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    Escaping the fire During the CSTX 91-16-02!



    Story by 1st Lt. Kevin Braafladt 

    91st Training Division (Operations)

    FORT HUNTER-LIGGETT, Calif. As Army Reserve Soldiers we are expected to be able to quickly adapt to changing situations during stressful times and you would anticipate that during a training exercise, like the 91st Training Division’s Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX), there would be a number of situations where you would experience a scenario like that. However, the Soldiers of the 824th Transportation Battalion out of Topeka, Ks. experienced a unique challenge that was not planned for the CSTX when a forest fire quickly exploded and raced towards their Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) Milpitas.

    An advance party of Soldiers of the 824th Transportation Battalion, which had been assigned as senior mission command for TAA Milpitas, had arrived on May 30, 2016 in preparation for the CSTX and by the morning of June 4, 2016 their entire camp footprint had been set up along with accompanying vehicles with about 155 Soldiers already on ground. The 824th was just awaiting their remaining Soldiers to arrive, which were to number approximately 650 to 700 additional Soldiers, and be processed through the Reception Staging Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI) station.

    By the afternoon of June 4, the Soldiers at TAA Milpitas had been keeping an eye on a fire which had started to the south of their position on Fort Hunter Liggett. Efforts were being made by the Command at TAA Milpitas to share resources with fire crews fighting the fire. A short time later they received word that another fire had started to their north east off of the installation but due to wind conditions was headed in their direction. Master Sgt. Christian Beeler described that they had received word directing him and his fellow soldiers to evacuate immediately from post Range Control as the fire was rapidly approaching their location. An evacuation plan was quickly set up to establish accountability for all of their Soldiers on ground and for as much equipment to be safely evacuated as possible including to full fuel takers.

    Once the majority of the Soldiers had been evacuated fire crews along with 824th Command inspected every tent and vehicle prior to fully leaving the TAA to ensure every Soldier was accounted for. The Soldiers moved from TAA Milpitas to TAA Schoonover, arriving after dark. An additional 250 Soldiers arrived from the RSOI station to TAA Schoonover and everyone had to make do with the current situation of which many slept under the stars for the evening.

    By 0500 on June 5, 2016 it was deemed that the immediate fire danger at TAA Milpitas was over but it was now Fire Camp Milpitas to be used by firefighting crews fighting the blaze. The 824th Soldiers received word that they would be allowed back in to retrieve their remaining gear and to move it to TAA Oak where their location would be for the duration of the exercise. So the remaining equipment, including 40 full size shipping containers, trash dumpsters and remaining vehicles were packed up and moved to TAA Oak in a 100 vehicle convoy.

    The professionalism, coordination between units and quick reaction of these Army Reserve Soldiers, as Master Sgt. Christian Beeler said, during the evacuation, temporary housing at TAA Schoonover then movement and re-establishment of their location at TAA Oak resulted in zero injuries, and zero lost or damaged equipment. They did it so quickly and efficiently that the units were ready to begin training at the end of the RSOI phase of the exercise. The 824th Battalion Commander is Lt. Col. David Alberts.



    Date Taken: 06.06.2016
    Date Posted: 06.09.2016 18:58
    Story ID: 200566
    Location: JOLON, CA, US 

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