Cowboy Guard Articles

Welcome to the Cowboy Guard page. Here you can find the most up-to-date news about the Wyoming Military Department, including feature stories, photos, and general information about our men and women serving this state and country. For more information about content within this page, or questions about how to receive high resolution images and news story reprints, please contact the Wyoming National Guard Public Affairs Office.

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Recent Stories

  • Harvest Farms hosts Child and Youth fall event By Capt. Tom Blackburn Deputy Public Affairs Officer State Public Affairs Office Hay bales dot the landscape of Harvest Farms as parents watch their children climb hay mountains, ride fast ...
    Posted Oct 30, 2014, 2:40 PM by Wyoming Guard
  • Three Wyo. Air Guard Airmen reenlist in ceremony with Lt. Gen. By Sgt. Meredith Vincent Public Affairs Specialist 197th Public Affairs Detachment CHEYENNE, Wyo. – When Master Sgt. Mark Withers first decided to reenlist for the Wyoming Air National Guard, he did ...
    Posted Jul 23, 2014, 12:26 PM by Wyoming Guard
  • Wyoming National Guard piles sand high in Saratoga By Staff Sgt. Meredith Vincent  197th Public Affairs Detachment, Wyoming Army National Guard    While nothing is guaranteed, national, state and local officials believe the 3.6 million pounds in sand ...
    Posted May 30, 2014, 4:27 PM by Wyoming Guard
  • World War 2 widow receives ring 72 years later By 1st Lt. Megan Hoffmann Public Affairs Specialist State Public Affairs Office CHEYENNE, Wyo. – On June 26, 1943, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Griebel, formerly of Riverton, received the news that ...
    Posted Apr 11, 2014, 12:06 PM by Wyoming Guard
  • Wyo. Army and Air National Guard assist Big Horn County flood relief By Sgt. Trisha Pinczes Public Affairs Specialist 197th Public Affairs Detachment GREYBULL, Wyo. – Residents stood on a rise over the Big Horn River and watched as community volunteers and National ...
    Posted Mar 12, 2014, 12:43 PM by Wyoming Guard
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 42. View more »

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Harvest Farms hosts Child and Youth fall event

posted Oct 30, 2014, 2:40 PM by Wyoming Guard

By Capt. Tom Blackburn

Deputy Public Affairs Officer

State Public Affairs Office

Hay bales dot the landscape of Harvest Farms as parents watch their children climb hay mountains, ride fast-moving four-wheeler led trains, and scavenge for the biggest and brightest pumpkins.

 This year marked the second year that Child and Youth Programs from the Wyoming Military Department held an annual fall event at Harvest Farms in Wellington, Colorado.

“We wanted to do something different,” said program coordinator Amy Wilson, “Harvest Farms is a good location.”

 The event, which saw an increased attendance from last year, had plenty to offer for all the families involved.

“This year we had 60 RSVP’s. This being our second time, this is great, and it’s a great way to kick off our Month of the Military Family events as well,” said Wilson.

Families from the Wyoming National Guard took part in various games and activities that Harvest Farms provides. An obstacle course was set up with tires and hay bales, tempting young and old to take a turn on navigating to the finish. A giant corn maze, with a completion time of approximately one hour, presented a great challenge. But the pinnacle course was the hay bale trail and mountain, situated in the center of the festival-like atmosphere. A sprawling structure, families took turns helping each other climb its behemoth edges.

Wilson’s team also offered several activities for the families.

“We have pumpkin patch bingo and a family crest activity, where families can create their own crests like a medieval family,” Wilson said. “These games and activities are our way to convey appreciation to our guard families.”

Later, lunch was provided by a local barbecue vendor to every guardsman and their family. Kids sat around their parents under a tent, cheerfully recounting their rides on tractors or struggles on hay bales. Other children huddled in the pumpkin shed, scouring the landscape for the right pumpkin.

“We want to foster relationships through kids and their parents,” Wilson said as children ran around. “Here, we are doing that.”

Three Wyo. Air Guard Airmen reenlist in ceremony with Lt. Gen.

posted Jul 23, 2014, 12:26 PM by Wyoming Guard

By Sgt. Meredith Vincent

Public Affairs Specialist

197th Public Affairs Detachment

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – When Master Sgt. Mark Withers first decided to reenlist for the Wyoming Air National Guard, he did not expect it to be anything out of the ordinary.

With 30 years of service under his belt, Withers has seen his fair share of reenlistments; this was old news for the Cheyenne father of three.

So when he received a call asking if he'd be willing to participate in a special ceremony during the Thunderbird show at Laramie County Community College (LCCC) Wednesday, he was surprised. Even more unexpected – the enlisting officer would be the Director of the Air National Guard, Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke.

“It was definitely a unique experience,” said Withers. “I think if anybody gets the opportunity to do this, they should - it's once in a lifetime.”

Withers was joined by two other reenlisting Wyoming Air Guard Airmen and 13 active Air Force recruits. In front of a crowd of hundreds of spectators, the future and current Airmen lined up in the closed-off street, ready to take their oaths. After being introduced, Clarke addressed the audience, thanking them for their support.

