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Idaho National Guard uses combat equipment in support of state fire emergencies

Tech. Sgt. Bradley Dobson, 124th Air Support Operations Squadron, communicates with fellow Idaho National Guardsmen through the Blue Force Tracker as part of the Idaho National Guard’s support to the Trinity Ridge Fire’s containment efforts near Idaho City, Idaho, Aug. 24. Airmen and Soldiers with the Idaho National Guard help to provide a safe perimeter around the Trinity Ridge Fire nine miles north of Idaho City in order to help firefighters protect threatened property and area residents. (U.S. Photo by Staff Sgt. Bob Barney)

Tech. Sgt. Bradley Dobson, 124th Air Support Operations Squadron, communicates with fellow Idaho National Guardsmen through the Blue Force Tracker as part of the Idaho National Guard’s support to the Trinity Ridge Fire’s containment efforts near Idaho City, Idaho, Aug. 24. Airmen and Soldiers with the Idaho National Guard help to provide a safe perimeter around the Trinity Ridge Fire nine miles north of Idaho City in order to help firefighters protect threatened property and area residents. (U.S. Photo by Staff Sgt. Bob Barney)

Sept. 5, 2012 -- 8/31/2012 - Boise, Idaho - As more than 450,000 acres of Idaho's wilderness was on fire by the end of August, Joint Task Force Commander Maj. Dennis Stitt and his guardsmen, have discovered a unique way to use a satellite system locally for the fire missions. A more efficient military was ready to respond, armed with the communication and tracking system, Blue Force Tracker (BFT).

When Idaho's Governor declared a state of emergency, the local National Guard was called upon to maintain a safe perimeter around these remote mountain fires. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) located at Boise's Gowen Field military base uses the specialized BFT equipment to communicate with the hundreds of airmen and soldiers sent out into the mountains, providing a faster satellite network, secure data encryption and advanced mapping kits. BFT system provides military commanders and forces with friendly force tracking and messaging in a combat zone. With proficient speed and accuracy, Maj. Stitt has the ability to keep communication beyond a radial signal's reach with his guardsmen in the field.

"Blue Force Tracker is a satellite communications and tracking system used in locations like Iraq to maintain accountability of all of our personnel and vehicles as they are out on missions and now in the state emergency in supporting the fires. That communications pact is extremely instrumental," said Stitt.

First used by the Army in 2008, this is the first time the BFT has been used in support of fire response and has proven extremely useful while airmen and soldiers working closely with firefighters, law enforcement, and residents. EOC guardsmen communicate and account for personnel at the traffic control checkpoints.

Blue Force Tracking systems consist of a computer, used to display location information, a satellite terminal and satellite antenna, used to transmit location and other military data to be received by the EOC at home base Gowen Field. The system displays the location of the host vehicle on the computer's terrain-map display, along with the locations of other platforms friendly and enemy forces in their respective locations and other battlefield conditions. BFT can also be used to send and receive text and imagery messages.

While supporting the Governor's firefighting operation, Idaho airmen and soldiers can stay connected and quickly adjust to an ever-changing mission through the use of Blue Force Tracker.