Rarely used military asset proves extremely valuable for wildfire response
July 4, 2012
CENTENNIAL, Colo. - Unifying the command of both National Guard and Active Duty military forces provides a unity of effort and a streamlined reach-back capability for incident commanders in need of military assets.
June 27, in an agreement between Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Secretary of Defense Leon Penetta, Col. Peter Byrne, a Colorado resident and Citizen-Airman, was appointed as the Dual-Status Commander for Joint Task Force Centennial for wildfire fighting support. Byrne serves fulltime as the commander of the Colorado National Guard’s standing Joint Task Force Centennial and is a former F-16 fighter pilot.
"Going to a Dual-Status Commander was a great stroke," said Rich Harvey, the incident commander for the Waldo Canyon Fire response. "It allowed me to integrate them (military forces) in a legitimate engagement way through a single point of contact and we used the heck out of them."
"What the Dual-Status Commander allowed me to do is put active duty forces into our world,” Harvey added. “Without this guy I cannot deploy those assets."
The Dual-Status Commander concept allows a single individual to command both National Guard and Active Duty forces within the United States. This unity of command fosters a unity of effort to ensure that the right forces are being used for the right mission and provides a single line of request when an incident commander requires military support.
National Guard and Active Duty have been seamlessly working hand-in-hand for more than 10 years as a total force in overseas contingencies. Helping our friends, families and fellow citizens is a valuable and natural extension of that partnership.
Byrne was appointed as the first Dual-Status Commander to serve in an operational capacity for an emergency response event. Additionally, Byrne is the first to be appointed as a Dual-Status Commander for a wildfire response mission.
"It's an honor and a privilege to serve as the Dual-Status Commander," said Byrne. "I couldn’t be more proud of my staff and our forces in the field. Their expertise and professionalism are being recognized at every level."
"My only hope is that we are able to effectively impact this mission and lay to rest many of the stresses that residents, affected by the fire, have had related to looting," said Byrne. "As a resident and Citizen-Airman of Colorado, I take this mission personally. My heart goes out to all the fire victims. Know that we will do everything in our power, in support of the incident commander and local agencies, to protect you from further damage and loss."
News Story: National Guard Dual-Status Commander appointed for Colorado wildfires
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