“I appreciate the opportunity to do this,” the lieutenant general said to the crowd. “I appreciate the opportunity to be here and I appreciate the great hospitality here in Cheyenne.”

As family members and the audience looked on, Clarke swore in first the re-enlistees, then the new recruits. Senior Airman Andy Vang, of Nebraska, said the event was a much bigger spectacle than his previous enlistment.

“There were a lot more people,” said the six year service member. “Doing it in front of a crowd of people was definitely more nerve-wracking.”

Directly following the ceremony, the Airmen took a seat at a table nearby to sign their reenlistment paperwork. They reflected on their own initial enlistments after standing near the new recruits. What words of wisdom would they pass down to a new generation of Airmen?

“The main thing would be to pursue an education while you're in the military,” said Withers. “The nice thing about being in the Air Force is you can change career fields anytime you want. You can get a vast knowledge built up in several different career fields.”

That know-how and expertise can easily be translated into a career outside the Air Force, continued Withers.

“If you don't make the military your career, you still have all that experience [to use] in the civilian world,” he said.

The ceremony was just one of the many stops on Clarke's agenda while here in Cheyenne. On Tuesday he toured the Wyoming Air National Guard facilities, including the recently-renovated Building 16 and the 153rd Maintenance Squadron. While at LCCC, he visited not only with the enlisting Airmen, but also the Thunderbird staff, accompanied by Wyoming National Guard Adjutant General Luke Reiner. However, for the three reenlisting Airmen, it was this morning that will stick out for years to come.

“It was a great experience,” said Vang. “Definitely another story to tell.”

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Wyoming National Guard piles sand high in Saratoga

posted May 30, 2014, 4:27 PM by Wyoming Guard

By Staff Sgt. Meredith Vincent 
197th Public Affairs Detachment, Wyoming Army National Guard 

 

While nothing is guaranteed, national, state and local officials believe the 3.6 million pounds in sand that have been laid in the last five days in Saratoga, Wyoming, should keep damage to a minimum as floodwaters crest this weekend.

 

The North Platte River is expected to rise to a peak of 10.5 feet, barely topping 2011’s level of 10.49 feet in the small town. It’s this rising water that prompted a joint preventative effort by several civilian and military organizations over the past week. Multiple Wyoming Air and Army National Guard units are providing support to local civilian authorities, filling and piling more than 72,000 sandbags along the riverbank.

 

Saratoga Mayor John Zeiger said they have been monitoring the snowmelt and water levels closely for some time and were prepared to react when levels began to rise dramatically.

 

“We’ve been keeping a close eye on it because, unfortunately and fortunately, we’ve been here before and knew what to expect and what to look for,” said Zeiger. “Once the levels began to rise dramatically, we worked with the Governor’s Office through the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security to bring in the Wyoming National Guard to begin preventative work.

 

“I think that early work was essential, so when we reached higher and higher flood stages we weren’t scrambling to keep up,” he said. “We already had a good foundation in place and have been able to keep up with the rising threat. Of course, there are always places that have to be repaired or shored up, but I feel like we are keeping up pretty well.”

 

Spc. Josh Berry, a bridge crewmember for the 1041st Engineer Company, said the military’s mission, while requiring a great deal of coordination and hard work, was also fairly simple.

 

“With all the snow this year, snow pack is much higher than usual,” he explained. “So with the warm weather lately, the runoff has been very extreme to this point. The Platte is expected to overflow its banks and we were called in to basically mitigate that via sandbags. We’ve been filling a lot of sandbags and laying a lot of sandbag walls, day in and day out.”

 

Soldiers from the Wyoming Guard’s 94th Troop Command arrived Sunday to begin the relief effort. They were joined Wednesday by the Army Guard’s 2/300th Field Artillery Battalion and the Air Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing. The National Guard responded in 2011 when flooding threatened the same area, so there was room for all involved to learn from previous experience.

 

“I think things have went a lot smoother,” Zeiger said. “I think we had a lot of great lessons learned on how to do things, as far as the sandbagging and just getting people together.”

 

For some, the call was personal. Spc. Luke Frauendienst, also a member of the 1041st, has a cabin in the immediate area and knows Saratoga well. He said being able to help in an area that is near and dear to him means a great deal.

 

“It’s motivated me, hard core,” Frauendienst said. “When I was coming through Encampment, coming home from the cabin over the weekend, I saw how much that river was flowing – it was almost up to the trailer parks there. So I went straight back to Cheyenne, got my gear, got the phone call from my commander and I just booked it here. It just motivated me more – I just wanted to help.”

 

This is Frauendienst’s first flood mission, although he did spend time deployed overseas. He said the ability to help a Wyoming community means just as much as the deployment patch on his right arm.

 

“I like to know that the work I’m doing is helping out the people,” he said. “It is much more emotional, because these are your fellow Americans, citizens and people you personally know.

 

“Being overseas, all you knew about were the fellow soldiers you were deployed with. But being here in the states, it’s just much more of a connection,” he continued. “Especially with being up in and around this area all the time, you have that connection; you want to help, you don’t want to see it go to waste.”

