Army trains to fight wildfires

Army units out of Fort Campbell, Ky., are being trained for a different kind of fight: wildfires.

Parts of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade have trained at Fort Campbell to assist in fighting wildfires both in the area or if needed in Colorado where a series of wildfires started June 23 burning 17,827 acres and forcing more than 30,000 people to evacuate.

Bambi Bucket training was conducted Friday in Fort Campbell and involved two units, one in the air in CH-47 Chinook helicopters, and one on the ground which conducted air traffic control.

The buckets are the containers used to hold up to 2,000 gallons of water, weighing around 18,000 pounds before spillage. Bambi Bucket drops are used to create fire brakes in wildfire situations. The Army units work closely with forestry service members and air traffic control units.


Photos taken by Lynnette Oostmeyer

“The biggest thing with missions like this is crew coordination between the air crew and the ground crew. We have to make sure we get the water on target when and where they want it, they express their intent to us so we don’t have mis-drops,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Dechent said.

The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, with air traffic support from the seventh Battalion — 101st Aviation Regiment — made several runs at Lake Kyle in Fort Campbell in which they practiced dropping the water on target at specified locations.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Pena-Reyes was in charge of training the crew in the CH-47 Chinook helicopter on their various tasks.

“This is an extremely versatile aircraft,” Pena-Reyes said. “It can carry cargo, troops, fly at high altitudes, fight fires state side and in combat zones, pretty much any mission you can think of this helicopter can do.”

With extremely dry conditions affecting much of the country wildfires have become a real threat.

Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Carl, public affairs representative, said the Colorado fires are being watched very closely by the unit, and that this was one of the final stages in the units training who are ready to deploy if called.

Pena-Reyes said it is part of the job of the U.S. Army to help wherever needed.

“We pretty much all have it in mind and are all ready to go. If worse comes to worse this is what we trained for,” he said. “We will just take it as another mission, whether it’s in Colorado or anywhere else in the world we will think of it as a mission and treat it as such.”


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