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Meet Your Military: NCO Leads Guard Response Team

[caption id="attachment_3783" align="alignleft" width="300"]NCOleadGuard07202010 Army Sgt. Maj. Kevin E. Smith is the network operations sergeant as well as the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the National Guard’s Domestic All-Hazards Response Team-West. Smith is assigned to the 35th Infantry Division, Missouri Army Guard. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith, National Guard Bureau[/caption] FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – The Missouri Army National Guard’s Sgt. Maj. Kevin E. Smith is the network operations manager and noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the National Guard’s newest Domestic All-Hazards Response Team.
With 31 years of service, Smith knows a thing or two about the Guard’s disaster response capabilities. From deadly heat waves, floods and hurricanes – including Hurricane Katrina – Smith’s service with the 35th Infantry Division has mobilized him on state active duty many times to support his governor and governors of other states.“The division was actually the National Guard’s C2 [command and control] part of Hurricane Katrina [for Louisiana],â€Â Smith said. “We had a work cell at Bell Chasse [Naval Air Station].â€Â Smith and others from the 35th division deployed here last week to participate in an exercise that tests the DART, which can be requested by state governors who need resources to assist civilian responders during a major disaster. The 35th division’s DART-West is one of only two DARTs that encompass the Guard’s major disaster coordination for the nation. The Pennsylvania Guard’s 28th Infantry Division runs DART-East. DARTs provide disaster response assistance at a state governor’s request when the state’s internal assets are exhausted or unavailable, Smith explained. DARTs also can provide assets, he added, through hurricane matrices and emergency management assistance compact agreements. “We find those assets,â€Â he said, explaining that the DART establishes force packages that mobilize and deploy to a disaster area to meet the identified capability gaps. Those packages, Smith said, can provide Army and Air Guard capabilities, including command and control, special response teams, aviation, military police, engineer, transportation, medical, chemical and communications, among others. Army officials pointed out why infantry divisions are qualified to run DART in the service’s 2010 Posture Statement: “The DART concept utilizes the unique capabilities of a division headquarters for planning and coordinating the employment of units.â€Â Having deployed twice with the 35th division’s headquarters, Smith possesses the requisite qualities and experience needed for a DART. He deployed to Multinational Division North in Bosnia as an operations NCO for the communications office there. He also deployed to Camp Bondsteel, the main Army base in Kosovo, and served as a first sergeant for military intelligence. DART members also use their skills and experiences from their civilian occupations, said Smith, who employs his skill as a commercial telecommunications specialist in international circuits and lines. In his DART role, Smith gets communications systems up and working when the team’s coordination cell is activated. In the exercise, the DART simulated its activation for a series of domestic disaster scenarios, including a wildfire, flood, hurricane, earthquake and terrorism. If a DART is ever activated to establish real-world force packages, Smith said, then “something very bad has happenedâ€Â to the nation. “We hope we never have to use the DART,â€Â he said. “I hope my job is always easy … I never want to go to a big disaster.â€ÂJuly 20, 2010: By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith- National Guard Bureau ***SOT***


Meet Your Military: Brothers Serve Together in Afghanistan

[caption id="attachment_3801" align="alignleft" width="299"]BrothersServeTogether07162010 Air Force Master Sgt. Dempsey Walker, left, talks with his brother, Army Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Walker, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 4, 2010. The brothers meet about once a week to talk and relax together while they are deployed. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Healy[/caption] BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan– Two brothers from Atmore, Ala., who wear different uniforms have found themselves not only deployed to Afghanistan at the same time, but also assigned to the same location at this sprawling air base.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Dempsey Walker is a supply support activity platoon sergeant with Company A, Task Force Workhorse, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Falcon. He has spent 24 years in the Army, and is serving on his fourth deployment.His brother, Air Force Master Sgt. Nicholas Walker, is a computer systems manager with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan. He has spent 17 years in the Air Force and is serving on his third deployment.“This is the first time we have been deployed to the same base,â€Â Dempsey said. “We were stationed in Korea at the same time and deployed to Iraq at the same time, but to different bases.â€Â Nicholas said his brother had been here for six months when he arrived. “It makes life here a lot easier,â€Â he said, “having a family member so close who can relate to what you are doing.â€Â Dempsey said he was anxious to join the military and chose the Army because it was able to let him join three months earlier than the other services. Nicholas, however, was not as anxious, and said he made his decision based on the experiences of his brothers. “We have an older brother that used to be in the Air Force,â€Â Nicholas explained. “After I talked to both my brothers, I decided the Air Force was right for me.â€Â Dempsey said he and Nicholas get together at least once a week to talk, go to church or just hang out. They usually eat at least one meal together whenever their schedules allow, he added. “It is nice to have a family member here to talk to -- someone who is in the same location and situation and who can understand and relate to the types of problems that can pop up from time to time,â€Â Dempsey said. “In times like these, it is good to have your brother by your side.â€Â July 16, 2010: By Army Sgt. Robert Healy- Task Force Falcon