 

Contributing to their surrounding communities is a significant part of the National Guard experience – and a vital part of their mission – for many soldiers and airmen. While serving one’s country is a common inspiration for joining the Guard, very often service members get the chance to serve their own home state in times of need.

 

“The opportunity is great, just to be able to put others above yourself and help the community,” said Barry. “And the relationships that you forge here – the camaraderie –just grows stronger. We have multiple units here, and you wouldn’t know it. Everyone’s interacting like we’re all just brothers-in-arms.”

 

Up to a half dozen different organizations came together over the week, including Saratoga’s local civilian authorities, the Wyoming National Guard units and volunteer groups from Team Rubicon, the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Red Cross.

 

On Friday, the effort was assisted by up to 70 student and staff volunteers from the University of Wyoming, a large majority of them members of the UW football team. Josh Smith, wide receiver for the team, said he felt honored to be able to give something back to the university’s fans. 

 

“It feels great, you know?” he said. “These people from this community, they support us all year long with football … and it just feels great to come out here and give back to the community.”

 

With so many organizations operating side-by-side, it would be easy for chaos to ensue. However, Barry said the amount of coordination and teamwork between the different groups has been impressive.

 

“It’s been pretty seamless, actually,” he remarked. “The communication between the Army, Air Force and the civilians has been pretty good. It’s been really nice to get the help that we need to establish the massive sandbag walls that we’ve been building.”

 

That massive sandbag wall is protecting a local population of just more than 1,600 people. As water levels continue to rise, flooding is a very real threat for many homes located right along the North Platte’s riverbank, and relief groups often find themselves in people’s backyards, preventing the water from getting any closer. After their experience in 2011, the presence of the military units and their efforts is appreciated by many local townspeople, said the town’s mayor.

 

“After 2011, I think the community knows what to expect,” Zeiger said. “They are very appreciative of the support and help and try to show it any way they can. And I believe the National Guard has felt warmly welcomed to our town.”

 

The town’s kindness has not gone unnoticed by the visiting units, said Frauendienst. He has had nothing but positive encounters with the local community.

 

“They welcomed us with open arms,” he said. “They fed us, they’ve taken care of us, they gave us a place to stay, to crash and bunk up. Everywhere you go, you get a smile and a wave. And if they have the chance, they’ll stop you to thank you. It’s great, how they treat us so well.”

 

As of Friday afternoon, 55,500 sandbags have been filled and placed by participants and volunteers, and the operation is expected to continue through the weekend.

 

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Photos of flood operations can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/wyoguard.  Video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/wyoguard

World War 2 widow receives ring 72 years later

posted Apr 11, 2014, 12:06 PM by Wyoming Guard

By 1st Lt. Megan Hoffmann

Public Affairs Specialist

State Public Affairs Office

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – On June 26, 1943, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Griebel, formerly of Riverton, received the news that their son, Staff Sgt. Robert Griebel, was killed in action against the Japanese in the South Pacific Theater.

Griebel, a member of the 43rd Bombardment Group, 65th Squadron, a ball turret gunner on the B-17E Flying Fortress – nicknamed naughty but nice – shot down a Japanese fighter plane that hotly pursued them over the Japanese military base in Rabaul, New Britain. Then, the bomber was hit twice by anti-aircraft fire, eventually succumbing to the damage on its return leg home and fell from the sky, killing all but one crew member.

Griebel, who went down with the bomber, was not alone in those last moments, as he carried someone very close to his heart – literally.

In August 1942, Griebel married his sweetheart, Betty Hoopengarner, whom he’d met during a social gathering for farmers several years after graduation. Longing to do something more than farming, Griebel also enlisted in the U.S. Army that same year and went to basic training in Arizona, which is where the couple married and saw one another for the last time.

Before Griebel left for the South Pacific, he had scraped and saved to get Betty a nice ring for their wedding ceremony in Arizona - a gesture that Betty was unable to

return. So, in an act that would be remembered nearly 72 years later, Betty gave her new husband her high school class ring to take with him to remember her– a gesture that would have great meaning to her later in life. Because the ring was so small, Griebel was unable to wear it on any of his fingers so he vowed to wear it around his neck alongside his dog tags, and close to his heart.

It wasn’t until 1985, 42 years after the initial destruction of Griebel’s B-17, that the remains of Griebel and several other crew members were finally recovered and successfully identified with the help of DNA testing.

Then, according to the Department of the Army, in 2001, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) returned to the area where Griebel’s plane crashed, in an attempt to recover the remaining crew members. During a search that covered several trips and two years, in 2011, personal items were discovered, and among them, was a high school ring.

Because the ring had been out in the elements for over 70 years, the engravings on the ring were extremely hard to decipher. However, there were two key engravings that

were still legible on the ring: the year 1936 and Betty’s initials, BH.

According to the Lander Journal, when Betty, now 94, received the report about the findings, her daughter, Mary McAleenan sat with her and read parts of it aloud.

“I just about fell off my chair,” said Betty when she heard the rings description. “I said, for God’s sake, Mary, that’s my ring”

Last fall, Mary contacted the Department of the Army Repatriations Branch in hopes of getting her ring returned. Although it took some time, Mary was finally granted her wish in January as Lt. Col. Robert Fisk, a member of the Wyoming Army National Guard, presented the ring to her in a small ceremony at the American Legion in Lander on Jan. 10.

