[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 145 (1999), Part 20]
[Page 29413]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

                          TATANKA HOTSHOT CREW

  Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, it gives me great pleasure today to 
recognize the members of the Tatanka Hotshot Crew of the Black Hills 
National Forest in South Dakota. This fall marks the end of the first 
fire season that this crew has been operational, and I am delighted to 
say that it has proven to be an outstanding success.
  Each year serious wildfires threaten national forests across the 
United States, burning thousands of acres of woodlands and endangering 
private property. Our first line of defense against these fires is the 
United States Forest Service, whose firefighters risk their lives in 
arduous, often isolated conditions to bring wildfires under control.
  The best of these teams are known as Hotshot crews--elite 
firefighters who are sent to the worst fires, to do the most difficult, 
dangerous work necessary to protect our forests and the homes of nearby 
residents. All around the country, these teams have been recognized for 
their skill and bravery.
  Last year, we created the first of these elite teams ever to be based 
in the Black Hills National Forest. It is called the Tatanka Hotshots, 
after the Lakota word for the bison that used to roam the Great Plains 
by the tens of thousands. The nearly two dozen members of this team, 
virtually all of whom are Native American, come from diverse 
backgrounds. Some came from South Dakota towns like Custer and 
Aberdeen. Some joined the Tatanka crew from other hotshot teams or 
elite smokejumping units. Others are veterans of the Gulf War. Still 
others are young individuals working their way through college. I am 
proud to say that after a year of intense training and working 
together, the Tatanka team quickly has become one of the most highly-
regarded firefighting teams in the nation.
  In addition to work in the Black Hills, the Tatanka crew spent 71 
days away on wildland fire assignments, accumulating 1,550 hours of 
work in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and California. It conducted seven 
large firing/burnout operations, built miles of fireline, constructed 
helispots and medivac sites, and conducted large tree falling 
operations in steep, hazardous terrain. Other noteworthy 
accomplishments included backpacking 6,500 pounds of sandbags up Mount 
Rushmore to prepare for the July 4th fireworks display, tending the 
commemorative crosses at the 1994 South Canyon fire fatality sites in 
Colorado, and working in conjunction with the Tahoe Hotshots to rescue 
a pack horse which had fallen off a mountain trail in California.
  Over the course of the summer, the Tatanka crew earned its reputation 
as a team that could be depended upon to get its job done quickly and 
effectively. Based upon its outstanding performance ratings and the 
respect it earned from other highly regarded Hotshot crews, Forest 
Service officials expect the team to attain National Type 1 status--the 
highest rating a firefighting team can receive--before the 2000 fire 
season, a full year ahead of schedule.
  Mr. President, I am very proud of the accomplishments of this crew. 
Forest fires are dangerous and unpredictable, and fighting them is one 
of the most difficult, physically-exhausting jobs of which I know. 
Firefighters spend days deep in forests and far from possible help, 
digging fire lines and cutting trees to keep fires from spreading. In 
just one year, the Tatanka team has met these challenges head-on, and 
shown that it is equal to the toughest challenges our nation has to 
offer. I want to offer my congratulations to all of those who served on 
the team. I am sure that they will have an outstanding future.