ORCAS ISLAND, Wash. -- It’s a world away from the desert sands of Iraq, but it was still a something of a combat mission on Orcas Island, Monday. Fifty military veterans prepared to do battle with a new enemy: wildfire.
“It's very dangerous, but I think our members are used to that sort of risk,” said Vince Moffitt, a member of Team Rubicon.
Team Rubicon is an international organization of American military veterans who volunteer to serve on disaster and relief missions around the globe. The group is now partnering with the Bureau of Land Management to train firefighters to combat wildfires in Washington and beyond. They’ve trained a total of 500 veterans for duty over the past two years.
“These men and women have seen a lot, and they’re exactly what we need,” said the BLM’s Chuck Russell. “They know how to think fast, act fast and have each other’s backs. We’re honored to have them.”
Last year's record wildfires stretched fire crews dangerously thin across the west. Three firefighters died fighting the flames near Twisp. The addition of these skilled veterans is critical for what will be another unpredictable fire season.
“They're used to chaos,” said Moffitt. “They go out there in very stressful situations, and they handle them very well.”
Among those feeling the call to serve once again is Iraq war vet Jay Pense. He has a very personal call to duty. A close buddy was killed in action by an insurgent sniper in Iraq. This will be Pense's second wildfire season with Team Rubicon. He does it, in part, because he knows his buddy would want him to.
“To be able to impact the people in a positive way is important to me and all of us,” he said.
To learn more about Team Rubicon, visit their website.