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Story by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Tech. Sgt. Patricia Nasby of the 123rd Maintenance Squadron from the 123rd Airlift Wing, Louisville, Kentucky works on the propeller of a C-130, October 13, 2014 at the base . Nasby is the only full time woman mechanic in the shop and has been a member of the Wing for 34 years. She plans to retire in February 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Tearing down the engine of a C-130H, inspecting its parts, then re-assembling again is all in a day’s work for Tech. Sgt. Patricia Nasby, an aircraft engine mechanic for the 123rd Maintenance Squadron from Louisville, Kentucky.

Preparing for retirement in February 2015 after 34 years of service as a member of the 123rd Airlift Wing here, Nasby took some time to reflect on what got her to this point in life, those who helped her along the way, and what her next chapter will be.

Growing up with a heavy equipment operator father and six brothers in Indiana, Nasby always had the idea of working with machinery in some capacity, but kept getting pushed aside to other chores due to her being a woman.

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Tech. Sgt Patricia Nasby of the 123rd Maintenance Squadron from the 123rd Airlift Wing, Louisville, Kentucky examines the engine of a C-130, October 13, 2014 at the base. Nasby has been a mechanic in the Wing for 34 years and plans to retire soon. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

“I signed up to take automotive class in high school (after dropping out of typing class) and was pulled aside only to be told that I shouldn’t do this,” Nasby explained. “The school told me that I would be taking away a job from a man who needed to support his family.”

Echoing the school’s sentiment was Nasby’s mother who was also not in favor of the hands on work that the, now high school graduate, so desired.

“I had wanted to go into the Air Force right out of high school,” Nasby explained. “But my mom talked me out of it. This was a time when women were just starting to take on non-traditional roles in the work place. I had known for a long time that I wanted to be a part of the Air Force, but I followed my mom’s advice instead.”

After going the traditional route of marriage and starting a family, Nasby made the choice to follow her dream of entering the service; five years later than what she had originally planned.

“Although I faced work place challenges here, I truly found my calling when I began working on the afterburners of the F4s,” said the mechanic. “It was great to be able to work with my hands alongside others doing the same thing.”

As the only woman working in the male-dominated maintenance area, work place challenges came right away.

“I was assigned to a very tough sergeant when I first got here,” said Nasby. “I think the intent was for him to intimidate me and see how long I would stay. When he saw that I could really do the work, and enjoyed it, he became someone who was glad to have me on his team.”

Changes in attitude came along in time as well as new personnel and aircraft. During her years in the maintenance area, two other female Airmen came and went and the wing transitioned from the F4s to the C-130s.

“Culture in the workplace is so different now than it was when I came into it,” explained Nasby. “Women have taken on much more non-traditional roles in the military and in other jobs. There are many opportunities now that didn’t exist then. More women are deploying and working in overseas environments.”

Indeed the culture change has allowed Nasby to see many parts of the world as she traveled aboard a C-130 to its various destinations. She has deployed to Germany and twice to Afghanistan. But her favorite trip was to the Philippines when the older model C-130s were sold to the country and needed to be delivered.

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Tech. Sgt. Patricia Nasby of the 123rd Maintenance Squadron from the 123rd Airlift Wing, Louisville, Kentucky works as an aircraft engine mechanic at the base . Here, she prepares the tools she will need to repair a C-130. Nasby is the only fulltime woman mechanic in the shop and has been a member of the Wing for 34 years. She plans to retire in February 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

“We ended up landing in so many different places along the way that weren’t planned, it felt like a world tour,” reflected Nasby. “On the return trip on a commercial flight, we had an unexpected layover in Hawaii. It was great!”

Seeing the world and learning the ins and outs of new aircraft have filled Nasby’s days on the job, but outside of the Air Guard, she has been busy as well. The mother of two, grandmother of three and great-grandmother of three, the mechanic plans to hang up her wrench and spend time with her family.

“My mom passed away just before I entered basic training so I have used my extended family a lot to help with my kids,” she explained. “I missed a lot of birthdays and special events.

“But I think my family is very proud of me and of my accomplishments,” said a slightly teary eyed Nasby. “I have worked with really great people here and have great memories, but it’s time to leave this behind and be a grandma.”

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Soldiers of the Kentucky National Guard’s Computer Network Defense Team work to ensure the security of cyber networks in both the Nation and the Commonwealth. In addition to their military training, each member has thorough knowledge of information technology from civilian careers. (Courtesy photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear recently proclaimed October as Cyber Security Awareness Month, a testament of the growing technology threat to individuals, businesses and governments’ secure information.

The United States Military has recently grown its own warriors to combat the threat as well with the addition of a U.S. Army Cyber Command. With a growing number of cyber defense units, the Kentucky National Guard’s Computer Network Defense team remains on the cutting edge of providing defensive cyberspace operations to the Nation and the Commonwealth.

Cyber warfare and many of these units have been around for years, but Maj. Dean Kendrick, commander of Kentucky’s cyber team said more attention has been brought to cyberspace threats because of the constantly changing technologies and expanding communication networks.

“I’m proud to be on the leading edge of this new form of combat,” he said. “This form, however, isn’t much different than traditional combat.  The terrain in this case just happens to be virtual rather than physical, but many of the same concepts apply.”

