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    New Mexico National Guard Responds to the Dog Head Fire

    New Mexico National Guard Responds to the Dog Head Fire

    Photo By 1st Lt. Anna Doo | The New Mexico National Guard was activated June 15, 2016, to respond to the Dog Head...... read more read more



    Story by 2nd Lt. Anna Doo 

    Joint Force Headquarters, New Mexico National Guard

    TIJERAS, N.M. - The New Mexico National Guard was activated June 15, 2016, to respond to the Dog Head Fire burning south of Tijeras, N.M., in Bernalillo and Torrance Counties. Airmen and Soldiers arrived on site to support local law enforcement officials as well as civilian first response organizations.

    Beginning on the first full day of State Active Duty on June 16, shifts consisting of more than 20 Airmen from the 150th Special Operations Wing accompanied Bernalillo County Sheriffs and State Police manning road blocks on NM 337 and going door-to-door in mandatory evacuation areas.

    Airmen from the 150th SOW were also providing assistance at the Los Vecinos Community Center in Tijeras, N.M. They provided vehicle access control, information to citizens arriving, as well as those bringing in donations. In addition, they assisted the animal services personnel with receipt of and logging in of pets as well as delivery of donated food and supplies.

    Master Sgt. Jessica M. Lamb, 150th Force Support Squadron, said, “We are out here collecting donations, guiding people, making sure the pets and animals are safe, and doing what we can do helping the community. I just wish I could do more,” she said. “This is my way of doing it, wish there was more we could do, but whatever I can do to help.”

    On June 17, Soldiers from the 642nd Component Repair Company began providing traffic control points on NM 337 and additional locations in Torrance County keeping citizens from re-entering mandatory evacuation areas. Beginning later that day, Soldiers from the 126th and 919th Military Police Companies began providing presence patrols of residential areas that were evacuated as well as additional traffic control points. The Airmen continued to work in twelve hour shifts alongside their Army, Bernalillo County Sheriffs, Torrance County law enforcement and State Police counterparts.

    In addition, about 17 Soldiers with the Army National Guard’s 720th and 1116th Transportation Companies along with resources from the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 111th Sustainment Brigade, began conducting water haul missions for livestock in need on June 17. According to 1st Sgt. Julian Gonzales, 1116th Trans. Co. first sergeant, as of midday June 20, the water haul mission had delivered more than 10,400 gallons of water to nine ranchers who chose to not adhere to the mandatory evacuations in order to care for their livestock. Gonzales said these individuals were along the southern and eastern edges of the fire line and needed the National Guard’s assistance in maintaining the welfare of their animals.

    Sgt. 1st Class Francisco Aldridge, a Soldier with the 1116th Trans. Co., said, “It’s great working with the locals. They are showing so much appreciation for keeping their livestock fed and watered.” As with many Citizen-Soldiers Aldridge has a personal tie to the affected communities. “My wife’s family is from Chilili, so I have a personal obligation to them,” he said.

    An additional liquid resource provided by the water haul mission was to continuously top off the large troughs used by the firefighters to refill their tinder trucks. Gonzales said more than 2,800 gallons had been provided to assist directly with the firefighting efforts. The Soldiers also delivered water to the Torrance County fairgrounds helping to keep cows, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, horses, ducks, chickens and fish alive and hydrated.

    One of the large challenges for the Guard and law enforcement officials in these remote locations was communication. Cell phone coverage was spotty at best in some areas and radio communication took some time to establish across the agencies. Fortunately, old-fashioned runners with plenty of fuel in their vehicles helped the flow of information among the organizations remain steady. One solution though, was the arrival of the joint team of the 64th Civil Support Team – Weapons of Mass Destruction who are providing communication assistance along with a specialized Air National Guard mobile communications center.

    Throughout the National Guard response to the Dog Head Fire, between 40 and 70 guardsmen have been working round the clock in support of the law enforcement personnel and the emergency management sectors. The Air National Guard has held steady at about 25 personnel each shift with the Army National Guard’s numbers increasing from about 20 the first day to more than 45 each twelve hour rotation by June 20. All missions the National Guard is involved in are directed through the Emergency Operations Centers beginning at the local level, up to the state and NMNG level, then back down to the Soldiers and Airmen actually on the ground. The National Guard has numerous capabilities, resources, and assets but each mission is carefully vetted and managed by those emergency operations agencies.

    The New Mexico National Guard Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Andrew Salas, visited the Airmen and Soldiers at the Tijeras emergency operations center at the James McGrane Public Safety Complex. “We don’t normally have the level of quick reaction and early-on support of the Air Guard like we’ve seen with this particular fire. Our Army Guard brothers and sisters are normally first on scene when there’s a domestic emergency. You here in the Air Guard are somewhat of pioneers with the scope of contribution in this particular incident,” said Salas. “Your governor is very proud of you and of what you do to defend America but also what you do to protect the lives and property of our citizens here at home.”

    The Governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, spoke with the New Mexico National Guard's Airmen and Soldiers during their shift change June 18, 2016. She expressed her gratitude to the service members and their quick response to the citizens of New Mexico. Martinez spoke of the calming nature the Guard brings to the situation and the professionalism they have displayed throughout the operation.

    “I just wanted to come out and thank you all very much,” said Martinez. “You are responsive every single time that we’ve had an emergency. I just want to let you know we are grateful. You have been integral to securing those roadways that are blocked so there is no entry into the evacuated areas. The people that are terrified right now are extremely grateful that you are here.”

    The Airmen and Soldiers of the New Mexico National Guard live and work in these communities. They are quick to volunteer whenever the Governor calls a State of Emergency, eager to assist their fellow New Mexicans in times of need. They will continue to conduct missions as long as directed to do so, then recover and be prepared to help when called upon again.



    Date Taken: 06.20.2016
    Date Posted: 06.20.2016 19:22
    Story ID: 201848
    Location: ALBUQUERQUE, NM, US 

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