Relationships key to firefighting response success

By Pfc. Adam C. Blazak | October 29, 2007

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- As the Defense Coordinating Officer of the California wildfires for U.S. Northern Command, Army Col. Mark Armstrong knows the importance of building concrete relationships with other agencies.

By providing Department of Defense support of civil authorities, Armstrong has been rubbing elbows with agencies at many different levels.

“One of the primary characteristics of the DCO concept is that I’m permanently assigned out in Region IX and work in the same building as the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” Armstrong said. "We’ve established a very comfortable working relationship, and we’ve been able to build trust and confidence in one another.”

People at the federal level are sitting at the table with officials at the state level working out response logistics, he continued.

“The partnership between the state and federal government is unprecedented,” he said.

Building professional relationships with other agencies pays off when disaster strikes.

“The most important thing we do on a daily basis is working hard on engagement strategies and building relationships with key personnel in the emergency management system,” Armstrong said. “We do this at the local, state and federal levels.

“In California, we have a very strong relationship with the National Guard,” he said. “We have a very good cooperation and coordination which is evident during these wildfires.”

California had demonstrated that they care for their people, he added.