Montana Air National Guard activation cancelled for wildfire operations

Sixty members of the Montana Air National Guard had been activated for state service in support of fire operations, but by Monday, that duty was canceled due to improving conditions.

The activation was in response to Gov. Steve Bullock’s declaration of a state emergency for wildfires across the state.

Guardsmen were originally scheduled to report to the 120th Airlift Wing in Great Falls on Monday and then report for security duties in support of the Lolo Peak fire, after completing necessary training.

There are currently no Great Falls units supporting fire operations, according to the Montana National Guard.

With the quick activation notice, Guardsmen started notifying civilian employers that they’d be gone for up to 15 days.

Mike Flaherty, with the Montana Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, said that though this was a state activation, the laws and process for protecting employment are similar.

ESGR is a federal program that serves as a go-between with Guard and Reserve members and employers should any problems arise when members are activated for federal duty.

In this case, ESGR wasn’t involved in the activation since it was a state mission, but the situation was a good reminder for Guard members to talk with their employers about plans should they be called up in the future.

Federal law protects employment for Guard and Reserve members, who often have civilian jobs, when they are called up for federal service. State laws generally provide similar protections for Guard and Reserve members called up for state duty like the roughly 150 Guardsmen currently supporting fire operations throughout Montana.