Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. - A large group of about 200 soldiers returned home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) on Thursday after a month-long mission supporting firefighting efforts on the Dixie Fire in California.
The soldiers were welcomed back with an end-of-mission award ceremony recognizing their commitment and effort to help contain the second-largest wildfire in California’s history.
The Dixie Fire has started on July 13 and has burned more than 960-thousand acres. Firefighters said it’s about 94 percent contained and hope to have it fully under control just before Oct. 31.
"We drove through a town called Greenville that had been decimated by the fire and it was an incredibly humbling experience to be able to see the impact we are having on people, to be able to see why we were out there serving our fellow man," said Pfc. Johnathon Ellis, US Army. "I’ve just been incredibly humbled by the entire experience and I hope to be able to further help people in the future in different ways like this."
"The tribal elders came out to talk to us about the impact the fire has had on the land," said Cpl. Isabelle Monjaraz, US Army. " There was no cost to what we were doing. There was no tiredness because you were just working to help. It’s really opened my heart so much to being called to serve the people of the United States."
JBLM has a long history of supporting the wildland firefighting mission, according to Lt. Col. David Stalker. The soldiers received classroom training at JBLM then two days of hands-on training at the Dixie Fire to certify with the National Interagency Fire Center Before going to the fire line.
"I think the moment the soldiers across the board got on the fire line and you saw an active burning fire, not only to your left, but your right and also in front of you, I think their sense of purpose became codified," said Lt. Col Stalker.
The soldiers who talked to FOX13 said it was a significant experience and one they’d do again if called to serve.
"I just think that it was a really great opportunity for me and my soldiers to grow, and I’d love to do it again if I could," said 2nd Lt. John Clark, US Army.
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