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
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.”
organization of any joint task force mission is challenging, but something
military leaders prepare for constantly.
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.”
days and short nights, the service members came prepared to work and maintained
positive outlooks on seemingly endless tasks.
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.”
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.
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.”
soldiers and airmen dropped what they were doing in order to come support their
towns in need.
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
efforts accelerated helping to minimize flood damage as the National Guard and
Air Guard worked alongside local residents and emergency services.
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.”
members also received support from local residents, businesses and volunteers.
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
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.”
the military, helping a community and helping your neighbors is something
rarely found at the same time.
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
By Capt. Thomas Blackburn
Deputy Public Affairs Specialist
Wyoming National Guard
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.
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
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."
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. "
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."
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.
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
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.
two qualities I look for in the NCOs are initiative and aggressiveness,"
"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.
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
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
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?"
By Sgt. Michael
A. Cotignola III
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
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
“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
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
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
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
First Air Force officer leaving a strong
legacy at Camp Guernsey
By Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy
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
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
“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
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.”
Photos can be seen at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wyoguard/
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
By 1st Lt. Megan Hoffmann
Public Affairs Specialist
Wyoming National Guard
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The Wyoming Military
Department found itself knee-deep in another government mandated furlough to
begin the fiscal year. As angst and uncertainty continue to grow, members of
the Wyoming Military Department (WyMD) may be asking how they are in this
quandary again, and what the future might hold.
On Oct. 1, the WyMD had to again
furlough a sizeable portion of its force as all Department of Defense commands,
staffs and agencies were directed to execute an immediate shutdown. On that
day, federal employees of the WyMD put out of office replies on their emails,
set-up their voicemails to say they would be out of office for an unknown,
possibly extended amount of time, packed up any belongings that needing be
taken home, and walked out the front door, not knowing when they might return.
Three short days later, Gov. Matt Mead had to furlough 103 federally-funded
state employees because of the federal government’s inability to commit to
funding the federal portion of those salaries.
When all was said and done, the WyMD
had to furlough more than 400 state and military employees,
leaving only state-funded employees, contract personnel and Active Guard and
Reserve military members at work.
However, just as quickly as
circumstances turned bad, the situation started to improve as federal
technicians were called back to work on Oct. 7-less than a week after receiving
their furlough notices. This call-back was executed due to a close DOD analysis
of the “Pay our Military Act,” which stated specific provisions relating to the
authority to bring back certain employees whose role and responsibilities fit
into very specific categories, classifying them as “excepted.” In the WyMD, 433
employees were classified as “exempt” and were given the green-light to return
to work. However, federally-funded state employees who were finally called back
to work on Oct. 21, did not fall into this exempted status and were at home for
weeks without pay. At this point, there is no way to forecast what decisions
will be made in regards to retroactive pay for these employees.
Although fiscal uncertainty is never a
welcome feeling, nor one easy to deal with, it seems to be a sign of the times,
especially as it relates to the military. In recent years, the military has
been consistently asked to “do more with less.” So much so, that it has almost
become the new motto, to the point where military members and government
employees forget there is help out there to assist them in times of need. The
mindset of “every man for themself,” is no longer the motto; we are a team in
which not one member is more essential than another.
In the immediate aftermath of all this,
Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, the adjutant general for Wyoming, said to members of the
WyMD when talking about the government shutdown and the effects of impending
furloughs, “we remain a team and I want to check in with each and every one of
you to ensure that the services we offer have helped you to the maximum extent
Help they did. On Oct, 9th and 10th,
the WyMD hosted spaghetti dinners at Camp Guernsey and the Wyoming Air National
Guard dining facility in Cheyenne, as a way to check in with furloughed
employees, answer their questions, and present a united front to tell our
employees that we will get through these difficult circumstances together, just
as we always have. At both events service providers from the Department of
Workforce Services, the State Department and the Servicemen, Family, Employer,
Readiness Support Team (S-FERST,) were on-hand to answer questions and provide
information on resources available to help out those in need.