When Betty finally received the ring, all she could do was weep and reminisce about the day she gave it to Griebel, almost 72 years ago.

Betty can now rest easy as the final piece of her beloved husband has made it home and the circle of life is now complete.

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Wyo. Army and Air National Guard assist Big Horn County flood relief

posted Mar 12, 2014, 12:43 PM by Wyoming Guard   [ updated Mar 12, 2014, 12:43 PM ]

By Sgt. Trisha Pinczes

Public Affairs Specialist

197th Public Affairs Detachment

GREYBULL, Wyo. – Residents stood on a rise over the Big Horn River and watched as community volunteers and National Guardsmen worked together filling sandbags and stacking them at the edge of lurking waters. Family homes, farms and businesses were threatened as jagged bricks of ice created a dam forcing water levels to rise to unimaginable heights.

The 920th Forward Support Company arrived on Friday evening followed by the 153rd Airlift Wing. Together they formed rapid assistance teams (RAT) one and two in order to provide assistance for local flooding and prevention in the Bighorn county area.  As the mission progressed, members of the 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery Regiment provided additional support forming RAT three March 10.

Working as a Joint Task Force, units came together with a common goal and determination.

 “It’s a neat thing when all of the forces can come together on one mission,” said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Dillon the non-commission officer in charge of the 920th. “We all work a little different but always find the common way to weave together and make things work.”

The organization of any joint task force mission is challenging, but something military leaders prepare for constantly.

“Pulling people from all over the state and the coordination to get everyone on one page in a single area is the hardest part,” Dillon said. “Once people are together, there’s plenty of work to be done and it’s easy to get started.”

Working long days and short nights, the service members came prepared to work and maintained positive outlooks on seemingly endless tasks.

“Our guys are trained to work, it’s our job. Every drill we are working from sun up to sun down and when we come here that’s what we want to do,” he said. “They know the job needs to be done and they don’t have any problem working hard while still enjoying it and making it fun.”

Physically demanding tasks are expected in the military and the chance to put your energy and time into your own hometown is something many National Guardsmen will not often get the chance to do.

“I believe that the guys enjoy the work,” Dillon said. “If you’re going to join the National Guard you probably have that bred in to where you work hard and you enjoy doing things in your community.”

Over 60 soldiers and airmen dropped what they were doing in order to come support their towns in need.

“The guys showed up on short notice, on short sleep and executed this mission,” he said. “They asked for volunteers, and that’s why we wear this uniform, the National Guard is here to protect our state and communities and everyone here seems to understand that.”

Relief efforts accelerated helping to minimize flood damage as the National Guard and Air Guard worked alongside local residents and emergency services.

“Of course when you have the community willing to help us as well, everything works together hand in hand and we can get the job done a lot quicker,” said 2nd Lt. Leslie Lee Ary, the distribution platoon leader with the 920th. “That really, really helps not just our guys on the ground but the guys that are supporting us from elsewhere and the communities as well.”

Service members also received support from local residents, businesses and volunteers.

“It’s been great, people in this area really appreciate what we are doing here,” Dillon said. “We are a volunteer force coming up to help them and their communities. They are always offering to provide anything we need, we don’t have to ask for anything.”

Currently living in Billings, Mont., Dillon expressed his reaction in getting to come to the Big Horn County area to help.

“It’s a good experience, I always enjoy coming to Wyoming.” He said. “It’s where my heart is so it’s always good to come down here.”

Working in the military, helping a community and helping your neighbors is something rarely found at the same time.

“We love Wyoming, we love to work and we love to help out our state and that’s what we’re here for,” Ary said. “That’s why we are in the National Guard, that’s our whole job and our whole duty, not just to support our the nation but to support our state, and know that we are here doing what we’re originally intended to do.”

 

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Retired Gen. Mattis shares stories and advice with Wyo. National Guard

posted Feb 12, 2014, 7:31 AM by Wyoming Guard   [ updated Feb 13, 2014, 1:26 PM ]

By Capt. Thomas Blackburn
Deputy Public Affairs Specialist
Wyoming National Guard
 
    CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Gen. James Mattis was the honorary speaker at the 94th Troop Command and 115th Fires Brigade leadership conferences Feb. 8 at the Holiday Inn, in Cheyenne.
    
    For two hours the retired general spoke about many topics, to include small unit leadership traits, his lessons learned during his career, and even took questions from the audience. He shaped his words to embody the Wyoming National Guard's traditions.
 
    "When you look at Wyoming's cowboy culture, if you wanted a framework for small unit leadership and if you look at this culture, you have the qualities and attributes that can take you to the ends of the earth," said Mattis to the more than 200 assembled National Guard soldiers. "If you go into a fight, you will be tested mentally, physically, and spiritually. If you look at the Code of the West, you are built for a fight on the frontier."
 