US Army Cyber Command

Established in 2010, Army Cyber Command is the lead for Army missions, actions and functions related to cyberspace, including the responsibility for planning, coordinating, integrating, synchronizing, directing and conducting Army network operations and the defense of all Army networks.

The unit’s mission is to ensure the proper security measures are in place for Government information networks. According to Cyber Command leadership, the number and sophistication of cyber threats are on the rise, partially due to the ease at which hackers are finding ways to attack networks.

This past June, Kentucky’s team partnered with cyber defense Soldiers and Airmen from the Tennessee and Alabama National Guard for CyberGuard, a tactical-level exercise focused on national defensive cyberspace operations in a dynamic joint-cyber training environment.  The Soldiers and Airmen worked with elements of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command to support the Department of Homeland Security and FBI’s responses to simulated foreign-based attacks on infrastructure networks.

Chief Warrant Officer Michael Robinson was among the first Army officers with a military operational specialty devoted to cyber operations. He describes the unit’s role as exciting, but far from an easy one.

“It is difficult to explain what cyber warfare is and will become,” he said. “The scope of our effort goes from detecting and responding to advanced threats to training users about securely handling their emails.”

Members of the unit bring a wealth of experience to the fight. Not only have these Soldiers trained extensively with the military in this new field, but they all work with information technologies in their civilian careers. The team gathered with civilian cyber security professionals in September at the annual DerbyCon, a conference for information technologies and network security in Louisville, Kentucky.

As the cyber threat grows, no one agency or department is immune, which is why the unit also spends a good amount of time working alongside a variety of organizations in joint operations and exercises.

The Soldiers agree that their constant training and learning puts them in good position to both attack cyber threats and defend network securities of the Commonwealth and the Nation. It is their ever-evolving skills they rely on to succeed on the digital battlefield.

Staff Sgt. Adam Decker believes in the old adage of having a good offense is the best defense. As a former infantryman, he has seen how the Army takes the fight to its enemies. Decker said this warfare has the potential to be thousands of miles away then within your own organization in seconds.

“Coming from a combat related MOS, I’ve learned that modern cyber security measures have become the new mission and protections,” said Decker. “Meaning I’ve moved from an assault rifle to a keyboard.”

 

 

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Col. Charles Jones presents Col. (retired) Mike Gavin with a Meritorious Service Medal during a ceremony held at Boone National Guard Center Oct. 16, 2014. Gavin retired after more than 30 years with the Kentucky National Guard, his most recent assignment being the state surgeon.  (Photo by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — When Mike Gavin first tried to join the military the recruiters didn’t want him.  They said that, among other things, he was practically blind.

“I told them, well, I’m a blind surgeon, if that makes a difference,” he said.

It did.

More than thirty years later Kentucky Army National Guard State Surgeon Col. Mike Gavin retired after a distinguished and amazing career — despite having to wear glasses.

Click here for more photos.

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The “blind surgeon.” Mike Gavin in the field on drill weekend. He went on to serve two tours of duty in Iraq and Uzbekistan, saving lives and bringing comfort to others. (Photo courtesy Col. Mike Gavin)

Gavin served as the battalion surgeon for the old 1st Battalion  123rd Armor as well as 2nd Battalion 123rd Armor.  He also served as brigade surgeon for the 149th Maneuver Enhanced Brigade.

Col. Mike Abell, G-1 director, remembers the first time he met Gavin.

“I was at my first National Guard drill at the firing range,” he said.  “There was this tent that  had a sign that said ‘minor surgery’ and I was amazed to find out they were doing actual surgery on drill weekend.  I’d just come off active duty as an Army Ranger and we didn’t even have that.”

“I told [then] Major Gavin how I’d just gone through a minor surgery with the Army.  He said if  I’d seen him during a drill weekend he could have done it, no problem.”

Gavin had a reputation for giving above and beyond to soldiers, but his practice wasn’t limited to drill weekends and annual training.  He also served a tour of duty in Uzbekistan and two in Iraq, where he saved lives and brought comfort to his fellow service members.

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Nancy Gavin, wife of Col. Mike Gavin, was recognized for her contribution as a military spouse. The Gavins have been married for more than 39 years. (Photo by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

Needless to say, Gavin received numerous accolades and awards for his professional accomplishments.  But that’s not what he talked about at his retirement ceremony.  Instead, he focused on the teamwork that made his time with the Kentucky Army National Guard so special.

“I remember after I first got in and going on annual training in Texas,” he said.  “I had this group of NCOs that were trying to teach me how to drive an M113 (armored personnel carrier).  I’ll never forget it … they would slap the top of my helmet to get me to go, slap the right side to turn right and the left side to turn left.  And to get me to stop they would pound the top of my head repeatedly.”

Gavin said throughout his career he relied on soldiers to “slap him on the head” and keep him in line.  “It isn’t easy for a Spec. 4 to say, ‘sir, I really don’t think you should do that.  It’s due to that kind of guidance, that camaraderie and support that I was able to do what I needed to do.”

“I’ll miss the Guard and working with a great bunch of soldiers,” he said.  “It’s been a privilege and an honor to serve.”

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​SrA. Courtnay Hester sets up an electric generator to feed the Joint Task Force-Port Opening Senegal operations center Oct. 5, 2014, at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal, in support of Operation United Assistance. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer.

 Courtesy Autumn A. Arnett, Air Force Magazine
Oct. 24, 2014​—Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took to YouTube Tuesday to address concerns over Operation United Assistance—the international effort to aid in the relief of the growing Ebola crisis.

“We’re doing what we do best: leveraging our unique capabilities to support the international and US effort in response to this crisis,” Dempsey said. The lead agency for the operation is USAID, with the Defense Department filling in to support the efforts as needed. However, DOD’s “unique capabilities” do not include actual patient care.

For airmen, these capabilities consist of delivering supplies via international staging bases—or ISBs—and establishing Expeditionary Medical Support Systems (EMEDS) to assist US public health workers with their efforts.

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group deployed to Senegal to “facilitate and expedite the transportation of equipment, supplies, and personnel” from the intermediate staging base at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar into the affected region, Col. David Mounkes, commander of the Joint Task Force-Port Opening Senegal and commander of the 123rd CRG, told Air Force Magazine via email.

Airmen continue moving protective medical equipment, medication, medical test equipment, tents, vehicles, generators, Army mobile deployable rapid assembly shelters (also known as Drash trailers), diesel fuel, lithium batteries, forklift and support personnel, cots, MREs, water, milk, and various other support items through the airport, he said.

For members of the 123rd, this is the type of mission they train for, Mounkes said.

“The 123d CRG deploys to open and operate airfields, usually as the first US Air Force presence deployed,” he said. “This mission was not that different from previous missions, in that the unit was deployed on short notice to an airfield where there was very little infrastructure for DOD air mobility operations. We bring that infrastructure with us, set up initial air mobility operations, and hand off the mission in 45 to 60 days to follow-on operators.”

“This is what we do, and we feel privileged to be able to do it,” Mounkes added.

The 633rd Medical Group at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., recently returned from West Africa after deploying on short notice to set up an EMEDS system. Col. Wayne Pritt, group commander, told Air Force Magazine that educating his unit about what to expect helped ease the understandable “level of anxiety with this mission.”

Between “solid leadership of the team down-range,” and educating and training airmen “about public health, about Ebola, the way it’s transmitted, what they would and wouldn’t be doing,” and reassuring them “that when you’re not treating an Ebola patient— which they would not be doing and did not do—the risk of transmission is essentially zero,” concerns over the nearly-three week mission were eased a bit.

Earlier this month, some members of Congress expressed concerns over the safety and healthcare of US service members traveling to Africa to aid in the efforts. However, lawmakers authorized $750 million to fund the operation on Oct. 10.

Dempsey assured naysayers via his video address that all of those sent to support the relief efforts are “provided the right training and the proper protective equipment” and that DOD is utilizing “the highest medical and safety protocols … before, during, and after deployment.”

“While the mission in West Africa will not include direct care to patients, the safety and health concerns of the men and women of our joint forces and their families remain of greatest importance to me and our Joint Chiefs,” Dempsey said.

Pritt echoed the Chairman’s assertion, saying the safety of airmen on the ground was a top priority and airmen felt confident in their preparation and health security during the mission.

“Once they got on the ground, they saw that the pre-mission training was exactly correct and the anxiety level dissipated pretty quickly,” he said. The team got in and executed, and returned back to Langley “around 3 a.m.” Oct. 20. They were predictably “very glad to be back,” but they also were “very proud of what they had done.”

“They really went out there and exercised and showed the world … what the Air Force is [about],” Pritt said. “The speed at which we can engage in an activity and the flexibility that we have is really one of the strong points of the Air Force, and they had shown that; and they were proud of that, and we were proud of them.”

Pritt said the airmen from the 633rd Medical Group “came back from this deployment with no known exposure, which is exactly the way we thought they would come back.”

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123 Security Forces Squadron personnel apprehend an simulated opposing force actor during a training exercise, at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky. on Sept. 18, 2014. The SFS conducted a week-long training course for combat skills training and to prepare for future deployments. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

By Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center, Greenville, Ky.– Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123d Security Forces Squadron participated in field training on September 15-19 at WHFRTC. This training was designed to help prepare young Airmen and non-commissioned officers for future deployments.

Click here for more photos from this story.

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Staff Sgt. Kyle Clark, security forces craftsman for the 123rd Security Forces Squadron, teaches a security tactics class during a training exercise, at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky. on Sept. 17, 2014. The 123rd SFS conducted a week-long training course for combat skills training and to prepare for future deployments. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

This bi-annual training event began on base in the classroom the week prior. The week-long training was kicked off by an aviation insertion via a Kentucky Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. From there they set up a perimeter, completed a 2 mile patrol, and assaulted a village to rescue two prisoners of war, and this was just the first few hours of the training. They also trained on land navigation, night training patrols, and ended with a field training exercise (FTX). The FTX was designed to simulate air base defense and mounted patrols in a combat environment. According to Lt. Col. George Imorde, commander of the 123d Security Forces Squadron, the training couldn’t have come at a better time.