Meet Your Military: Physician Assistant Cares for Troops, Local Iraqis

[caption id="attachment_3795" align="alignleft" width="300"]PhysicianAssistantCares07152010 Army 1st Lt. Jessica Larson, a physician assistant with 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, treats an Iraqi child during a one-day, combined U.S.–Iraqi medical clinic in Kubaysah, Iraq, June 6, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Katie Summerhill[/caption] AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq– During a clinical rotation at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, physician assistant student Jessica Larson made up her mind to join the Army.
At the Center for the Intrepid, Larson worked with severely wounded warriors, and from them she drew a singular inspiration.“They were still proud to be in the Army, and they were working really hard to rehabilitate themselves and to do the best they had with what they had,â€Â said Larson, now a physician assistant and a first lieutenant with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, deployed in Iraq since August 2009.“‘This is what life dealt me; this is what I am working with, and now it’s time for me to move on. There is no feeling sorry for yourself here.’ That was the attitude that all the soldiers had,â€Â Larson said. “It was really inspiring.â€Â At age 28, with years invested in a career designing airports for domestic and international markets, Larson, a Chicago native, decided she wanted more than a big paycheck and a corner office. “I asked myself, if I could start over and do anything at all, what would I do? And I realized that I’ve always wanted to be in medicine and never had the guts to try it,â€Â she said. Of all the career options, medicine was the one thing that resonated and stuck, Larson said. However, the Army was never part of the plan until she “met someone who knew someoneâ€Â during PA school clinical rotations. The Army intrigued her, but Larson wanted to be sure she could handle being around the worst of combat injuries before committing. She recalled being deeply impressed by the bravery and stoicism of the severely wounded soldiers, including amputees, she’d met. “That is when I made my decision to join the Army,â€Â Larson said. “If these guys could give up multiple limbs for their country, the least I could do was to give three years of my life.â€Â Not too long after that, the newly-minted PA found herself caring for the soldiers of an airborne logistics unit, the 307th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed in Iraq’s largest and historically most volatile province, al Anbar. “I found that in the military, I was catering to a completely different population than I thought I would be,â€Â said Larson, who initially wanted to practice international medicine in areas with little access to medical care, such as Africa’s Swaziland. “My guys – the guys I treat – are convoy security, and that’s not a very ‘sexy’ job and not often glorified. I really enjoy taking care of them,â€Â she said. “Even though it’s not humanitarian aid in Africa, I feel like it’s an incredibly worthy cause. I am very satisfied with it.â€Â As it turns out, through the advise-and-assist mission of professionalizing Iraqi security forces in Anbar, Larson also gets to care for people who might otherwise never receive medical attention. The U.S. paratroopers, she said, have sponsored temporary medical clinics for the poorer, more rural towns and villages up and down the western Euphrates River Valley in partnership with the Iraqi army, police and local doctors. Often, hundreds of ailing Iraqis, she noted, receive medical treatment at the clinics each day. Larson said some of her soldier-comrades are puzzled as to why she left her corner office and high-paying job for the Army. “I don’t miss my former lifestyle at all,â€Â she emphasized. “I was miserable, and I’m not miserable now.â€Â She tells her younger medics that knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as knowing what you want to do. Don’t do things just for the money and don’t choose things because they are easy, she counsels them. When Larson joined the Army, she recalled, her mother was shocked, and cried. “My mom was like, ‘What are you doing? You are going to deploy. You could get hurt,’â€Â Larson said. “But now my mother is the most ridiculously proud woman on the planet.â€Â The daily challenge of medicine, Larson said, is what keeps her enthused in her job. And, she added, unlike some other occupations, there always is more to learn in medicine. “It’s worth it to me,â€Â Larson said. “It’s an honor serving these guys who are fighting for us and out there doing the grunge work.â€Â July 15, 2010: By Army Sgt. Michael MacLeod- 1st Brigade, 82d Airborne Division Public Affairs Office