    Mattis spoke from experience after a 40-plus year military career in the U.S. Marine Corps. During the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, he commanded the 1st Marine Division and led that unit during the tumultuous Battle of Fallujah. He was later appointed commander of U.S. Central Command, with overall authority of military theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan, before retiring in May 2013.
 
    In front of the assembled members of the 115th FIB, Mattis shared many stories, discussing what he had learned during his career, focusing on his recent time as a commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He zeroed in on what a small unit leader, such as an entry level officer, like a platoon leader, or a squad leader in charge of six to 12 men, would need to be successful. In the battlefield environment in Iraq and Afghanistan, the small unit leaders are the ones considered to have "boots on the ground" during the patrols. "
 
    A general officer’s leadership is not as material as a small unit leader," Mattis said when referring to the current battlefield. "Small unit leaders do the fighting."
 
    Mattis mentioned that during his time as commander in the Middle East, he was amazed that a small unit of approximately 40 men could operate just as effectively, if not more so, than larger elements in a fight. "
 
    Why was a platoon (of approximately 40 men) as capable as a 200 man formation? It came down to the expectations of the small unit leaders and the fact that they had the persuasive force of personality to bring out the best in their troops."
 
    The general listed several traits that he thought were great attributes of successful noncommissioned officers, the leaders that would make a lot of the decisions in the small unit fights.
 
    "The two qualities I look for in the NCOs are initiative and aggressiveness," Mattis said. "If people didn't have that, then I couldn't have them as subordinates; I couldn't give them command and control." However, he emphasized the ability to listen as another quality to have when in a combat zone.
 
    "What we don't need today are NCOs and officers who think ‘it's my way or the highway,’" he said, adding he wants  young leaders who will listen and be persuaded by those they talk to, if it be a tribal elder or a local citizen on a patrol.
 
    The words of wisdom left by the general were felt appropriate and inspiring to the 115th's brigade commander.
 
    "We were absolutely blessed to have the opportunity to hear from such a talented military leader,” said Col. Brian Nesvik, brigade commander.  “His comments regarding how soldiers, NCOs and officers at all levels can positively impact their organization were incredibly relevant.”
 
    For all the soldiers in the audience, Mattis left behind a question that embraced the Wyoming National Guard's legacy.  "Do you have the guts to do what is right, to live by the code of the west?"  

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Wyoming soldiers celebrate Meritorious Unit Commendation

posted Dec 11, 2013, 1:44 PM by Wyoming Guard

By Sgt. Michael A. Cotignola III

115th Fires Brigade Public Affairs Officer

 

    CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 115th Fires Brigade, were presented with the Meritorious Unit Commendation, on Dec. 8, for the unit’s tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
 
    The company, which provides command and control support for the brigade, received the battlefield honor for the deployment that lasted from April 15, 2009, to April 14, 2010.
 
    The deployment of the 115th Fires Brigade and its subordinate units was the single largest mobilization in the history of the Wyoming Army National Guard. More than 800 Wyoming soldiers were joined by 1,100 National Guard members from Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota and North Dakota.
 
    The brigade was augmented with more than 200 reservists, 300 active-duty component Army soldiers, and 400 Sailors from the Navy and Coast Guard. The 115th Fires Brigade performed security and force protection missions in seven different countries in the Middle East, primarily in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar.

“For the Wyoming-based brigade, it was a chance to prove their worth in serving the nation,” said Col. Brian Nesvik, the brigade commander. He and Command Sgt. Maj.Harold Pafford, presented the award to the unit and attached the streamer to the

brigade’s colors. Nesvik was also commander of the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery, during the deployment.
 
“The brigade’s mission emphasized the support of combat forces in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, which included Afghanistan,” said Capt. Kevin Messamer, the brigade sustainment officer. “To us it was just convoys, but to the soldiers to the north of us it was life support.”
 
“We put over two million miles on our vehicles during convoy security missions and on gateway missions, which included securing busses heading to the (Kuwait) airport so soldiers could go on leave,” said Sgt. Maj. Mark Beyl. At the time of the deployment, Beyl was the noncommissioned officer in charge of maintenance and supply for the brigade. In addition to ensuring vehicles were mission-capable, Beyl oversaw the brigade’s acquisition of new vehicles.
 
“The brigade was able to change out all the vehicles in that short time, which was a Herculean task,” said Beyl. “We upgraded all of our vehicles.”
 
“What I was proudest of is that, in the maintenance and supply world, we were able to not miss any missions,” added Beyl. “Our trucks went that many miles and we never had any catastrophic breakdowns that would put Soldiers in harm’s way. We were never an easy target.”
The Meritorious Unit Commendation Award is presented to units for exceptionally meritorious execution of their missions. A unit must display outstanding devotion and superior performance, but not only to complete the difficult tasks set before it, but to rise above other units with a similar mission.
 

The award citation stated that the service members who constituted the 115th Fires Brigade during the deployment, demonstrated effective teamwork, perseverance, and bravery in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit substantially advanced the freedom of the Iraqi people by facilitating responsible reduction of Coalition forces in the theater of operation. The unit’s safe, successful and timely accomplishment of all assigned tasks attests to the excellent training and professionalism from the staff, leadership and soldiers.

