant general and the conference’s host. “Knowing availability and restrictions before the fire season begins is going to provide me and my counterparts a better common operating picture.”
Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, deputy director of operations for U.S. Northern Command, focused on the importance of interagency partners and being fiscally responsible throughout the firefighting process. “We want to be smart about utilizing that money. In order to make this a seamless operation we need to integrate everything together now. We have a really good relationship with NIFC and now is the time to engage them about sourcing assets,” he said.
By the end of the conference participants formed three committees: ground crew availability, aviation assets and availability, and interagency communication. The short term goal is by June 1 to identify all equipment and personnel available for use in the region, as well as the activation process for using them.
The long term objective is to be able to track and identify Army National Guard firefighting capabilities in the country.
The conference provided a good start to meeting that objective and allowed forces to be better prepared when going into this fire season than ever before.