Meet Your Military: Guardsman Retires After 56 Years

[caption id="attachment_3811" align="alignleft" width="300"]GuardsmanRetiresAFter07142010 Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nelson "Gene" Blakey of Moweaqua, Ill., retired in June 2010 after 56 years of service with the Illinois Army National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Camacho[/caption] SPRINGFIELD, Ill.,– A young man working on a farm in Illinois decided to enlist in the National Guard in March 1953 after he received a challenge from his friend and employer.
The Korean War’s cease-fire was near, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower had just started his first term in office.Many things have changed since then, but one thing didn’t change: the young man’s commitment to serve his country. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nelson "Gene" Blakey of Moweaqua, Ill., retired June 1 after 56 years in the Illinois National Guard. "I don't think we will ever find anyone to replace him," said Army Sgt. Maj. Donnie R. Parker of Lincoln, Ill. "I think we can find someone who can do the job -- we have personnel in the office who are covering down on the things that he was responsible for and are getting things done -- but as far as the person, I do not think you will ever find anyone who will compare with the person that Mr. Blakey is." Blakey started his military career working in a U.S. Property and Fiscal Office warehouse here. He progressed through the ranks to sergeant major, and then from chief warrant officer 2 to chief warrant officer 4. Blakey hung up his boots and retired as a traditional Illinois National Guardsman in 1994, but he continued to work for the military as a state employee for 16 more years. Although he has experienced many things throughout his career, Blakey said, his last position was his most enjoyable. "My most rewarding position was the last job I had working in the personnel department, because I was able to help enlisted people," he said. "If they had a problem and could not get it solved within their unit, I would try to help get it solved. I worked there from 1975 until I retired." Others attest to Blakey's passion and ability to help soldiers solve problems. "Mr. Blakey, in the time that I worked with him, was a person that was very interested and concerned with taking care of soldiers," Parker said. "He would go out of his way to do whatever needed to be done to see that the soldiers were being taken care of in a way they should be. He was a very humble, outgoing person who was willing to assist in any way possible, whether it was part of his job description or not." While Blakey's career nearly spanned the length of three 20-year military careers, he said he continued to serve in the Illinois National Guard because of his friends and family. His wife, Bonnie Blakey, also is retired from the Illinois National Guard."My family has been supportive of me," Blakey said. "My wife retired in 1999, and her support and involvement has been very important. If your family knows what you are doing, they stay with you and help you through everything." Most people working at Camp Lincoln here knew Blakey, and many others throughout the state connected with him during their careers as well. "He definitely had the ability to mix his professional career with friendships," said Ray Perry of Springfield, personnel support officer for the Illinois National Guard and a retired colonel with the Illinois Army National Guard. "I always enjoyed making my morning rounds and getting the latest news or thought for the day from him,â€Â Perry said. “He always had the ability to put a smile on your face." Although Blakey has retired, he does not look to take it easy. Instead, he is focusing his attention on things that need to be improved around his house. "I will have horses to take care of, along with house and barn work to do," he said. "I will not slow down. I will keep going as long as I can." July 14, 2010: By Army Sgt. Jesse Houk- 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment ***SOT***