 

Photos available at: Flickr

Suggested cutlines:

131208-Z-9999X-001.JPG - Col. Brian Nesvik, the commander of the 115th Fires Brigade, Wyoming Army National Guard, attaches the Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer to the unit guidon, Dec. 8 in Cheyenne, Wyo. This award was presented to the unit for the effective teamwork and perseverance it displayed in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2009-10. U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael A. Cotignola III

 

131208-Z-9999X-002.JPG - Col. Brian Nesvik, the commander of the 115th Fires Brigade, attaches the unit’s most recent honor, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, to the units guidon Dec. 8 in Cheyenne, Wyo. The unit guidon of the 115th FIB bears many streamers, each of which marks the unit’s participation in different military operations. U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael A. Cotignola III 

 

131208-Z-9999X-003.JPG – The 115th Fires Brigade guidon displays the Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer the unit earned during its most recent deployment from 2009-10. The 115th FIB’s exceptional performance in Operation Iraqi Freedom contributed to the theater’s successful support mission. U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael A. Cotignola III

 

 

Lt. Col. Herder leaving Camp Guernsey

posted Nov 27, 2013, 11:34 AM by Wyoming Guard   [ updated Dec 12, 2013, 7:15 AM ]

First Air Force officer leaving a strong legacy at Camp Guernsey

By Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire

Public Affairs Specialist

Wyoming National Guard

CAMP GUERNSEY JOINT TRAINING CENTER , Wyo. – A history-making Air Force officer is leaving Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center after nearly seven years of building the camp’s capability, and relationships with his team there.

Lieutenant Colonel David Herder, camp deputy commander, is the first, and only, Air Force officer to hold a command position for an Army installation in Wyoming?, and that is just one of the firsts he brought to the camp.

“2007 was our first attempt to be joint,” he said of the effort to combine training for different branches of the military. “The playbook hadn’t been written, so we said, let’s see where this can go.”

One obstacle for the only “blue-suiter in a green world,” which referred to his Air Force uniform compared to his Army brethren, was the language, Herder said.

“It allowed me to ask a lot of questions. Plus I was able to teach Army what the Air Force could bring to the fight.”

“He didn’t know anything Army—how we talk, or how we do things,” said Colonel Rich Knowlton, the camp commander. “The deputy commander in any organization has a lot of responsibility. It’s a tough job and he’s executed it superbly. He has set us on the right path for the future. He’ll be sorely missed.”

Herder said he started out by studying Army regulations and identifying funding sources and building a professional staff, capable of executing the visions he had for what is now one of the nation’s premiere military training sites and the fifth busiest Army airfield in the country.

“I saw our manning was deficient,” Herder said of his early days at Guernsey, Fixing that issue was his number one accomplishment. “I got to pick people who were a good fit and had the same goals and ambitions to build.”

Knowlton, whom is one of four Army camp commanders Herder has worked for, noted his deputy’s personnel prowess.

“He is outstanding with employees.” Knowlton said. “He knows how to get them in the right positions and then to get them the correct pay for that position.”

Camp Guernsey’s air operations manager, Bob Kolbo, retired from the Wyo. Air National Guard several years ago, and accepted an offer to do his current job about five years ago.

“I’ve worked with him (Herder) since the eighties,” Kolbo said. “He’s one of the reasons I came up here. It’s been great with all the progress we’ve made. He had ideas and plans and I was able to execute them.”

One of those ideas, and one that significantly increases the usefulness and value of the camp, was to build a tactical airstrip, much like pilots use in war zones. Herder said the idea had been 20 years in the making and became a true joint effort by the time it was completed in 2011.

“It allows us to train the way we fight,” he said.  Air operations at Guernsey have increased from about 4000 in 2007 to about 13,000 last year.

“We can do unprecedented things here,” Herder explained. “We had Marines here last year and we provided parachute training to them which otherwise would not be considered without our joint resources.”

Herder also led the charge for a “Catalog of Services,” said quality assurance officer Christa Bartel. It’s a list of regulations and processes for billing units that train here, she said.

Herder’s next assignment will be starting a new commander’s inspection program when he returns to the Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing’s fulltime staff in Cheyenne in a few weeks. “Once again, we’ll be writing a new playbook,” he said.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said of moving out of the camp. “I have full support from them all. I think my Guernsey family would like me to stay. We have a great staff and a great relationship.”

According to every one of those colleagues asked, that is a true statement.

, “He is probably one of the best leaders I’ve ever had. He is genuine and passionate. He truly loves the people around him. He always stood up for us, whether wrong or right. We never worried about our back with him,” Chief Warrant Officer 3, Raymond Vannater, supply management officer for the camp, said.

 

“It’s been a tremendous experience. It’s broadened my perspective and made me a more mature leader,” Herder said of his stint at Guernsey. “I was basically the continuity here with four different commanders. We’ve had a lot of different visions, but I’ve been able to carry out that long term plan.”

