FORT CARSON, Colo. (CBS4) – Usually the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade flies combat missions overseas but when it moved to Fort Carson in 2013 the soldiers knew they could find themselves on missions much closer to home.
Planning to use the 4th CAB to assist the Colorado National Guard began after 2012’s Waldo Canyon Fire.
“During the Waldo Canyon Fire, this aviation brigade was not here,” said Maj. Eric Carlson, Battalion Executive Officer, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Brigade. “Once the 4th CAB started to stand over Fort Carson, it was identified early that it was possible another fire could happen in Colorado or another natural disaster in which our helicopters would be needed.”
The first of those natural disasters was the Black Forest Fire, which started a year later.
“We could see the smoke to the north and everybody kind of went into ready mode,” said Capt. Alec Finlay, Battalion operations Officer, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment. “Just literally waiting to see if we were going to be called on to take action. We were preparing. We were literally waiting for the call to launch.”
Less than 24 hours after the fire started the 4th CAB was on the front lines, flying Chinooks and Black Hawks and using bambi buckets to drop water on the flames.
Over the course of fighting the wildfire from the air, the brigade flew 914 missions and dropped 689,970 gallons of water.
The soldiers on the ground had a different mission, one that involved taking off uniforms to take on the role of American Red Cross volunteers.
“The call came out from the Fort Carson Chapter of the Red Cross that they needed support when the residents went back in the Black Forest,” CW2 Brennan Avants said.
Normally Avants is a Black Hawk pilot for Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, but during the Black Forest Fire, he found himself on the ground helping his neighbors.
“We mobilized in less than 24 hours a group of 22 volunteers broken down into shifts to work through the weekend, 12 hour days,” he said.
Joining Avants in the volunteer effort was Sgt. Justin Hill, a Black Hawk mechanic with Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment.