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

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Pvt. Demitri Ray and Sgt. Andrew Harmon provide security for the Kentucky Derby Trophy at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., May 2, 2015. The seven Soldiers assigned to the trophy detail were among more than 200 Guardsmen on duty for the weekend events. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After 79 years, the Kentucky Guard knows a thing or two about assisting the City of Louisville with the security of the Kentucky Derby. Since 1936, the commonwealth’s Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen have been involved with the colossal task of ensuring the safety of more than 250,000 spectators at the Kentucky Oaks and Derby weekend. That tradition continued for the 141st running of the historic races at Churchill Downs, May 1-2.

“We’ve done this so many times it’s like automatic for us,” said Capt. Brandon Davisson, commander of the 617th Military Police Company. “The weekend has gone very smooth and I know Louisville Metro (Police Department) is happy to have us here.”

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Pvt. Matthew Sturgill with the 198th Military Police Battalion assists with pedestrian traffic outside Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., May 2, 2015. More than 100 Guardsmen were tasked with assisting local law enforcement with traffic flow around the track during the weekend. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

More than 200 Guardsmen took their usual stance in the streets around the track directing traffic and securing pedestrian gates inside as record numbers of spectators jammed Churchill Downs. Soldiers and Airmen were also on hand for security in the winners circle and a select few were tasked with guarding the Kentucky Derby Trophy.

Click here for more photos.

Of the roughly 200 Citizen-Soldiers, a good number of them were working their first Derby. Davisson said the 198th’s history of working the Derby has provided a wealth of experience that has been passed on from NCOs to younger Soldiers to continue the success of the operations.

Among the new faces at the track was 2nd Lt. Sarah Powell who, even as a freshly appointed MP officer, served as officer-in-charge of security.

“My role is a small one, but there are so many big pieces that go into this operation, there’s the community piece, the interagency cooperation and there’s our own inner workings to ensure leaders and subordinates know what they need to get the job done,” she said. “This allows us to grow together and to develop our own style of working the Derby for future success, but right now, it’s business as usual.”

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Staff Sgt. Christopher King assembles the Kentucky Derby Trophy at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., May 2, 2015. In the spotlight all weekend, the trophy detail was tasked with the security of the “priceless” trophy. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Pvt. Demitri Ray with the 617th was working his first Derby and was selected for the trophy detail that secured the “priceless” Kentucky Derby Trophy. He has only been with his unit since August of 2014, but his NCOs said Ray is among the best of the new recruits into the company, a reason he was chosen to assist with the prestigious assignment.

“I feel like I have the best duty here,” he said. “It tells me I’m earning the respect of my unit and motivates me to keep working hard and earn leadership assignments and further my career as a MP.”

Ray and the other six Soldiers escorting the trophy were certainly in the spotlight of the weekend, but 198th leadership said each Soldiers on duty represented years of hard work to create such a polished undertaking.

Powell said the ability to be a part of the big picture is a great benefit to the Soldiers and the units in the commonwealth.

“It’s interesting because you get to several levels up of operation which you don’t normally get to see and to understand what it takes to coordinate with multiple agencies and individuals within the community, which is so important in the National Guard,” said Powell.

 

 

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

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Soldiers of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company stand at attention for the National Anthem during a departure ceremony in Shelbyville, Ky., May 2, 2015. The unit is deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — On a day of tradition in the commonwealth with the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, families and Citizen-Soldiers were reminded of another tradition, Guardsmen answering the call of their nation. Members of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company were honored during a departure ceremony in Shelbyville, May 2. The unit will deploy to Afghanistan later this month.

The mission of the 1163rd will be to conduct ground ambulance support and evacuation of patients from supported areas in the theater of operation, provide preventive dentistry and emergency dental care. The Soldiers will also provide routine administrative and operational support to a hospital and two clinics that are within the area of operation.

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Maj. Ryan Irvine and 1st Sgt. Johnsy Beard case the colors of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company during a departure ceremony for the unit in Shelbyville, Ky., May 2, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“We are trained, we are ready, we are confident, and this unit has more cohesion that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Maj. Ryan Irvine, the unit’s commander. “The 1163rd is standing tall and proud as we take on this mission, and I have to thank our families, leadership of the Kentucky National Guard and Shelbyville for all the support.”

Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, adjutant general for Kentucky was on hand to bid the Soldiers farewell. He spoke of the unit’s long history of providing medical support for operations both home and abroad, including tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and activations for Hurricane Katrina and the ice storm of 2009.

“This is the unit’s third deployment in support of the Global War on Terror, they’ve got a lot of experience and know what they are doing,” he said. “These men and women will do us proud.”

Click here for more photos.

With more than half of its members having deployed before, there’s experience the unit will rely on while overseas. This will be beneficial for the Soldiers who haven’t deployed such as Sgt. Duncan Wooster. Wooster said the close-knit family-like atmosphere of the unit will make it easier to deal with the time away from home.

“I am nervous of course, headed overseas on my first deployment, but I am ready to do my job, and am very excited to share that experience with the great Soldiers of the 1163rd,” he said.

That family environment also provides a sense of ease for the families left behind. Maj. Irvine’s wife, Carolyn has gone through this before when her husband deployed several years ago. This time he is the commander of the unit and she’s the Family Readiness Group leader.

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Soldiers of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company are honored during a departure ceremony for the unit in Shelbyville, Ky., May 2, 2015. The unit will train in Fort Hood, Texas prior to deploying to Afghanistan. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“I feel this mission is very important for them to leave for, and this unit is very family oriented, so I enjoy that, and it makes it easier on us back home,” she said. “I’m just proud of him and the unit.”

Shelbyville’s mayor, Thomas Hardesty also expressed his admiration and respect for the unit, calling them key members of the local community.

“This nation supports you, the commonwealth supports you and the city of Shelbyville supports you in every way we can. We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers for as long as you’re gone,” said Hardesty.

The 1163rd will travel to Fort Hood, Texas for several weeks of training before deploying in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

 

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

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Pvt. Oliver Douthitt with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry received an appointment to the United States Military Academy during a ceremony at Fort Knox, Ky., April 26, 2015. A member of the Kentucky Guard for only 14 months, Douthitt said the training he has received will help him be successful in his new Army career. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FORT KNOX, Ky. — A Kentucky Guardsman is taking the next step in his military career to the United States Military Academy. Pvt. Oliver Douthitt, an infantryman with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry accepted an appointment to West Point at a small ceremony on Brooks Field in Fort Knox, April 26.

Surrounded by family and fellow infantrymen, Douhitt was presented an official certificate by Brig. Gen. (Retired) Charles B. Skaggs.

“It means a lot to get the opportunity to go to West Point, not a whole lot of people get to do that,” said Douthitt. “My unit has been very supportive the whole time and I really appreciate everything they have done so far.”

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Brig. Gen. (Retired) Charles Skaggs congratulates Pvt. Oliver Douthitt on his acceptance into the United States Military Academy following a ceremony at Fort Knox, Ky., April 26, 2015. Douthitt, a member of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry, will report to West Point in June. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

The Paducah, Kentucky native is currently a geology major at the University of Kentucky, but decided to push re-start on his future and attend West Point. Enlisting in the Guard in 2014 for the education benefits, Douthitt gives credit to the Kentucky Guard for helping him lay the groundwork for his future.

“The Guard has given me the opportunity to go to school and get plenty of military training, so I was able to do two things at once to prepare me for what is ahead.”

“I’ve only been in 14 months, but I feel like my enlisted service will be very beneficial when I get up there.”

Click here for more photos.

Skaggs, a 1975 West Point graduate and Hopkinsville, Kentucky native said the history of the military academy is like the history of our country. He noted that more than 12,000 apply each year and roughly 1,200 are accepted, a fact he knows Douthitt is proud to be a part of.

“Admission to West Point is equivalent to a college scholarship valued at approximately $280,000,” said Skaggs. “It give me great pleasure to present this appointment to the West Point class of 2019 to Private Douthitt.”

Douthitt’s parents beamed with excitement and joy for their son. Mother and father both were happy he enlisted in the Guard, which has helped prepare them as well.

“We’re proud first that he’s a Soldier, then we will be even more proud when he’s an officer,” said Oliver’s father, Jeff Douthitt. “Joining the Guard has made it easy for us to know what to expect with a son in the military.”

According to Douthitt’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Joseph Lear, it’s been at least seven years since the last Kentucky Guardsman accepted an appointment to West Point. He remembers because it one of his Soldiers then too.

“It’s really a testament to the mettle of the Soldier we have in the battalion and the Kentucky Guard attracts,” said Lear. “The process shows the fortitude, his drive and his character that he will enhance as he grows as a leader.”

“I look forward to getting all the opportunities presented to me for going to a place like West Point,” said Douthitt. “I would consider coming back to the Guard though, I have loved my time serving here.”

With a final handshake and battalion coin, Lear congratulated Douthitt one last time, with a simple reminder, “Don’t forget where you came from.”

 

Story by 2nd Lt. James Killen, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Nine-year-old Dawson Barr and his family visit the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing to view aircraft that will be flown in the annual Thunder Over Louisville Air Show, in Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. Dawson has been battling cancer his entire life and currently has an inoperable brain tumor, making him legally blind in both eyes. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. James W. Killen)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard welcomed a 9-year-old boy with cancer to the base Saturday as aircraft from around the world prepared to perform in the Thunder Over Louisville air show.

Dawson Barr, accompanied by his sister, mother and father, toured the flight line with Chief Master Sgt. Joe Dawson, superintendent of the 123rd Operations Group here.

“Dawson had an absolute blast!” Chief Dawson said. “We visited every aircraft on the flight line, met and talked with several people along the way, and we also got to watch a C-17 Globemaster taxi out and take off.”

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Nine-year-old Dawson Barr and his family visit the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing to view aircraft that will be flown in the annual Thunder Over Louisville Air Show, in Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. Dawson has been battling cancer his entire life and currently has an inoperable brain tumor, making him legally blind in both eyes. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. James W. Killen)

Dawson toured the Operations Building, ate lunch supplied by the 123rd Security Forces Squadron, and watched several aircraft take off while observing from the 165th Airlift Squadron Heritage Room, which offers one of the best views on base.

Dawson was diagnosed with cancer at just 6 months of age. Doctors were cautious about his life expectancy, primarily because of the number of tumors he has — seven on the brain and three on the spine — and their severity.

He has defied the odds, though, and according to his mother, Aimee Barr, “He’s an amazing little kid with a magnetic personality; he’s a fighter, too.”

Dawson endured five years of chemotherapy, ending his treatments in February 2012. He currently has one inoperable tumor that severely impacts his vision, making him legally blind in both eyes. The chemotherapy and other treatments have left Dawson with a number of challenges, from hormone imbalances to osteoporosis.

Aimee says that doesn’t stop him, though.

“He’s a normal 9-year-old boy. He wants to play soccer, he wants to be a professional football player, and if that doesn’t work, he’s going to be a professional baseball player.”

Dawson made an impact on several of the people he met at the Kentucky Air Guard, with many noting how positive and upbeat he was, and how he asked so many great questions.

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Two F-16 Fighting Falcons from the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team perform in the Thunder Over Louisville air show April 18, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. More than 650,000 people lined the banks of the Ohio River for the show. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

“I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and spending time with Dawson, his sister, Lauren, and their parents, Aimee and Shane Barr,” Chief Dawson said. “That young man is a fighter in the true sense of the word, with the most positive attitude and the most uplifting spirit that you will ever see in a little boy.”

Dawson has a message for those who may be struggling with challenges or illness. In a calm and steady voice he said, “If you’re going through something, just keep going. Eventually something good will happen, and it will be okay.”

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Maj. Bobbie Mayes and Sgt. Maggie Eveland are featured — along withe Eveland’s horse, Khaleesi — in the Kentucky National Guard’s Suicide Prevention Awareness PSA. (CLICK IMAGE TO SEE VIDEO)

FRANKFORT, KY — On an average day 22 military veterans take their own life.  Of those 22, 69% are 50 years old or older.

With these sobering statistics in mind, the Kentucky National Guard has released a public service announcement designed to raise awareness about suicide prevention. The 30-second in-house production features  Maj. Bobbie Mayes, Sgt. Maggie Eveland and Eveland’s horse, Khaleesi.  The video also has messages of support and contact information for military personnel and veterans in need.

An accompanying “behind the scenes” video features Sgt. Eveland discussing the challenges of life, the value of suicide awareness training and how Khaleesi helped inspire her through a period of crisis.

If you need help or know someone who does, call Call 1-800-273-TALK to discuss veteran suicide.

For more information on suicide prevention contact:
Capt. David W. Shelley, email: david.w.shelley.mil@mail.mil
Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Program Manager
502-607-1941

 

Story by 2nd Lt. Michael Reinersman, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Officer Candidate Benjamin Smith from Class 57-15 pulls security during the combined Officer Candidate School, Reserve Officer Training Corps with Western Kentucky University and Murray State University during a field training exercise at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 17, 2015. Smith and 73 other Soldiers participated in the second combined OCS and ROTC exercise. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 2nd. Lt. Michael Reinersman)

GREENVILLE, Ky. – Future Army leaders from across the commonwealth joined forces to conduct a combined field training exercise at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 16-18, 2015.

Officer candidates from the Kentucky National Guard Officer Candidate School along with cadets from Murray State University and Western Kentucky University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps spent three days in the field covering troop leading procedures while conducting platoon and squad level tactics.

This included scenarios such as movement to contact and platoon ambush and raids. The goal of the combined field training exercise is to assess and provide instruction to the officer candidates and ROTC cadets in leadership positions while conducting infantry tasks.

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Capt. Colin Bair, Assistant Professor of Military Science at Murray State University conducts an after action review with cadets from Western Kentucky University and Kentucky Guard Officer Candidates during field training exercise at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 17, 2015. This marks the second year that ROTC programs from Western Kentucky and Murray State have participated in the field training exercises with the Kentucky OCS program. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 2nd. Lt. Michael Reinersman)

According to Western Kentucky University’s Assistant Professor of Military Science, Capt. Lincoln Ward, there are many benefits to training and collaborating with the Kentucky Guard.

“This has been a good partnership,” said Ward. “Working with new soldiers from different backgrounds provides a new challenge to the cadets.” Adding that, “The Kentucky National Guard provides us with resources that we don’t normally have at a ROTC program or the NCO support that can help access land and medics.”

This marks the second year that ROTC programs from Western Kentucky and Murray State have participated in the field training exercises with the Kentucky OCS program. To enhance training this year, cadets and candidates used a military grade paintball system, to simulate live fire.

Click here for more photos.

“This enhancement from last year’s training will make it more realistic and environmentally friendly by using bio degradable paint balls,”said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Kennedy, operations noncommissioned officer for the 238th Regimental Training Institute. “It is a better alternative than having shell casing all over the training area.”

Officer candidate Jennifer Steinmetz also echoed the mutual benefits of the training exercise.

“This would have been a hard training event to conduct since we don’t have the numbers,” said Steinmetz. “There are eight officer candidates, training with the cadets allowed the officer candidates to participate in full platoon and squad lanes,”

“Now, that we have those spots filled, during phase three, it will not be such a shock when we conduct platoon and squad lanes.”

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Capt. Colin Bair, Assistant Professor of Military Science at Murray State University checks the coordinates of ROTC Cadet Kelsey McArthur and Chrystal Falefata from Western Kentucky University during field training exercise at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 17,2015. The goal of the combined field training exercise is to assess and provide instruction to the officer candidates and ROTC cadets in leadership positions while conducting infantry tasks. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 2nd. Lt. Michael Reinersman)

Phase three is the last step in the OCS commissioning process. The final phase covers troop leading procedures, infantry squad tactics, and culminates with a field leadership exercise at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

Cadet Kyle Taylor with Western Kentucky University and a member of Kentucky’s Bravo Company, 149th Infantry, said training on a college campus is just plain difficult.

“Since we don’t have a lot space on campus, it’s great to be in a tactical environment and run lanes,” he said. “We are able to evaluate each other and work to get better.”

According to both Kentucky OCS and ROTC leadership, the Spring FTX was another successful collaboration between two commissioning programs to develop future leaders in the Kentucky Guard, Army Reserve and active duty.

Video by Spc. Cody Cooper, 133rd MPAD

By Maj. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Maj. Jenn Helton, a C-130 navigator in the 123rd Airlift Wing, kisses her husband at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 24, 2015, prior to departing for a deployment to the Persian Gulf. Helton was among more than 40 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen who deployed to an undisclosed air base in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The third rotation of more than 40 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen departed here today for deployment to an undisclosed air base in the Persian Gulf, where they will fly airlift missions in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Click here for more photos.

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Loadmasters and cargo specialists from the 123rd Airlift Wing load cargo onto a C-130 Hercules aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 24, 2015, prior to the aircraft’s departure for deployment to an undisclosed air base in the Persian Gulf region. More than 40 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen boarded the plane. They will join other Airmen already in theater to fly airlift missions in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Freedom’s Sentinel is the follow-on mission to Operation Enduring Freedom. It focuses on training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces; and on counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

 Kentucky’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, thanked the deploying Airmen for their continued commitment to military operations all over the world.

“The 123rd Airlift Wing has been engaged in the Global War on Terror from the beginning, and I know you will be a part of this fight until the very end,” Tonini told the Airmen in a briefing just before their departure. “When our nation, our Air Force and our Commonwealth needs the best, they call on you. I have the utmost trust and confidence in your abilities to conduct your mission while overseas, and I thank you for stepping up once again to answer our nation’s call.”

The director of the state Board of Elections, Matt Selph, also was on hand to wish the Airmen farewell as a representative of Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state.

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Maj. Johnny Cantu, a C-130 pilot in the 123rd Airlift Wing, attends a briefing at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 24, 2015, prior to his deployment to an undisclosed air base in the Persian Gulf region. Cantu and more than 40 other Kentucky Air Guardsmen comprise the third rotation of 123rd Airmen to deploy to the base since February. They will be flying airlift missions throughout the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, which provides military training and counterterrorism capabilities in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

“As a former Army first sergeant in the reconnaissance field who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan being transported on C-130s by men and women just like you, I’d like to relay on behalf of Secretary Grimes how thankful we are for the jobs that you do and the sacrifies that your families make,” Selph said. “I know I was thankful that men and women like you were able to get me and my troops deployed and redeployed safely.”

The Airmen, who departed aboard a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft, will replace earlier rotations of Kentucky Airmen that deployed in February. While overseas, the Airmen are expected to transport troops and cargo supporting a range of coalition military operations in the United States Central Command Area of Responsibility, which includes Afghanistan, Northern Africa and the Persian Gulf. Deploying Airmen include aircrew members, aircraft maintenance personnel and support staff.

The mission is expected to conclude by early July.

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Maj. Jenn Helton, a C-130 navigator in the 123rd Airlift Wing, and her son, Kaiden Helton, attend a briefing at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 24, 2015, prior to Helton’s deployment to an undisclosed air base in the Persian Gulf region. Helton and more than 40 other Kentucky Air Guardsmen comprise the third rotation of 123rd Airmen to deploy to the base since February. They will fly airlift missions throughout the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, which provides military training and counterterrorism capabilities in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

The deployment marks the sixth time in the past 12 years that the Kentucky Air Guard has sent its aircraft, aircrews and maintenance personnel to support U.S. military operations in the U.S. Central Command AOR. The wing deployed aviation assets there in 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012, operating from multiple undisclosed locations and Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

The wing’s non-aviation personnel also have been heavily engaged around the world since Sept. 11, 2001, logging thousands of deployments to dozens of overseas locations, including Iraq and Afghanistan. In October, more than 70 of the wing’s Airmen deployed to Africa to support Operation United Assistance, the international effort to fight the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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This is just a sample of the equipment stored under corrosion preventing conditions by the Kentucky Army National Guard at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center. Corrosion is a worldwide problem, consuming our infrastructure and threatening our military gear. On a daily basis the Kentucky Guard has to protect more than $100 million worth of equipment from falling prey to corrosion. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Riddle me this: What ensures combat readiness, preserves our equipment, protects the environment, and saves taxpayers a whole lotta money?

Answer:  corrosion awareness!

Okay, bad joke.  But the truth of the matter is, corrosion awareness is no  joke.  In fact, today — April 24, 2015 — is World Corrosion Awareness Day.  Not just for the National Guard, not just for the United States Army, but for the whole world.

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Chief Warrant Officer Gregg Blakeley checks the status of an M1117 Armored Security Vehicle. More than $100 million worth of vehicles and gear are under daily monitoring for corrosion by Kentucky National Guard personnel. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

So, what’s the big deal?  Well, corrosion costs nearly $4 trillion worldwide each year, which makes for the big deal.  Corrosion eats away at our infrastructure, our bridges, rail systems, pipelines, you name it.  Given enough time and neglect, our technological society and way of life are at risk, threatened by corrosion and its aftereffects.

Okay, so that’s why corrosion awareness is important.  But now you may ask, what’s that got to do with the Kentucky National Guard?

The answer: plenty.

Click here for more photos on this story.

One of the best kept secrets about the Kentucky National Guard is our corrosion protection program.  At Fort Knox and the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center we have established long-term corrosion protection measures that are essential to our war-fighting mission.

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Staff Sgt. Eric Miers checks the controlled humidity protection hose hooked up to an M109 Paladin at the Mobilization and Training Equipment Site at Fort Knox. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Kehl)

“We’ve got twelve Paladins and twelve ammo carriers worth about thirty million dollars,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Gividen, artillery shop supervisor at the Kentucky Guard’s Mobilization and Training Equipment Site at Fort Knox.  “There’s another forty million in HIMARS rocket launchers, too.  Add on all of the other equipment we’re signed for, that’s more than one hundred million dollars of the taxpayers’ dollars that we have to protect.

“That’s a huge investment in the Guard and a great responsibility for our shop.”

Gividen’s team of eight mechanics focuses primarily on artillery.  They keep the M109A6 Paladins hooked up to a controlled humidity protection system, which keeps the interior of the vehicles dry and tight.  The complex series of  overgrown hoses are hooked up to hatches and the muzzles of the gun barrels, connected to what amounts to a giant dehumidifier.  The soldiers do daily checks to ensure everything is sealed up right.

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From HUMVEES and ASVs to high dollar HIMARS launchers, more than $100 million worth of vehicles and gear are under daily monitoring for corrosion by Kentucky National Guard personnel.  (Photo courtesy Kentucky National Guard UTES)

“The CHP system does its part, but people are still essential to the process,” said Gividen.  “It’s our job to keep all of this equipment in combat ready status, so all the troops have to do is come in, do some PMCS [preventive maintenance checks and services] and go train or deploy.”

The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers are kept in a giant warehouse-like building with controlled temperature environment that protects them from weather and moisture.  The latest in artillery technology, they are precise and accurate and battlefield proven.  At $2.5 million apiece, they are also very expensive.  Warrant Officer William Cottrell, work group leader at the MATES artillery shop, emphasizes the sensitive nature of the systems they are charged with protecting.

“There are a lot of computer components in these systems,” he said.  “Replacing one computer box on HIMARS can run hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This isn’t our money we’re talking about; it’s the taxpayers’.  We work hard to make sure there aren’t any problems.”

“Our CHPs and OP [operation preservation] lines provide us with a distinct advantage during these challenging times in our operating environment, to preserve equipment for much longer periods of time and reduce our overall maintenance costs exponentially,” said Maj. Steven Engels, Surface Maintenance Manager for the Kentucky Guard. “With the likelihood that equipment modernization will decrease in the future due to budget constraints, preserving and maintaining the equipment that we have is as important as ever to respond to potential domestic natural disasters in support of civil authorities as well as military missions across the world.”

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

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Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau speaks with Soldiers with the 138th Field Artillery Brigade at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 17, 2015. During his three-day visit, Grass met with Soldiers and Airmen across the state, attended Thunder Over Louisville and Military Appreciation Day at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Military challenge coins are handed out everyday for excellence, but it’s not everyday that a Soldier’s first coin is from a four-star general. That was the case for Pfc. Lauren Walker, a combat medic with the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company.

“That was my first coin, my first big recognition as a Soldier that I’m doing the right thing,” said Walker. “It’s a pretty big deal to me.”

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Pfc. Lauren Walker with the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company speaks with Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 17, 2015. The 1163rd was finishing up the unit’s pre-mobilization training prior to a scheduled deployment to Afghanistan this spring. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“It means a lot to us that he came down here from D.C. to see the little 1163rd. It was a great reminder for us to stay motivated to keep up the hard work and keep driving on.”

Visit our flickr page for more photos of Gen. Grass’ visit to Kentucky.

For Soldiers with the 1163rd, pre-mobilization training was going according to schedule April 18 at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky. Then in the middle of a field training class, everything came to a brief halt as Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau rolled up on their location.

Escorted by Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general, Grass visited as part of his initiative to travel to every state and territory to personally thank Guardsmen around the Nation.

“Every time I travel, one of the things I find is I learn something about the National Guard that I didn’t know,” said Grass. “Getting to visit Soldiers and Airmen here and learn about the missions that you all are doing is phenomenal.”

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Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau speaks with Kentucky Guardsmen of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company during a visit to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., April 17, 2015. Grass thanked the Soldiers for their service and answered questions from them on the state of the National Guard. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“You think about the number of people that serve in uniform, this is an all volunteer force, and you’ve got to thank them,” he said.

Grass observed part of the training class then spoke with the unit about their upcoming deployment and their thoughts on being a part of the Guard.

“What I find interesting everywhere I go is how young the force is, how talented and how astute they are to what is happening in the world, and they know exactly why they’re joining.”

Sgt. Duncan Wooster’s story also inspired Grass. Wooster enlisted late in life and has a stable career as an airline pilot, but is also determined to be a true non-commissioned officer to the 1163rd. Grass complimented Wooster on helping young Soldiers of the 1163rd to devise plans to be smarter with the extra money they will make during the deployment.

“I’m excited and very honored to go work with such a great group of people and just want to try to influence them to make better decisions,” said Wooster. “I took everything Gen. Grass said to heart and was very impressed that he took time to come out in the field to see us. It was an honor to meet him and speak with him one-on-one.”

The National Guard chief’s visit left a positive buzz with the unit. A drive that their leadership hopes carries them into and through their deployment to Afghanistan.