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123 Security Forces Squadron personnel conduct a mounted patrol during a training exercise, at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky. on Sept. 17, 2014. The SFS conducted a week-long training course for combat skills training and to prepare for future deployments. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

“The Security Forces AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) training gained through the field training exercise enhanced our rapid deployment ability to support the 123d Contingency Response Group deployment in support of Operation United Assistance. The realistic Base Defense/Force Protection training conducted at WHFRTC provided a refresher of the duties and expectations placed upon the Security Forces career field directly related to our combat mission,” Imorde added.
Unfortunately, the Airmen are unable to receive this type of enhanced training at home station. For most people, Security Forces are the first person they see as coming onto an Air Force base. A common misconception by many is Security Forces only guard the gates, secure the flight line and patrol the base. But according to Tech. Sgt. Craig Davis, Combat Arms NCOIC for the 123d SFS, this is just a small portion of what they do.

“The bigger picture of what we do is the defense/protection of air bases in deployed environments. The methodology of completing those tasks is really our primary mission. We place a lot of emphasis on home station defense and not nearly enough on air base defense. When we deploy, these Airmen and NCOs are expected to know air base defense,” Davis said.

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Tech. Sgt. Amanda Bedel, a food specialist for the 123rd Force Support Squadron, serves breakfast to Tech. Sgt George Whelan, a combat arms instructor for the 123rd Security Forces Squadron, at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky. on Sept. 17, 2014. The Kentucky Air National Guard’s FSS fixed meals for the SFS members during a week-long field training course. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

For some members of SFS, this was the first time leading in this type of environment as new NCOs. Training new Airmen and preparing them for deployments is a very rewarding task Davis said.

“Letting young Airmen see what we do, and how we do it. Seeing young NCOs become seasoned NCOs and take charge bringing teams together. Everyone is an individual, when you come together and work towards a common goal as a team it is pretty rewarding. When they are no longer looking to you for instruction and they are looking to each other for approval, then you know the training has been successful,” Davis said.

Members from the Wing’s 123rd Force Support Squadron went on the training exercise as well to feed the troops. They brought their DRMKT (Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer) and prepared hot meals for the Airmen as they trained.

 

 

Story by Maj. Dale Greer, Joint Task Force-Port Opening Senegal

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A group of 30 U.S. military personnel, including Marines, Airmen, and Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division, board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal, Oct. 19, 2014. The service members are bound for Monrovia, Liberia, where U.S. troops will construct medical treatment units and train health care workers as part of Operation United Assistance, the U.S. Agency for International Development-led, whole-of-government effort to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

DAKAR, Senegal – The Joint Task Force-Port Opening Senegal (JTF-PO) supported the 101st Airborne Division’s departure from Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport here October 19th, en route to Liberia, where the division will join hundreds of U.S. service members engaged in the fight against Ebola in West Africa.

JTF-PO Senegal is staffed by more than 70 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group and stood up operations here October 5th.

The JTF-PO’s mission is to funnel humanitarian aid and military support into West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance (OUA), according to Col. David Mounkes, the JTF-PO Senegal commander and member of the Kentucky ANG.

Click here for more photos.

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U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky (right), commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, speaks with U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bruce Bancroft (left) and U.S. Air Force Col. David Mounkes of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group Oct. 18, 2014, during a tour of the Joint Operations Center for Joint Task Force-Port Opening Senegal at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal. The JTF-PO is funneling humanitarian supplies and military support into West Africa as part of Operation United Assistance, the U.S. Agency for International Development-led, whole-of-government effort to respond to the Ebola outbreak. Volesky will serve as the new commander of the U.S. military’s Operation United Assistance Joint Forces Command, headquartered in Liberia, where the Department of Defense is sending 3,000 troops to support the mission. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

The Kentucky ANG Airmen are also augmented by seven active-duty Airmen from Travis Air Force Base, California, and Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the professionalism and unique capability that all the members of our United States Transportation Command JTF-PO team have exhibited in this dynamic and challenging environment,” Mounkes said. “JTF-PO Senegal stands ready to continue supporting the international response and humanitarian aid the United States and partner nations are bringing to the effort to alleviate human suffering and contain the spread of Ebola.”

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, the commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), will take charge of the Joint Forces Command for OUA upon arrival in Liberia, replacing U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, the commander of U.S. Army Africa.

“Operation United Assistance is a critical mission,” Volesky said. “We will coordinate all of the Department of Defense resources in Liberia in support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. government’s lead agency in this mission, and the government of Liberia to contain the Ebola virus and, ultimately, save lives.”

The Army is sending approximately 700 Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division as part of the effort, including members of the division headquarters staff, sustainment brigade, combat support hospital and military police battalion, according to Volesky. Another 700 troops will be deployed from multiple engineering units to build 17,100-bed medical treatment units and a 25-bed hospital.

From a USO Press Release
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Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau, left, presents the USO National Guardsman of the Year Award to Sgt. Andrew J. Mehltretter.  A member of the 1163rd Area Medical Support Company, Mehltretter, along with two other Kentucky National Guard soldiers, pulled the injured driver from a burning vehicle following an accident last January. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)

Washington, D.C. (October 18, 2014) –A Kentucky Army National Guard Soldier was among six other U.S. service members who were honored for their valor during the 2014 annual USO Gala

Sgt. Andrew Mehltretter, a member of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company, was named USO National Guardsman of the Year.

