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Jul 3, 2012 8:05 PM by Matt Stafford

Ft. Carson soldiers training to help with wildfires

It's been a horrible fire season across the country, and Colorado has seen some of the worst of it in Colorado. It's been so bad that Fort Carson soldiers are doing extra training in case they're called in to help, and they're doing it differently than in the past.

"Hit and go, hit and go!" a National Forest Service wild land firefighter instructs soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division; 1st BCT soldiers also received some training. They're learning how to build fire lines; a change from the training their used to but possibly needed if fire dangers get any worse this year across the country.

Officials say it's not directly related to the Waldo Canyon Fire burning nearby Colorado Springs, but more so about the nation's fire conditions.

"We're picking up new fires everyday," says Michelle Ryerson with the National Interagency Fire Center based out of Boise, ID. That's the command center for federal resources fighting wildfires. "We're at planning level four, level five is the highest."

At a moment's notice the 1,100 Fort Carson soldiers undergoing the training could be the group called in to help, so they're getting ready ahead of time. That's different from year's past. Usually, after being activated, the soldiers are trained on scene. However, this April Fort Carson put in a request to have their crews trained ahead of being called out. It's a proactive approach that's a first for the Army, and Fort Carson is taking the initiative.

"Should we need to mobilize the military this part of their training will be complete," says Ryerson.

There would still be some training for the soldiers to do once activated, but this is a head start. Forest Service crews are happy about the advanced training; when help is needed in an active fire situation, it's usually needed quickly. The crews are also happy with the quality of help they hope the soldiers are able to give.

"They're used to a lot of the hard work that we are; being out and being away from home and being away from family," says Brian Anderson with the National Forest Service. "It gives us a little peace of mind to know we're going to have folks that are just like us out there with us."

"We're used to dealing with change, making decisions and adjusting through to complete the mission," says Maj. Jason Eddy with the 3rd BCT, 4th ID.

They aren't using any real fires to put out during this training session because of conditions, but the soldiers are being coached by fire crews from across the country on exactly what to do; from how deep to dig a fire line to what kind of brush needs to cleared out of the way.

If deployed these Fort Carson units would be on a 30-day mission, and with so many fires burning that could be anywhere. Soldiers say this doesn't interrupt any of they're training for other military missions.

"If the nation needs us to go out and fight a fire we're ready to go." says Maj. Eddy.

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