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NEWS | Sept. 28, 2023

Washington Army Guard to get new Firefighting Unit

By Joseph Siemandel, Washington National Guard

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. - Beginning next fiscal year, the Washington Army National Guard will have a new unit primarily focused on firefighting.

“The addition of engineer firefighting teams will provide tactical firefighting capability to the Pacific Northwest,” said Brig. Gen. Paul Sellars, commanding general of the Washington Army National Guard. “The capability will support units during exercise and fire events as well as provide additional regional support as required by requesting agencies.”

In November 2020, Washington Army National Guard leaders sent a memorandum to the National Guard Bureau requesting this team.

“We knew what the force structure could look like and found out that the Alabama Army National Guard wanted to divest of its firefighting team, so we jumped at the chance and worked with them to get a signed divest/invest memo,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Marc Brackett, who was the force integration readiness officer at the time of the request.

The unit will comprise seven 12M Army firefighter enlisted personnel. These firefighters attend a 13-week advanced individual training course and can earn up to 44 national-level certificates. At the time of the request, the Washington Army National Guard didn’t have any specially trained 12M Army firefighters. However, aggressive recruiting and the departure of many active-duty engineers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord filled the ranks quickly.

“We have a number of Guard personnel who are firefighters in their civilian capacity,” Sellars said. “The past decade of fighting wildfires with our state partners has given us valuable knowledge and skills. Having this unit is incredible.”

The engineer firefighting team will be stationed at Pangborn Memorial Airport in Wenatchee. It will continue to partner with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to provide wildland firefighting training and additional capabilities when activated.