Mehltretter, along with Spc. Daniel White and Spc. Kevin Karrer,  pulled Raymond Burdett of Ontario, Canada, from a burning vehicle following an accident last January.   Each year the USO works with military senior leadership to recognize the bravery, loyalty and heroism of an enlisted service hero from each branch of the military.  Mehltretter was chosen to represent his team at the 2014 Gala.

Click here to read about Sgt. Andrew Mehltretter, Spc. Daniel White and Spc. Kevin Karrer’s dramatic rescue of a traffic accident victim.

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Cell phone video shows three Kentucky National Guard Soldiers as they pull the driver of a burning SUV to safety following a wreck on I-64 in Franklin Co. on Jan. 12. Sgt. Andrew Mehltretter, Spc. Daniel White and Spc. Kevin Karrer were hailed by law enforcement for their quick actions during the incident. (Image courtesy WLEX TV)

Click here for a video of the honored service members.

Click here for a behind the scenes video with Sgt. Mehtretter and his family.

The other 2014 USO Service Member of the Year Honorees included:

  •     USO Soldier of the Year: Sergeant Andrew J. Mahoney, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (Fort Carson, CO)
  •    USO Marine of the Year: Sergeant Matthew E. Belleci, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, Marine Corps Air Station New River (Jacksonville, NC)
  •    USO Sailor of the Year: Petty Officer 1st Class Troy A. Cromer, Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 12, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story (Virginia Beach, VA)
  •    USO Airman of the Year: Senior Airman John C. Hamilton, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 720th Special Tactics Group, 24th Special Operations Wing (Hurlburt Field, FL)
  •    USO Coast Guardsman of the Year: Petty Officer 3rd Class Brett R. Bates, Coast Guard Air Station Houston (Houston, TX)

Addressing more than 1,000 guests at the annual USO Gala, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke of the many challenges and adversities that face America as a country. Hagel urged the audience of Washington dignitaries, corporate sponsors and Americans – who gathered in the ballroom at the Washington Hilton – to do their part to keep troops and their families strong. The senior leader also encouraged attendees to continue to support the good work of the USO.

Gen Grass with SGT Mehltretter and daughter Cora Beth

Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank Grass with Sgt. Andrew Mehltretter and his daughter Cora Beth. A combat medic with the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company, Mehltretter is a nurse in his civilian life. “We should be here every day because he saves people every day,” said Cora Beth. (Photo courtesy Gen. Frank Grass)

“I am very proud that I have had a small part to play in helping continue to build this institution, many years ago,” said Hagel. “And I have been a strong supporter, not just as the Secretary of Defense but as a former soldier but probably more importantly as an American.”

Dr. J.D. Crouch II, USO President and CEO thanked the group for their support and reflected on his time as an American Ambassador and at the White House as Deputy National Security Advisor, where he was able to witness first-hand the bravery of our men and women in uniform. It was that bravery that inspired Crouch to join the USO in its mission to support troops and military families.

Crouch promised to continue the work of those who preceded him, and to sustain the USO as the “national treasure,” it has become and to be always by the side of our troops. “We say at the USO, we will be “Always by their side,” said Crouch. “What does that mean? In times of war and in times of peace, your USO has been a constant reminder to generations of troops and military families, that their country supports them. From the day they join the military, through numerous deployments and moves around the world, to going in harm’s way and transitioning home for what comes next in their lives – the USO is there.”

The annual event is more than an opportunity to honor our troops for their bravery. It is also a time to recognize those who have helped and supported them along their journey. The USO operates with the help of some tens of thousands of volunteers worldwide, who offer a warm hug when our troops feel far from home, a cup of coffee on an early morning and a reminder that no matter where they serve they are not alone.

USO Chairman of the Board General Richard B. Myers acknowledged the great good that volunteers deliver on a daily basis through their selfless acts of giving and presented the first awards of the evening, the USO Volunteer of the Year Award. Previously awarded to one outstanding volunteer of the year, this year the USO recognized one stateside volunteer and one overseas volunteer for their exemplary service.

USO of Bay Area’s LeAnn Thornton was recognized for her dependability, ingenuity and unwavering support of troops and their families. Army Sergeant Geraldin “Thibaut” Lenkoue was presented the award for the countless manpower hours he has committed to the USO Warrior Center in Germany as well as for his charismatic personality and can-do attitude which helps to keep spirits high at the center frequented by troops recovering at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

In keeping with the night of recognition, USO Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff John I. Pray Jr. reflected on Spirit of the USO Award recipient country music megastar Toby Keith’s loyal and continuing support of troops and military families. Keith was presented the award in April at the 2014 American Country Music Awards in recognition of his extraordinary support of service men and women, and for exemplifying the ideals and mission of the USO.

Country music sensation and seven-time USO tour veteran Kellie Pickler captivated the crowd with renditions of some of her most popular hits, including “Tough,” “Someone Somewhere,” and “Red High Heels.”

Never one to shy away from showing her support, last year the country music star hosted a special Valentine’s Day event for female troops in Afghanistan and Kuwait – shipping some of her favorite pampering products overseas and Skyping in to wish the ladies a very happy Valentine’s Day. Later that same year, Pickler set out on her seventh USO tour and celebrated the Christmas holiday with troops in the Middle East. Additionally, this year Pickler signed on as an official ambassador of the USO’s Every Moment Counts campaign, a national campaign to rally Americans to show their support for troops and their families.