Meet Your Military: Third-Generation Officer Takes Oath

[caption id="attachment_3807" align="alignleft" width="300"]ThirdGenerationOfficer07132010 Navy Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, Joint Task Force 435 commander, administers the oath of commissioning to his nephew, Navy Ensign Ian Kriegish, via video teleconference in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 9, 2010. Kriegish is a third-generation sailor in the family to serve as an officer. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William A. O’Brien[/caption] KABUL, Afghanistan– One of the Navy’s newest officers joined the ranks in a unique way July 9 when he received his commissioning oath via video teleconference from his uncle, a Navy vice admiral who commands a joint task force in Afghanistan.
The commissioning of Ensign Ian Kriegish by Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, Joint Task Force 435 commander, marked the beginning of the third generation of his family to serve as an officer in the Navy. “We are all very proud of you -- proud of you for what you’re doing,â€Â Harward told his nephew. “You’re taking on this obligation when we’re at war, and you’ll serve while we’re at war. There’s no greater purpose that you could have in life, so go out and serve the fleet well.â€Â Harward introduced Kriegish to the Navy. As a recent honors graduate from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Kriegish was undecided about his future. But a visit to his uncle’s home in Norfolk, Va., changed that. “When he was visiting me in Norfolk, he didn’t know what he wanted to do,â€Â Harward said. “I live near the [aircraft] carrier, so we just walked over and walked on some of the ships. We talked to some young kids who were just junior officers. He decided that joining seemed interesting, so he applied.â€Â After finding out that he had aced the entry test and had been accepted to become an intelligence officer, Kriegish began Officer Candidate School. “When he applied, he wanted intel, so he was excited to be accepted by them and to have that be what he’s going to do for the next few years,â€Â Harward said. After receiving his commission, Kriegish was congratulated by his attending family and his video-teleconferencing uncle. “Congratulations, Ensign Kriegish,â€Â the admiral said. “I just wish I could be there to be your first salute.â€Â After a small talk with the family, Harward offered a parting, “Go get ’em, Ensign Kriegish,â€Â as he sent his nephew to join the fleet. Joint Task Force 435 assumed responsibility for U.S. detention operations -- including the care and custody of detainees at the detention facility in Parwan -- oversight of detainee review processes, programs for the peaceful reintegration of detainees into society, and coordination with other agencies and partners for the promotion of the rule of law in Afghanistan. July 13, 2010: By Air Force Senior Airman William A. O’Brien- Joint Task Force 435


Meet Your Military: Air Guard Instructor Uses Marine Experience

[caption id="attachment_3821" align="alignleft" width="300"]AirGuardInstructor07092010 Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Butler served 12 years in the Marine Corps before becoming an instructor for the Texas Air National Guard's Desert Defender Air Force Regional Training Center in El Paso, Texas. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith[/caption] EL PASO, Texas – Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Butler is a former Marine who’s now serving here as an instructor with the Texas Air National Guard.
"I absolutely love my job down here and the guys I work with," Butler said about serving with the 204th Security Forces Squadron, which operates the Desert Defender Air Force Regional Training Center.Butler is putting the combat knowledge he gained through his Marine Corps service to use by preparing active duty, Air Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command security forces airmen for area security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their training includes mounted operations on armored vehicles, dismounted patrols, counterinsurgency operations, and sniper and countersniper operations. Butler provides his students with some Marine Corps-style confidence-building during their nearly 50 days of intense training. "I tell them up front, 'I'm going to push you to your limits, as far as I can possibly push you,' and that's what we do," he said. "Coming out of here, they learn a valuable lesson, whether it's how much they can stand, or who can stand the heat and who needs to be trained a little bit more." The Guard is well known for its soldiers and airmen who bring civilian expertise as well as prior service knowledge to a mission. Butler said the real-life experiences of all the Guard instructors help in developing scenarios that show students what they will encounter when they’re deployed. Butler joined the Air Guard after serving 12 years in the Marine Corps and two years with Air Force Reserve Command, which brought him to the Texas Guard on a temporary duty assignment. "I had no intentions when I came to this unit of joining the Guard until I came down here," he said. Since he joined, the schoolhouse has grown to become an Air Force-certified, regional facility with new buildings, classrooms and the latest military equipment. "We put our heads together and based off of that and what the [Air Force] Security Forces Center requires us to teach, [we] roll that all into one training package," he said. Butler works with 39 other instructors, including other Marine Corps and Army combat veterans, former police officers and other experienced Guardsmen. "The drive, the desire to do good and teach these deploying defenders is in every single one of the cadre,â€Â said Air Force Lt. Col. Carl Alvarez, the squadron and training center commander. “We all give a 110 percent every day to these students." Alverez said experience "outside the wire" in the combat theater is an important element the instructors bring to the table. "The cadre has fired their weapons in theater,â€Â he said. “They have seen it, they have done it, and that is what we are best suited to [teach]." July 9, 2010: By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith-National Guard Bureau

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