Four New York Air National Guard airmen deploy to assist Oregon wildfire containment

Staff Sergeant Jacob Buker, left, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller, 113th Air Support Operations Squadron, Terra Haute, Ind., checks the Rover feed during a close air support mission with Staff Sergeant Paul Cange, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller, 274th Air Support Operations Squadron, Syracuse, during a training exercise Aug. 9, 2016.

Four New York Air National Guard airmen deploy to assist Oregon wildfire containment

Air-ground tactical air controllers to work in support of wildfire suppression

Four New York Air National Guard members of the 274th Air Support Operations Squadron deployed this week to Grants Pass, Ore., to assist firefighters contain a wildfire that forced the evacuation of more than 700 local citizens from their homes in southwest Oregon.

The Airmen, based at the Hancock Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, traveled to Spokane, Ore., over the past weekend for individual training with civil authorities to integrate aviation operations in wildland firefighting.

The airmen are Joint Tactical Air Controllers, known as JTACs, and are highly skilled experts in integrating aviation capabilities for ground forces. The training provides an additional qualification for supporting civil authorities.

Oregon Army National Guard Pfc. Solomon Quijano, with Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 218th Field Artillery Regiment, checks for hot spots during a firefighting training exercise at the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in Salem, Ore., Aug. 28, 2017.

The four join nearly 150 other members of the Oregon National Guard called to duty to assist in wildfire suppression of the Garner Complex fires later this week by Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

The New York Airmen were requested by the Air National Guard and the National Interagency Fire Center over the weekend and began operations earlier this week. They will remain on site in support as wildfire containment efforts continue and are expected to be on the mission until Aug. 22.

The JTACs will be employed by local incident command firefighters to map fire breaks and control lines to assist in the containment of the fire.

“These four JTACs bring a special skill set along with advance command and communications equipment systems that allow them to directly assist on scene commanders,” said Col. Gary Charlton II, Vice Commander of the 107th Attack Wing, the higher headquarters of the 274th.

“The information that they provide allows commanders to make real-time decisions to better combat the wildfires and add in the protection of life and property of those actively fighting the wildfires and those effected.”

The Grants Pass wildfire at Taylor Creek started July 15 from a lightning strike and is 39 square miles in circumference. The fire, covering some 25,000 acres, is about 30 percent contained as of Aug. 1, according to the Pacific Northwest National Incident Management Team.

More than 1,100 firefighters and support personnel are working to contain the fire and protect structures in the affected areas.

The 274th Air Support Operations Squadron regularly deploys members of the unit as teams. The squadron is a Tactical Air Control Party unit. The TACP team assumes command and control of NATO and U.S. strike aircraft when friendly forces are in close range of enemy forces.

The role of JTACs is to identify targets and make sure fighter aircraft neutralize the threat. The airmen will bring these air-ground integration skills to the firefighting incident command in Oregon to help contain the wildfire at Taylor Creek.

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