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Photos can be seen at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wyoguard/

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Wyo. Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dave Herder accepts a plaque signed by the fulltime staff at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center from Col. Richard Knowlton during a “Hail and Farewell” ceremony at the camp Nov. 26.. Herder will leave the deputy commander position soon and take a new assignment in Cheyenne, Wyo.. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire

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Wyo. Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dave Herder addresses Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center’s fulltime staff during a “Hail and Farewell” ceremony at the camp Nov. 26.. Herder will leave the deputy commander position soon and take a new assignment in Cheyenne, Wyo.. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire

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Wyo. Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dave Herder talks to a visitor while at his Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center desk. Herder will leave the deputy commander position soon and take a new assignment in Cheyenne, Wyo.. U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire

Hero 2 Hired job fair comes together for veterans with strong community support

posted Nov 22, 2013, 1:22 PM by Wyoming Guard   [ updated Nov 22, 2013, 1:24 PM ]

By Capt. Thomas Blackburn

Deputy Public Affairs Specialist

Wyoming National Guard

CHEYENNE, Wyo. –Laura Jeffrey stood in the middle of the bustling American Legion Post #6 cafeteria, with a smile on her face.

Around her, numerous job seekers with military backgrounds were conversing with over a dozen employers from the state of Wyoming during the state’s first Hero 2 Hired job fair.

It was an event that almost didn’t happen.

In October when government staffs were temporarily sent home due to the lack of a federal budget due to the shutdown, Jeffrey was feverishly trying to get a HHero 2 Hired job fair off the ground for Wyoming’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program. As a program support specialist, she works to line up employers and other assets for job fairs that target Wyoming’s past and present military members. For the federal H2H program, it meant dealing with a federal entity that had to deal with the shutdown and therefore delay advertising dollars she needed to pay local media outlets.

However, she learned that H2H was going to be able to supply its Cheyenne hiring event with full external support. Program members from the H2H headquarters in Washington D.C. were coming to Cheyenne with their full-size Mobile Job Store vehicle that could be used as a marketing tool and an employee access point for the H2H website.

“We found out we were getting the truck during the furlough, and had all the (local) papers interested,” she said. However, when the furlough became prolonged, and the money for the event became difficult to extract to pay for the advertising, Jeffrey said doubts arose on whether they would be able to attract enough people to the event.

When budgets were settled and funding released, Jeffrey had less than two weeks to advertise the event. That’s when she says the local community stepped up for the event and the veterans who had served their nation.

“(The papers) flooded the market for us,” she said. “They stepped up because the timeframe was so tight.” Half page ads went in varying papers across the region and one local radio station blasted the airwaves with the radio spot. Jeffrey was surprised by the willing support.

Sandy Williams, a program analyst with the Employee Initiative Program, which manages H2H, was impressed with what she saw.

“Glad to see this support in the local community,” she said. “I’m impressed since it was put on such short notice. Great public support.”

Jeffrey agreed with that as well as she looked around and saw numerous examples of the job fairs initial success.

A job seeker from the morning who had taken the opportunity to review his resume with an expert, had gone home, fixed it, and returned with copies to hand out to employers. One person sat nearby filling out an application. At another table, an employer handed several business cards to interested applicants after giving a small brief about the job. The opportunities were there, and local veterans were taking advantage of it.

The federally funded Heroes 2 Hire program has events across the nation and is designed to be a one-stop job search process, either at its in-person fairs or on the website. H2H is a way for veterans, retirees, current serving military and military families to access many different job search tools, as well as talk to employers about opportunities.

At the American Legion, interested veterans could sit down with a resume expert and critique their resume, discuss interview techniques, and talk face-to-face with human resource representatives from the 12 different employers there.

“This is the entry process to get things started,” Jeffrey said. “We have had a lot of support from employers. We had six employers show up this morning that hadn’t signed up and just came anyway.” 

With such short notice to advertise, it was important for Jeffrey to provide an environment that benefited all parties involved.

“The intent is to help employers find the perfect employee and the employee to find the perfect employer,” Jeffrey said. “The goal is to link employers with the veteran.” She said she couldn’t put a number on how many people would come to the event, but said that if one of them received a job it would be a success.

Some of the companies at the event included Wyoming Machinery, Dyno Noble, Echo Star, and SOS Staffing. Some of those employers Jeffrey had worked with previously in other job fairs. The job skills provided through military training are key assets to them.

“We’re helping veterans and getting skill sets that (the applicant) gains in the military,” said Wyoming Machinery human resource rep Casey Turcato, who also added that there is also extra satisfaction in helping veterans find jobs.

 If a veteran does not find a job they like at the event, Jeffrey says the H2H website is the next step in locating that next career. On the website, a translator program helps a military member translate their job specialty into a definable civilian description so as to find opportunities that suit that career field. If a job is found that is acceptable, the applicant can apply, post a resume and seek advice from an employment transition coordinator that will follow up to provide further advice or support. Each state has their own ETC member and the applicant can choose to work closely with that person or choose to do it on their own. 

Williams says that job seekers can receive an abundant amount of information and support during their transition process into another job with H2H online or at the job fairs.

“It’s a great outreach program, by using the vast resources of the ESGR,” she said. Williams details the hiring numbers so far this year to support the usefulness of H2H’s efforts. This year alone, 12,363 applicants have received jobs from using the program. Currently there are nationally over 19,000 registered employers, with 3.7 million jobs on the website, with over 200 employers added weekly.