“Because of our servicemen and women…we get to wake up in the morning and be whoever we want to be. That’s something we should not take for granted.”

Actress and comedian Aisha Tyler emceed the evening with grace and style, and kept the audience smiling with her comedic timing. A first-timer to the USO stage, Tyler was quick to recognize the sacrifices made by troops and military families during their service.

“As someone with a deep and abiding respect for our servicemen and women,” said Tyler. “And the sacrifices that they and their families make every day on behalf of our country, it is an incredible joy for me to share this evening with you.”

Celebrity chef Robert Irvine designed the evening’s menu, which featured some of his classic fall recipes.

As the evening drew to a close, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey took the stage to address the audience and present the USO Service Member of the Year Awards. Each year the USO works with military senior leadership to recognize the bravery, loyalty and heroism of an enlisted service hero from each branch of the military. Dempsey remarked on the bravery and selflessness demonstrated in the acts of valor of each service member being honored at the 2014 gala.

“The pride of the men and women who serve is just absolutely inspiring,” said Dempsey. “And that’s why all of you who serve with the USO do what you do because you want to match their pride with your commitment.”

The USO is the only non-profit organization that supports troops throughout their entire journey of service, from the moment they join, while in recovery and as they transition back to their communities.

For more than 70 years the USO has been hard at work helping to keep deployed troops connected to home, bringing laughter and a much-needed break to servicemen and women and their families around the world as well as providing crucial programs and services for our wounded, ill and injured troops and their caregivers, troops in transition and families of the fallen.

Additionally, as part of the evening’s program the USO remembered longtime friend, USO celebrity volunteer and military supporter Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams with a photo montage from his six USO tours.

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Commentary by Maj. Robert Andersen, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry

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From left to right, Spc. Eddie Sparks, Staff Sgt. Brandon Hobbs, Staff Sgt. David Spahn, Anthony Motta, Capt. Jason Mendez, Maj. Robert Andersen, Capt. Jacob Lee, and Capt. Josh Futrell get together for a group photo after the Not Yo Momma’s 100 Miler race in Chillicothe, Ohio, Sept. 27, 2014. (Courtesy photo)

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Several Kentucky Guardsmen gathered in Great Seal State Park in Chillicothe Ohio for a real test of our physical endurance. It was 5:30 in the morning, Sept. 27, 2014. Anthony Motta, Spc. Eddie Sparks, Staff Sgt. Brandon Hobbs, Capt. Jacob Lee, Capt. Josh Futrell, Capt. Jason Mendez, and I were standing at the start line, anticipating the sound of the horn that signaled the start of a much anticipated race.

The challenge, complete the “Not Yo Momma’s” 100 Miler / 100 Km race in under 32 hours or 24 hours. Hobbs and Sparks took on the challenge of 100 Km (62 miles). All others came to complete the 100 Miler; a seemingly insurmountable distance when considering it all still lay ahead.

Ohio is not known for its hills. But for some reason, God decided to swipe his finger across a 16 mile loop that had virtually nothing but. The 100 Miler course included six 16-mile loops preceded by one 4-mile loop. The 100 km runners would run just shy of four 16-mile loops. Throughout this closed circuit the terrain was notoriously tricky. We had no choice but to pay attention the entire time rather than allowing us to drift away in thought, doing so would greatly increase the chances of injury.

The agreement had been made months ago. Everyone was exited and eager to get started with the rigorous training plans. In April it started for most. The long journey began in preparing the body for something, most would say, it was never meant to undertake. Despite the slow and steady train up, some times life just got in the way and not everyone was able to stay as disciplined as they wished they had in the months leading to the big day. Where training lacked, our ego took the place to make sure we showed up confidently come race day.

Injury unfortunately also plagued some of us. Futrell was stubborn enough to take on the 100 Miler with a bum shoulder, an injury he had sustained during annual training with the 198th Military Police Battalion. Nevertheless grit and sheer determination led him through 52 miles of the race before he finally had to take a knee.

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Ultra marathon trail in Great Seal State Park, Chillicothe, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of ultrasignup.com)

The terrain was extremely challenging. Made up of almost exclusively hiking trails across a very rugged environment the risks of falling, tripping, or rolling an ankle was virtually unavoidable. Lee, also from the 198th decided to join the crew last minute and was surprised at the layout of the course. A strength guy by nature and wearing a pair of low profile running shoes he had trouble getting used to the paths the first 10 miles of the race. After 36 miles of course behind him and many hours on his feet he decided to end risking further injury and forfeited the rest of the laps.

Motta, a Nashville resident and high school track and wrestling coach is a good friend of Mendez. This had always been their thing; pick a challenging race and then go do it. Motta was determined to have a good time throughout the entire event as well though. He blasted out from the start line and found himself in the top three spots for the first 10 miles or so. But then an Iliotibial band injury got the better of him and he had to cut this challenge short after only 36 miles in. Despite having plenty left in the tank he made the smart choice. Regardless of what he did, his leg kept on getting worse. Motta spent the rest of his time at the base camp cheering on the rest of us and motivating everyone to carry on.

