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Commander Peter J. Byrne to Oversee Colorado Wildfire Response

June 30, 2012

A National Guard dual-status commander has been recently appointed to support wildfire response and relief efforts in Colorado, according to Defense Department and National Guard officials.

Air Force Col. Peter J. Byrne -- director of the joint staff, Joint Force Headquarters-Colorado -- was selected by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in agreement with Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, the Colorado National Guard reported.

Fire continues to burn in the Mount Saint Francis area of Colorado Springs, Colo., while firefighters battle several fires in Waldo Canyon, June 28, 2012. The Waldo Canyon fire has claimed 18,500 acres and burned more than 300 homes. The U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Air Force Space Command, Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and Fort Carson, Colo., have joined local organizations to fight the fires. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock

"The dual-status commander will coordinate military firefighting efforts in the state," Hickenlooper said. "This commander operates as the liaison to make sure that we can take federal assets and airmen, soldiers, bulldozers, helicopters, Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems aircraft and get whatever tool we need."

Byrne, who is a Colorado resident, will work with fire incident commanders.

When agreed upon by the secretary of defense and the governor of an affected state, dual-status commanders can direct both federal active duty forces and state National Guard forces in response to domestic incidents, Defense Department officials said.

The unity of effort is intended to foster greater cooperation among federal and state military assets during a disaster.

The dual-status commander concept was most recently used in support of the NATO Summit in Chicago in May.

Byrne is a command pilot with more than 2,500 military flying hours and more than 145 combat hours, officials said. He was commissioned in 1984 and joined the Colorado Air National Guard in 1991.

"Working hand in hand with active duty forces is something the National Guard has performed seamlessly for more than 10 years in overseas missions," Byrne said. "Though the circumstances are tragic, bringing this experience of partnership to help friends, family and neighbors is a rewarding and natural extension of this valuable relationship."

According to Defense Department officials:

The nation's governors led the creation of this new opportunity for collaboration. Dual-status commanders ensure that state and federal military forces work together effectively together when states request federal forces. Through this improved partnership, military forces responding to the wildfires will be better able to avoid duplication of effort and support the needs of the incident and the American people.

The dual-status commander concept was codified in 2011, with 10 USC - 12304 as the usual and customary command and control arrangement for missions involving the simultaneous deployment of active duty, Reserve and National Guard forces in support of civilian authorities during major disasters and other emergencies.

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