TASK FORCE WILDFIRE -- Task Force Wildfire Marines have a warm welcoming as they return dirty and hungry to base camp after 10 to 16 hours of firefighting duties.
Civilian contractors have set up facilities, including showers, sinks, a phone tent and dining area, directly next to the formation of Marines' tents.
"This is, by far, better than anything we're used to. I thought we'd be eating MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) three times a day," said LCpl. Russell Schafer, K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. "And it's really nice to come back to a hot shower."
The mess hall serves a hot breakfast every morning, where Marines can get fruit, cereal, eggs, bacon or sausage and potatoes. Marines take varied bagged meals with them for lunch, usually consisting of a sandwich or two, juice, fruit and a desert. For dinner, Marines eat generous helpings of hot food, depending on whether they are at base camp that night.
"The quantity and quality of chow is as good as any mess hall, and it's field expedient," said 1st Lt. Michael Evans, 3/5 adjutant.
Companies alternate in "spike" camps. Spike camps allow the firefighters to camp closer to where they work, cutting down on transportation time, but not on chow. The spiking firefighters still get three meals per day, and when it's possible, two hot meals.
"Being able to come back and take a hot shower and eat good food is everything here," said PFC Tony Barr, K Co., 3/5. "It keeps us going and our morale high."
The shower facility has two sections containing six showers and a dressing room each. A row of eight sinks sits just outside the shower facility. Both the showers and the sinks have hot water.
Another sink area with 20 sinks is located inside a trailer about a hundred feet away.
"It makes it easier for us to stay out here for a month," Russell said. "They're trying to make it as close to home as they can."
One of the most used facilities at the main camp is the phone center. A tent set up next to the mess hall contains nine telephones for Marines to use, free of charge.
"The phone center is outstanding," Russell said. "I never expected to be able to use a phone out here."
Other facilities and services around the main camp area include a free laundry service, hand-wash centers and barbers.
The Federal Emergency Fund is financially supporting these facilities and services, according to Sherry Bauer, logistics section chief, Black Hills National Forest Service.
"They appreciate what we're doing, and we appreciate what they're doing," Russell said.