Hobbs and Sparks, both from the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry went out confidently and maintained a great mile per average, one lap after the other. Due to the difference in conditioning they eventually broke off from one another to tried to maintain their individual pace throughout the latter parts of the race.

Sparks ran into the night but eventually the rocks, stumps, ups and downs of the trails proved to be too much for his feet to bear. They eventually became so sore and tender that he had no choice but to bow out. He finished 52 miles; so close to his end goal but still a lofty distance considering that sheer willpower had carried him through the last twenty miles with blisters the size of silver dollars and hotspots around the toes and balls of his feet.

Hobbs started feeling the impacts of the terrain early. Cramps were his enemy; mainly to his thighs and lower legs. He trained hard and wouldn’t stop. Mendez and I ran into him a couple of times during the race. He gave himself only one option; finish the race! He completed his run in just over 25 hours. He was absolutely drained of energy, exhausted from the physical and emotional strain he had just put his body through. At the end, however, he was overpowered by absolute joy and feeling of accomplishment.

Jason and I had been training together from the very beginning. We were lucky enough to avoid any major setbacks (injury or other) the six months prior and tried to stay disciplined in logging the miles week by week. We were both adamant about sticking together throughout the entire race which proved to be invaluable as we heavily relied on each other during the long hours.

When you hit a “wall” it takes time to feel your way around it. It’s good to have a buddy there by you guiding you through your troubles. Our lows came at different times throughout the event, but we stayed patient and tried to keep our mind on the finish line as much as possible.

We both felt great finishing the fourth lap; this meant we were passed the halfway mark with roughly 48 miles left. The last three laps proved to be all that we could handle. Dull pain crept to the forefront leading to practically nothing else on my mind. Jason became so tired he started hallucinating, pointing at branches telling me to watch the animals. We were between mile 60 and 62 where I made my biggest mistake; I sat down to gain my strength. This proved to be a poor choice as my body instantly locked up. It took me about 5 miles to undo and to gain some sort of range of motion again.

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Capt. Jason Mendez and Maj. Robert Andersen show off their buckles, awarded for finishing the Not Yo Momma’s 100 Miler race in Chillicothe, Ohio, Sept. 27, 2014. (Courtesy photo)

The run through the night was the hardest. We would switch off taking lead. The trailing team member droning behind trying to place his feet exactly where the point man had put them. Jason had battled stomach issues for much of the course, which left us no choice but to walk an entire 16 mile loop so we could muster up the strength needed to finish. Arguably the lowest point in our journey was when we finished the fifth lap. We were exhausted, in pain, and mentally drained. It was about two in the morning when we headed out for our second to last loop.  As we hit the tree line heading into the woods, we heard the horn sound at the finish line. This signaled that the first runner had finished the 100-mile race; a crushing blow to our confidence as we realized we still had 32 miles left to go.

Finally, the finishing lap was all that was left to concur. The sun rose again on day two and we both found ourselves with a jolt of energy that carried us into what would prove to be our second fastest lap throughout the race. “Stand at Sunrise” is what a fellow runner told us prior to the event kicking off. Ali was his name and he assured us that we would find what we needed to finish as long as we made it to the second dawn.

Jason’s ailments subsided. He felt great. I needed that for the final lap because my body had expended all that it could. In the last 10 hours of the race I found myself taking 400 milligrams of Ibuprofen every two hours. Eventually nothing masked the pain that had built itself up in my limbs. Jason was patient as he talked me through some of the tough spots. He started chatting about random things just to keep my mind off the aching and throbbing in my feet. It worked. We came out of the wood line with less than a mile before the finish, reminiscing about the challenging journey that was about to come to a close. Months of training, a no fail mindset, and a battle buddy is what proved to be the key ingredients for success.

We crossed the finish line together. Total time 30 hours 46 minutes of non-stop running.

Our family and friends met us at the finish. They had been supporting us throughout the entire occasion. Our very own pit crew for the lack of the better word. There is no doubt that this event would have been substantially tougher if it hadn’t been for our loved ones cheering us on every lap, telling us to keep going and reassuring us with love and positive reinforcement.

“So it was dark and we started running. The sun came up. The sun went down. The sun came back up. And a few hours later we stopped running,” Jason sent me in a text after.

I am extremely proud of everyone that showed up that day. All of my friends and those we came to know throughout the countless miles.

Out of 28 Runners that started the 100 Miler only 10 finished. Without a doubt, this was the hardest physical and mental challenge I had ever put my body through. No matter how far I ran during training, the concept of running 100 miles never added up in my mind. Only after taking on that very first lap did I truly appreciate what daunting test I would put my body through.

Totally Worth It!

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Volunteer litter carriers from the Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center roll a simulated patient from a 123rd Airlift Wing C-130 to a hangar at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., where civilian medical staff were ready to receive patients during a National Disaster Medical System exercise Sept. 9, 2014. The exercise is accomplished every three years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

by Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Members of the 123rd Airlift Wing supported a full-scale test of the National Disaster Medical System here Sept. 9, providing a training environment for Exercise Bent Horseshoe.

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Master Sgt. Clint Stinnett, a loadmaster for the 165th Airlift Squadron, shows volunteer litter carriers from the Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center the correct way to offload patient litters from a 123rd Airlift Wing C-130 during a National Disaster Medical System exercise at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 9, 2014. The exercise is accomplished every three years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

The exercise tested the ability of civilian health care providers to accept and process patients arriving from a disaster site and transport them to local medical facilities for treatment, explained Master Sgt. Carol Davis, emergency manager for the wing.