In Wyoming, there are currently 31 companies offering 2,978 jobs, with 318 job seekers registered on the website. But, Williams says her work in helping the service members in Wyoming looking for better employment is not over.

“We want to find more employers in this area,” she said. “We want to help the service members here find better employment and to help update their job search skills.”

 

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Photos can be seen at: Flickr

The road back to Wyoming

posted Nov 21, 2013, 8:01 AM by Wyoming Guard

       By 1st Lt. Megan Hoffmann

       Public Affairs Specialist

       Wyoming National Guard

 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Wyoming natives, more than most others, know that one of the main attractions of the cowboy state is the fresh air and wide-open spaces. Many people who look to move to Wyoming do so because they want to experience a more laid back lifestyle, which is possible, in part, due to the fact the Wyoming is the smallest state in the union, not by size, but by population.

John Essley, a Vietnam-era retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 from the Wyoming Army National Guard, knows the attractiveness of Wyoming all too well. As a Wyoming native, born in Casper, Essley grew up in the 1950’s enjoying the small town life. However, this easy-going, small town, carefree lifestyle did not last forever as our nation would soon become deeply entrenched in the Vietnam War.

In 1959 the Vietnam conflict kicked off and was characterized by American uncertainty when it came to our involvement. It soon became apparent however, after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, that American involvement in this conflict was inevitable. About six months later, then President Lyndon Johnson used his authority to order the first U.S. ground forces to Vietnam in spring of 1965.

Four years later in 1969, now living in Boston, Mass., with his parents, Essley learned from the newspaper that his “draft lottery” number was 28.  Essley received a college deferment for a year-and-a-half while he attended Colorado State University.  Upon leaving school and losing his deferment in 1971, he went to the Army recruiting station in Boston and volunteered to be an Army mechanic.

In what seemed like an eternity-long wait, Essley finally went to basic training in Jan. 1972 at Fort Dix, N.J, which saw rapid expansion during the Vietnam War as soldiers who attended basic training there were taught and instilled those principles that would serve them specifically for purposes of fighting in Vietnam. Essley passed this phase of training without problems, and within days was then processed to his next duty station.

As was customary for those times, a second-phase of training, known as Advanced Individual Training, was necessary to ensure that all soldiers were properly prepared to not only face, but survive the current turbulent times of service-members who could ultimately end up in Vietnam. Again, Essley proved his worth as a member of the United States military and superseded all requirements for passing this phase of training as he achieved honor graduate accolades in both his automotive mechanic course at Fort Dix and in his track vehicle mechanics course at Fort Knox, Ky.

As Essley proceeded to his last phase of training to become a mechanic for the Army, he was sent to airborne school at Fort Benning, Ga. It was there that Essley learned how to be a military parachutist while simultaneously developing leadership, self-confidence and mental toughness.

Now a newly polished graduate of airborne school and armed with knowledge to be a mechanic, Essley was ready for his first assignment. He was stationed on active-duty with the 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, N.C., whose mission was, and still is, parachute assault operations into denied areas. It was there, as well as at Fort Bragg, that Essley completed over 20 training jumps. After a three-year stint there, Essley decided that the active-duty, east-coast life was not for him, and he decided not to re-enlist.

After leaving the service, Essley soon felt something was missing in his life. It took him nine years to figure out what it was, and when he did, he re-enlisted in 1984 as a member of the Wyoming Army National Guard, where he would serve honorably until his retirement this October.

Throughout his illustrious career in the WyARNG, he deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the 133rd Engineer Company to Camp Adder, Tallil Air Force Base, Iraq, where he managed the engineer equipment repair shop for nine months. In 2009, he found himself in a similar assignment as he deployed with the 2-300th to Camp Virginia, Kuwait, where he ran the repair facility as battalion maintenance chief.  

             Throughout his tenure as a service member, from draft day, to active duty, to multiple deployments as a member of the Wyoming Air National Guard, one thing has remained the same-Essley’s thankfulness to wear the cloth of this nation.

“I have always been thankful to serve with some great people. Building the bond of brotherhood during deployments has always meant a lot to me,” said Essley when asked what his best memories of his military career were.

Essley continues to stay involved with serving his community as he is a volunteer firefighter and is the faculty advisor at Wyoming Technical Institute in Laramie, Wyo. for the national Student Veterans of America organization.

“Challenge yourself to do something you wouldn’t normally do; don’t stay in the shadows. Make yourself an active member of the organization you serve in and continue to stay active, you won’t regret it,” was Essley’s advice to those serving in the military. “Those in the Wyoming National Guard truly are the cream of the crop. They volunteered to wear this uniform and make the sacrifice to serve our nation and citizens of the state of Wyoming.”

Essley’s journey of service that ultimately led him back to the state of Wyoming reminds us all just how lucky we are to live in this great nation and this great state. Many take the simple things in life for granted, but those who live and serve in Wyoming know that the simple things in life are what make it worth living. This idea of simplicity is also what ultimately leads many to take the road back to Wyoming.  

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