News: 4th CAB attends Buckley Firefighting Conference
Story by Sgt. Jonathan Thibault
DENVER — Cascading water flowed over pinpointed targets from bright orange buckets that dangled from helicopters as a multitude of military and emergency agencies participated in the 2014 Buckley Firefighting Training Conference in Denver, March 25.
Aviation Soldiers from 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, attended the conference for the first time in preparation for the upcoming wildfire season.
“When there are emergencies, I usually take on the role of task force commander or task force executive officer of the Colorado Army National Guard,” said Maj. Kenneth J. Walsh Jr., commander, COARNG Army Aviation Support Facility. “(4th CAB) is a large force multiplier for us, and we are happy to have their proven firefighting capabilities on board with us.”
Walsh said that the most important part of the conference was synchronization of all the agencies involved and building relationships beyond affiliations.
“Synchronizing different agencies to talk and effectively communicate with each other is difficult, which is why it is the most important aspect to work on,” said Walsh. “Learning each other’s language and combining it into one is the key to our collective success. We add to that success by building personal relationships beyond what agency a person comes from. We don’t know the CAB anymore by 2nd GSAB, 4th Aviation Regiment. We know them as Maj. Eric Carlson and so forth. These two major factors make us all successful.”
The training increased the Colorado Springs Fire Department’s familiarity with 4th CAB’s equipment, prior to an event that may require their assistance, said Kevin Simpson, CSFD firefighter.
“4th CAB is the closest aviation resource to us and can provide a fast aviation response to an incident in the Colorado Springs area,” said Simpson. “Potentially, the CAB can help CSFD in many ways by providing bucket drops on wildfires, hoist rescue missions during major flooding, or as an aerial observation platform during an ‘all-hazard’ event. As witnessed during the Black Forest Fire and the Boulder flood events, 4th CAB played an integral part in the wildfire suppression and rescue missions.”
The training during the conference was useful to the CAB because it better prepares it for the upcoming fire season.
“During the Black Forest fires and Boulder floods, we had partial training with the other emergency agencies,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Adam Wagner, battalion Black Hawk standardization officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd GSAB. “We had to learn quickly and form procedures according to the emergency on the spot. This type of training especially helps us because Colorado received less than average rainfall this year, which heightens likelihood of fires during the wildfire season. We want to be as prepared as much as possible and build relationships with all the emergency entities to better support them and incorporate ourselves to better serve the Front Range.”
Wagner said that communication is a major component for 4th CAB to be a strong asset to the Colorado communities and gives valuable resources to the Front Range.
“Communication is the key to everything we do,” said Wagner. “If we can’t communicate, we can’t operate. It’s one of the most difficult things we have to do but that is what the conference was built to relieve. The CAB offers a variety of resources to include medical aircraft, heavy lift stuff and multiple types of equipment and people.”
The conference leads to a better response time and gives information on the type of manpower that we have access to, said John K. Hamilton, regional aviation safety manager, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
“Knowing the strengths of the CAB and other entities gives us more flexibility in terms of our initial response capabilities,” said Hamilton. “This conference allows us to put our regulations together and come up with a common procedure to let us respond with the accurate amount of manpower.”
Colorado wildfires are every agency’s responsibility, said Jane M. Lopez, deputy chief of Wildland Fire Planning and Preparedness, Department of Public Safety, and Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
“This particular exercise will facilitate and bolster the communication between the agencies,” said Lopez. “Wildfires are no longer a single agency’s problem. The more we train together; the better we will be working in emergency conditions.”
The conference training was realistically beneficial and is progressive for the CAB.
“The training was excellent,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas McNamara, CH-47 Chinook instructor pilot, Company B, 2nd GSAB. “It might as well (have) been a real scenario, but it didn’t have real fires. We look forward to returning next year and hope we are even better than we already are.”
CSFD and the other emergency agencies are happy to have 4th CAB in Colorado and look forward to improving their relationship with them.
“I am proud to have the 4th CAB in Colorado Springs,” said Simpson. “The men and women of the 4th CAB are true professionals with a ‘can-do’ attitude that is contagious. It was a great honor to work with them during the Buckley Firefighting Conference. I look forward to strengthening our great relationship. Our working relationship is a great example of the partnership between local and state government and the Department of Defense in using military resources in support of civilian missions during catastrophic events.”