The wing is the primary Federal Coordinating Center for the NDMS program in Jefferson County, which is managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Robley Rex VA Medical Center in Louisville.

Using a hangar here and a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft, several dozen civilian providers set up a patient reception area to triage disaster victims arriving by airlift. They also staffed patient reception teams that consisted of doctors, nurses, litter bearers, social workers and chaplains.

According to Debbi Johnson, Louisville area emergency manager for the Veterans Health Administration, Office of Emergency Management, the exercise is accomplished every three years to prepare for real-world disasters.

“We exercise patient reception for NDMS patients that have been evacuated from a disaster area, either patients that were in a hospital in the disaster area, or that were injured in a disaster,” Johnson explained.

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A nurse from the Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center checks the blood pressure of Staff Sgt. Kenneth Herzog, a vehicle operations dispatcher from the 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, during a National Disaster Medical System exercise at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 9, 2014. The exercise is accomplished every three years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

The NDMS is a federally coordinated system that augments the nation’s medical response capability. It consists of several federal organizations that include the Department of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

In a real-world situation, patients would be flown from an area where a disaster has occurred to a safe area with a Federal Coordinating Center. In the meantime, NDMS officials would communicate with area hospitals to secure beds for the patients prior to their arrival.

As patients arrive at an FCC like the Kentucky Air National Guard Base, they would be registered and identified as critical, intermediate or ambulatory before being transported to a local health care facility.

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Nurses from the Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center evaluate a training manikin that simulates a patient who had been evacuated from a disaster site during a National Disaster Medical System exercise at the Kentucky Air National Guard base in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 9, 2014. The Kentucky Air Guard’s C-130 aircraft were used during the exercise to provide a training platform for patient arrivals. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

The Kentucky Air National Guard has been supporting the NDMS for several years, Davis said. In 2005, during Hurricane Rita, officials in Beaumont, Texas, sent two flights of patients to Louisville for medical care.

Johnson said the exercise was good practice, but they plan to do more, possibly testing their capabilities every year.

“This is a great opportunity,” she said. “It’s good to practice every three years, but it’s better if we do it more often on a small scale, and get people together so they are part of their own team.”

Davis also was pleased with the exercise.

“I think the biggest accomplishment is the networking and community ties we build every time we support the VA or any other civilian or government organization,” she said.

Article courtesy CasaColumbia

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If you need help, reach out to someone, be it your first sergeant, chaplain or counselor. You owe it to your team mates, your family … and yourself. (Photo by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A recent study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence highlighted a huge problem with alcohol industry advertisements. While 9 out of 10 of the alcohol advertisements studied include the message “drink responsibly,” none provide information about what is defined as responsible drinking. Furthermore, the advertisements typically feature glamorous models, free pours of alcohol and a carefree, party like atmosphere, contradicting the responsible drinking message.

Profit-wise, the advertising makes sense. The alcohol industry is well aware that a large amount of its profits are made off of binge drinkers. CASAColumbia’s The Commercial Value of Underage and Pathological Drinking to the Alcohol Industry estimates that the alcohol industry makes about $36.3 billion from binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as when men consume 5 or more drinks, and women consume 4 or more drinks, within a 2 hour period.

This is a huge public health problem. In 2013, nearly 1 in 4 persons over the age of 12 were binge alcohol users.

Hand-holding-beer-mug-2-4-3-12-3-300x200Though low to moderate alcohol use may be fine for an adult’s health, science clearly shows that binge drinking increases a person’s risk for a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, neurological damage and injury.

The dangers of binge drinking and its consequences are in need of a widespread public health campaign. While most people know that serious health risks come along with smoking, many do not understand the risks that come from periods of heavy drinking. If young people knew that several shots downed at once on a repeated basis came with an increased risk for significant health consequences later in life, would they be as willing to take the risk?

So what does this mean for the Guard?  Everything, according to State Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Chumley.

“We all know someone who’s life has been affected by the irresponsible use of alcohol,” said Chumley. “Whether it’s binge drinking, drinking and driving or showing up drunk on duty, the danger is there and it puts us all at risk.”

Drink responsiblyChumley asks that we all look out for one another as we approach the holiday season. He also asks that leaders and supervisors talk with their service members, ask them about their plans; conduct “oak tree counseling” and make them aware of the safety precautions and identify preventive measures.

“Every individual is important to the Kentucky National Guard – our Soldiers, Airmen and Family members,” said Chumley.  “We all need to look out for our brothers and sisters in uniform. This goes for our Families as well. Let’s cover each other’s ‘six’ as we go into the holidays and make sure we don’t lose a Guardsman or a Family member from the abuse of alcohol.

“If you need help or know someone who does, speak up. Talk to your NCOIC or OIC, call the chaplain or just talk with a trusted friend. Help is waiting.  You just have to ask.”

Click here for more information or you can contact:

Savannah Caceres-Lund, 502-565-6969, email: b.t.Caceres-Lund@accenturefederal.com

Shannon Tipton, 859-314-8932, email: Shannon.Horn@Accenturefederal.com