By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
Approximately 40 Idaho Citizen-Solders are now equipped with the knowledge and training to fight wildland fires, as the Idaho National Guard hosted its first wildland firefighting training course at Gowen Field, Idaho, June 15-19 and June 22-26.
Although Gowen Field and the Orchard Combat Training Center fire departments have qualified wildland firefighters, this is the first time the five-day courses have been offered to non-firefighter Guardsmen, enabling them the opportunity to earn an Incident Qualification Card, commonly known as a Red Card certification.
As Soldiers become certified by Idaho Department of Lands, they are prepared to assist firefighting efforts in the event the governor declares a state emergency. Additionally, it allows the Guardsmen the opportunity to learn a new skill they can use for job opportunities within the military or the civilian workforce.
“The Idaho National Guard is proud to offer our Soldiers the opportunity to participate in this entry-level firefighter course,” said Brig. Gen. Russ Johnson, director of the joint staff. “It enables us to enhance our capability to respond to local, state and federal calls with trained and qualified wildland firefighters.”
The Soldiers who were willing and able to complete training standards for this course are also willing and able to volunteer for state activation during the fire season, Aug. 1 through Nov. 30 of this year, if requested.
“We want to train and Red Card certify as many as 200-300 Guardsmen over the next several years,” said Lt. Col. Tony Vincelli, director of strategic plans for the joint staff. “It’s part of our overall strategy that the Idaho National Guard be prepared to support any domestic emergency.”
The week consisted of two online introduction courses leading into 32 hours of training in the Basic Firefighting and Wildland Fire Behavior courses and the demonstration of individual physical fitness by completing a pack test consisting of a three-mile ruck march carrying a 45-pound pack in less than 45 minutes.
“I have always been one to just go for it and volunteer for everything,” said Spc. Tatiana Campbell from Bravo Company, 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion. “As one of the few females signed up for the course, I was pretty impressed with the physical challenge of it. Physically it wasn’t too hard on me, but if you are physically fit, it’s going to be easier on you.”
National Guard Bureau provides funding for specific wildfire prevention and protection activities. These courses were offered at Gowen Field at no cost to the Idaho Guardsmen. When available, this funding is provided annually to Idaho and other western states prone to wildland fires.
“Wildland firefighting is something I have always wanted to do,” said Sgt. Nolan Myer from the 148th Field Artillery Regiment. “Within 45 minutes of getting the email that there was a wildland firefighting course being offered, I sent an email immediately back and signed right up.”
The IDL and the OCTC firefighters taught the course and at the end of each of the weeklong courses, the IDL certified those individuals who met the qualifications and issued their Red Cards. Every year those individuals can recertify to maintain their skills and Red Card certification.
“This unique training compliments the existing levels of specialized capability that currently exist in the Idaho National Guard,” said Johnson. “And it further reinforces our commitment to serving and protecting our great citizens.”