These efforts were both noticed and
appreciated by many employees in the WyMD. “I have always been conscious of
financial spending and income, and that is helping me to handle this situation
as best as I can. However, not everyone is as fortunate as I am and the effects
of this will be extremely hard on many people,” said Mike Harte, a firefighting
driver/operator with the Wyoming Air National Guard. “Despite everything, the
Air National Guard has been my rock and my professional identity is rooted
there. I can’t say enough good things about Air National Guard command and
upper-echelon officers and the daily phone calls they made to give me updates
and check-in with me while I was furloughed. Communication from the top of the
organization down was phenomenal and command made the best of an unfortunate
Others in the organization also echo Harte’s
sentiments. “Professionally, the effects of this are very detrimental because
our mission doesn’t stop. It can’t,” said Dustin Kafka, integrated training
area management coordinator for Camp Guernsey. “Personally, this has definitely
put a crunch on the finances, and if this continues for the long-haul I am not
sure how people will effectively handle it-how can you? I can only imagine what
leadership staff is going through in trying to deal with this. The human
resources staff has acted as the frontline throughout all of this and being
able to talk to them about questions and concerns I have has been beneficial.
As Gen. Reiner said, we are one team, in one fight. However, one member of the
team (federally-funded state employees) is hurting, and hurting badly. Knowing
Gen. Reiner, as the leader of this organization, and his staff, are working on
trying to find solutions, helps to ease the effects we are facing.”
Resiliency has always been one of the
traits that has proven to define this nation’s military. We have learned,
through trial, tribulation and err, there is always a light at the end of the
tunnel. However, some tunnels are longer than others, with smaller lights at
the end. The trick is not to judge the distance of the tunnel, or the strength
of the light at the end, but continue to keep walking forward with your head
held-high and your eyes open. “Keep on keepin’ on,” as some might say.
By Larry Barttelbort
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – National and
organizational flags, referred to as colors in the military, have always been
an important part of military customs and courtesies. Ancient times saw the
colors as the symbol of various tribes and sects. They were used as rally points during
conflicts, rallying points in battle. During the Civil War, color sergeants
were entrusted to lead their men into battle and always remain at the front,
protecting these important symbols of leadership. Regimental and battalion colors have always
been vital symbols for our U.S. Army units as they deployed for training or
The U.S. colors, which is basically
the American flag, and the colors of the 300th Armored Field Artillery (AFA)
Battalion, of the Wyoming Army National Guard, left Wyoming in Aug. 1950 after
mobilization, in route to the Korean War.
The 300th AFA was part of a much
larger United Nations (UN) force during the war and as such, the UN colors also
flew over the battalion headquarters.
The signing of the cease-fire in July 1953 saw the battalion revert from
combat to training Republic of Korea (ROK) army artillerymen. This training would continue until the 300th
was deactivated Sept. 1954. A prominent photo
from that period shows the U.S. and UN colors flying over the headquarters in
the vicinity of Kumwha, South Korea.
Fast forward forty years to 1993 when
the men of the 300th and their spouses held their first formal reunion since
the Korean War at Jackson, Wyo. The
reunion in Jackson Hole saw these men rekindle friendships with each other and
form a renewed bond totaling over 200 men and their families. The 300th AFA Battalion Association was
formed and they would meet as a group every other year. Interesting tales would
emerge and amazing stories would reveal themselves.
One such story concerned the travels
of both the U.S. and UN colors that once flew in Korea.
A radio sergeant in Headquarters
Battery, Frank Kallmeyer, of California, was present on Sept. 17, 1954 when the
battalion struck the colors and returned to the U.S. An enterprising soldier, Sgt. Kallmeyer was
able to secure the U.S. colors and they remained with him until he joined the
300th’s association in the early 1990’s and presented the UN colors to them. He thought it important to have the colors
back in Wyoming.
However, it was not an easy road for
the colors return. His health would not permit him to attend the reunion in
1993 and 1996. He communicated this with
Ralph Pickett of Worland, Wyo., another 300th veteran. The colors were finally passed, via mail,
from Kallmeyer to Pickett, and then on to the association’s Historian, Dr. Bill
Day. Kallmeyer passed away on Dec. 25,
The U.S. Department of Defense, along
with the Wyoming Army National Guard, downsized following the victories in
1991’s Operation Desert Storm. During
the reorganization ceremonies in 1996, the veterans of the 300th association
wished to provide some type of memento to the soldiers of the newly designated
2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery Regiment.
