News: 340th Engineer Company conducts fire management exercises
Story by Spc. Amber Hoy
Custer State Park, S.D. - Engineers from the 340th Engineer Company conducted fire management in the Black Hills of South Dakota for their 2-week extended combat training starting on June 9, 2012.
“Fires are extremely likely in [the Black Hills] and that is something we are continually cognizant of during the exercise,” said Capt. Andy Yount, commander of the 340th Engineer Company.
Cutting down excess trees and clearing out dead trees that were victims of the pine beetle not only reduces the risk of fire spreading over a large area but it helps local Native American reservations have timber for the winter. The 340th Engineer Company mission was to load timber into trucks for a National Guard transportation company to deliver the timber to 15 different Native American reservations.
The Native American reservations will use the timber as firewood through the long South Dakota winter and also for ceremonial purposes.
“This humanitarian mission is important because brings troops together with the Native American nation,” said Sgt. 1st Class Naamam Lowry, Operation Non-commissioned Officer of the 340th Engineer Company. “[The mission] produces positive relations and it lessen the fire hazard in the area.”
Not far from where the timber was being loaded onto trucks, Soldiers, also from the 340th En. Company, worked on improving a fire trail at Custer State Park. The park already had a five-mile fire trail that the engineers smoothed out so that it would be accessible to emergency vehicles.
“[The mission] helps out the state parks and we get more training on the equipment,” said Pfc. Cooper J. Ware, horizontal construction engineer with the 340th En. Company, who is on his first ETC. “If there is ever a fire in this field there would be a fire break because of the trail. The improved trail also allows emergency vehicles to access the road faster that way the fire does not spread as far.”
While the fire trail improvement mission was completed on time, the mission faced some challenges because of local wild life.
“The wildlife in the Black Hills is a treat,” said Yount. “But the buffalo herds can completely engulf a project site and you are at a stand still until they decide to move on.”
The fire management and humanitarian missions were apart of the Golden Coyote Exercise that ran from June 9 to June 22, 2012.