Joint Task Force Civil Support aids California National Guard response to wildfires

By Staff Sgt. Chris Hale | JTF-CS Public Affairs | October 31, 2007

FORT MONROE, Va. -- In support of the Department of Defense’s response to the wildfires that have hit Southern California, Chief Petty Officer Roberto Montoto, a Joint Task Force Civil Support intelligence specialist, deployed as part of a seven-person planning team to Sacramento to support the California Army and Air National Guard’s state-level planning effort.

The planning team, comprised of military planners with expertise in medicine, intelligence, logistics, military operations, air operations, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosives, will work out of the state’s Joint Force Headquarters.

Montoto, who has experience in managing both manned and unmanned aerial reconnaissance aircraft, was immediately able to put his expertise to work in assisting the California National Guard manage their assets

“Mainly what we’ve been working … at the [Joint Force Headquarters] is [Incident Awareness Assessment] flights,” said Montoto.  “I’ve been able to help them better understand the requirements process, which in turn helps them leverage their organic assets, ultimately helping the incident commander and firefighters on the ground.”

Montoto explained that once a requirement from the incident commander - the fire chief on the ground in charge of fighting a particular fire or group of fires - has been identified, the incident command team must decide which aerial asset is right for the job.

“The incident commanders need information in order to effectively fight the fires,” said Montoto.  “We’ve got to figure out which platform has the sensor package that will answer the incident commander’s requirement.  Do they need an overview? Do they need to know where the hot spots are?  Do they need real-time imaging?”

Each requirement must be carefully analyzed to provide the quickest response possible.  Montoto said that, depending on the requirement, they could send up a plane to take photos that cover many square miles, or a different aircraft with the ability to provide slow-motion, streaming video directly to the incident commander. 

ther air platforms have infrared sensors that can show where the hottest parts of the fires are.

Montoto credited his ability to help the California National Guard during this disaster to his time at JTF-CS.

“The expertise I’ve gained while at JTF-CS has really helped out here,” said Montoto.  He explained his time at JTF-CS has given him a better understanding of both the National Response Plan and Defense Support of Civi Authorities.

“Understanding the NRP and DSCA has been very helpful,” he said.  “While I’m working with [National Guard] and not [federal] troops, the principles are the same.  I’ve been able to bring that knowledge to the California National Guard, and they can extract the portions that are appropriate to what we are doing now, and what they may need in the future.”

 JTF-CS is a standing joint task force charged with providing operational control of DoD forces deployed to support a primary agency during a CBRNE incident.  Its mission is to save lives, prevent injury and provide temporary critical life support.

For additional information or an interview, please contact JTF-CS public affairs at (757) 788-6633.