The UN colors from Korea were
presented to the 2-300th during the 300th reunion banquet in Tacoma, Wash. in
Sept. 1996. Maj. Gen. Ed Boenisch, the
Adjutant General of Wyoming, and Lt. Gen. Gary J. Dunn, outgoing commander of
the 1st Battalion, 49th Field Artillery Regiment, accepted the colors on behalf
of the 2-300th. They now fly in the battalion headquarters of the 2-300th in
But what of the U.S. flag that flew in
Korea? Its journey involved another veteran of the 300th AFA.
Mr. Bryce Gehrmann, of Carson, Iowa,
was drafted into the Army in 1953. After
attending basic artillery training at Ft. Polk, La., he traveled to Korea in
1953 aboard the same ship that brought the 300th there two years earlier, the “USNS
His initial assignment was to Service
Battery of the 300th as a driver and he was later re-assigned to headquarters
to drive for the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Anthony Kelly.
As driver for the commander, Pfc.
Gehrmann, and a small group of soldiers, was around the headquarters during the
last few days the unit occupied the Kumwha position. He eventually took
possession of the U.S. colors after the deactivation. Around the same time,
Sgt. Kallmeyer would retrieve the UN colors.
Pfc. Gehrman held onto the soiled U.S.
colors until his return to the U.S. in 1955, when he returned to Iowa to raise
two children and continue farming in the Carson area.
He learned of his former units
association in 2002 and was soon able to talk to unit historian Dr. Bill
Day. He asked if the association would
like the U.S. Colors. Dr. Day’s reply was a quick and adamant yes.
The newly acquired, and framed, U.S.
colors now hang with its former companion, the UN colors, in Sheridan. Generous
donations from the 300th AFA Association and Cowboy Cannoneer Chapter of the
U.S. Field Artillery Association have ensured preservation of these colors for
By Sgt. 1st
Class James McGuire
National Guard Public Affairs Chief
FONTANELLE DAM, Wyo. - Soldiers do their best to survive
in deadly situations and live life to the fullest in the meantime. The same
goes for honorary “Sgt.” Mikey Thorpe, a 10-year-old from Evanston, Wyo. who
was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in May of 2009.
After three years of chemotherapy,
doctors thought he had recovered in August of last year, and elected to stop
the cancer treatment. Just a month later his pain became so debilitating he was
taken by ambulance to Salt Lake City, Utah for more tests.
The cancer was back; along with other
complications such as a collapsed lung and a blood clot in his heart. Mikey was
back at war with the cancer.
Another three months of chemotherapy
brought no positive results, so Mikey’s doctors prescribed a bone marrow
transplant. After four weeks in the hospital, and several more months in the
Salt Lake City area during recovery, Mikey was allowed to go home in July.
However, Mikey’s condition was deemed terminal last month, as the leukemia
cells have progressed very aggressively in the new bone marrow.
Knowing that, Mikey made a “Bucket
List.” One item on his list: being a Soldier.
He can now check that one off, as the
Wyoming Army National Guard’s 1041st Multi-Role Bridge Company helped Mikey
live his dream for a few hours Sept. 14.
The “float bridge” unit is
headquartered in Rock Springs and has detachments in Evanston and Afton. Once
the unit got wind of Mikey’s wish, they arranged to have the camouflage-clad
kid meet up with them at Fontanelle Dam where the soldiers train during some drill
Building mobile bridges involves boats
and trucks and lots of coordinated effort from the almost 40 soldiers in
attendance at this past weekend’s drill. Mikey got to experience quite a few of
those efforts, including riding in the trucks used for hauling boats and
components of the float bridges, firing a M-4 assault rifle, riding in Humvees, and driving through the
waves he was making with his boat on the reservoir.
“I’ve got a lot of things on my list,”
Mikey said. “Ever since I was one-year-old I wanted to ride in a military
truck, it was good.”
His mom, Tessa Thorpe, said the family
decided to let Mikey enjoy what time he has left.
“The first three years of chemo were
great,” she said. “He’s just not responding to it now. All the doctors and
hospitals and chemo takes away from his quality of life. It was our choice. Let
him enjoy his time as a kid and let him do his list. No matter what, he always
has that smile.”
Mikey received several rounds of
applause from the National Guard unit as well as lots of patches, hats and
various uniform pieces. Company commander, Capt. Mike Pezeshki, presented him
with a much-coveted “Sapper” patch and a coin from the battalion commander,
among other things.