“The time Gen. Grass spent with the Soldiers indicates to me that we stood out and made a positive impression on him,” said 1st Lt. Anna Mataspha, officer in charge of the 1163rd’s training. “How many other units in the Guard have come across the Chief of the National Guard, that’s pretty special and it elevates us to be even better than what we already are. It’s a great boost right before they deploy.”

During his three-day visit to Kentucky, Grass also met with Soldiers of the 138th Field Artillery Brigade in Greenville and Soldiers with Charlie Co., 1st Battalion, 376th Security and Support Aviation upon his return to Louisville. Grass was also an impressed spectator at Thunder Over Louisville, April 18 and a special guest at Military Appreciation Day at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, April 19.

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Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau and Chief Master Sgt. Mitch Brush speak with Spc. Kyle Shenk with the 138th Field Artillery Brigade during Thunder Over Louisville, April 18, 2015. Grass visited with Kentucky Guardsmen on duty for the event throughout downtown Louisville. (U.S. Army national Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“Thunder Over Louisville was just phenomenal and to see how much the military was involved, the salute to Veterans, the salute the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard, there was a half-million people there and you couldn’t move without bumping into a Guardsmen or their family member somewhere.”

In awe of the events and the participation of the Kentucky Guard, Grass departed Kentucky with final thoughts to the Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen of the bluegrass.

“I would tell them thank you for serving your nation and look at the opportunities you’re getting as a member of the Guard, and thanks to their families and employers. It all becomes a family and the Guard is more family than anything I’ve seen.”

Story by Maj. Dale Greer, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, swears in 20 Soldiers and Airmen from the Kentucky National Guard during a re-enlistment ceremony on the Clark Memorial Bridge in downtown Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. The event, televised live, kicked off the 2015 Thunder Over Louisville air show. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 2015 Thunder Over Louisville air show began Saturday with a barrage of canon fire executed by the Kentucky National Guard’s 138th Field Artillery Brigade and a mass re-enlistment ceremony for 20 Kentucky Guardsmen led by Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Senior Airman Lindsey Horton, a recruiting assistant in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Force Support Squadron, said it was a great honor to be sworn in by the nation’s top National Guard officer on live television.

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Senior Airman Lindsey Horton, a recruiting assistant in the Kentucky Air National Guard, takes the oath of enlistment during a mass swearing-in ceremony on the Clark Memorial Bridge in downtown Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. The ceremony, which kicked off the Thunder Over Louisville air show, was led by Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

“Serving in the Air National Guard is something that I take a lot of pride in,” Horton said. “I’ve really taken the Air Force Core Values of service, integrity and excellence to heart, so being able to reaffirm my commitment to them with Gen. Grass was a great experience.”

Grass, who also serves on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as one of seven military advisors to the president of the United States, thanked Horton and the other troops for their continued service, calling their dedication to duty a “phenomenal act.”

Earlier in the day, Grass toured the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville to learn more about the missions of the 123rd Airlift Wing, which include tactical airlift, contingency response, and special tactics capabilities like combat control and pararescue.

One of the highlights of the air show was a tribute to Col. Gail Halvorsen, a retired C-54 pilot who became famous when he originated the idea of air-dropping small bundles of chocolate to the children of West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49. What began with Halvorsen’s small act of kindness eventually grew to include hundreds of American Airmen and more than 21 tons of candy.

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Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, speaks to Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Fulkerson from the Kentucky Army National Guard after a mass swearing-in ceremony on the Clark Memorial Bridge in downtown Louisville, Ky., April 18, 2015. Grass administered the oath of enlistment during the ceremony, which kicked off the Thunder Over Louisville air show. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

In honor of Halvorsen, who became known as the Berlin Candy Bomber and was guest of honor at this year’s show, a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 Hercules air-dropped two simulated bundles of candy over the Ohio River before a crowd of more than 650,000 spectators.

Other highlights of the air show included performances by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration squadron, the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team and the U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier Demonstration Team.