“It was great having him here,”
Pezeshki said. “It was the highlight of drill for a lot of our soldiers.”
One of those soldiers, Senior Boat
Operator Staff Sgt. Eric Dirkes, who manned the throttle while Mikey steered
the boat thought he did pretty well. “He really got the hang of it,” said
Dirkes. “He’s better than some of my crewmembers.”
Tessa said the outpouring of support
from the community has been “amazing.”
Mikey has an optimistic Facebook
community as well. His page is called: Thoughts & Prayers For Mikey, Im Gonna
Kick Cancers Butt.
Photos can be found at Flickr.
By 1st Lt. Megan Hoffmann
Public Affairs Specialist
Wyoming National Guard
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – At 1 a.m., most of
the population of the state of Wyoming find themselves in the middle of their
REM cycle; sound asleep and completely carefree. Maj. Christopher Troesh, commander of the 84th
Civil Support Team (CST), doesn’t have the luxury of being carefree and he has
little familiarity with a REM cycle as he rarely gets enough sleep to
In the early morning hours on June 22,
Troesh received a call from the Laramie Fire Department detailing the events
that caused a chemical fire in a chemical storage facility located in close
proximity to the Laramie High School. Although the Laramie Fire Department was
able to contain the fire, they were not trained to identify and assess the
chemicals present in such an incident- however, those employed by the CST are.
Troesh gathered all the required
information from the Laramie Fire Department, made the necessary phone calls, gathered his personnel,
and within 30 minutes they were out the door. Soon they were I-80 bound to
assist with civilian support of an incident that had the possibility to injure
or kill people within a hundred meters if not handled properly.
For the members of the 84th CST, based
in Cheyenne, Wyo., this type of incident is considered routine. They house 22
full-time personnel from both Army and Air branches of the military, all of
whom are hazardous material (HAZMAT) certified and possess anywhere from 600 to
1800 hours of specialized training in order to acquire their qualifications. The
staff combine to hold more than 15 different military specialties and are
on-call 24 hours-a-day to put their expertise to use as they are keenly aware that
the safety and security of Wyoming citizens- should an incident occur- may lie
in their hands.
“We are truly unique. . .our team of
Army and Air Guard members work side by side with our first responders and
agencies to provide help to people in need. Our small team is able to handle
extremely complex missions during an all hazard response to help the people of
Wyoming,” said 1st Sgt. Steven Stoughton, 84th CST first sergeant.
It may surprise Wyoming citizens to
hear that the Laramie chemical fire incident isn’t the first episode that the
CST has responded to locally. Within the last four months, the 84th CST has
also responded to a suspected bio-threat, commonly referred to as a “white
powder incident”, against the Mayor of Cheyenne, an explosives spill on I-25
that contained over 2,800 gallons of mixed chemicals that could cause a catastrophic explosion, and to wildfires
in Colorado to facilitate communications between the unified command suite and support
aircraft. Each incident was resolved
without major injury to people or damage to property.
“I feel that we are in a position to
truly help not just our community, but all the citizens of the United States.
The 84th CST is deeply integrated with community and emergency personnel.
Virtually every mission we do is a joint operation with some other task force
and we manage to run these missions seamlessly,” said Sgt. Stanley Boulden,
84th CST survey team member.
The CST strives to support civil
authorities at domestic chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN)
incident sites by identifying CBRN agents and substances present, assessing
their consequences, advising response measures, and assisting with support of
those measures. The mission is an extensive one that has been tried and tested
over the past several months in Wyoming, and proven reliable and lifesaving.
“The CST also supports civil authorities
during times of natural or manmade disasters that result, or could result, in
the catastrophic loss of life or property,” said Troesh. “We possess the ability to rapidly deploy to
anywhere in the state of Wyoming in less than eight hours, or around the nation
if called to do so. We have provided support for events ranging from Cheyenne
Frontier Days, to clean-up and restoration efforts after Hurricane Ike.”
The CST also has the capabilities to
perform mobile laboratory analysis, provide secure voice and data
communications, administer emergency medical treatment, and decontaminate hazardous sites.
In other words, they are a one
stop-shop for lending assistance during disasters in the state of Wyoming, and across the nation, should
they occur. They are always on-call, always ready, and always responsive to
Wyoming and to the nation.