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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.

Great Seal State Park

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

Commentary by Capt. James Schmitz, 577th Engineer Company

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Class photo of the 2014 Military Reserve Exchange Program in Nymindegab, Denmark, including Kentucky Guardsman, Capt. James Schmitz (6th from right). (Courtesy photo)

NYMINDEGAB, Denmark — Annually, the United States Army participates in the  Military Reserve Exchange Program, which partners U.S. Soldiers from the reserve components of Great Britain, Germany and Denmark. Soldiers participate in field exercises or attended courses overseas for up to three weeks. This year, I was fortunate enough to attend the Danish Home Guard Leadership Course, a week long class for small unit leaders of all three branches of the Danish Home Guard.

According to the U.S. Army, the primary purpose of the program is to provide National Guard and Reserve officers training associated with mobilization duties while enhancing their ability to work and communicate with the military individuals of the host nation.

The program allows a unique opportunity to witness the contrast of other countries’ military operations. But regardless of those differences, the dedication of serving their country remains the same.

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Particpants in the 2014 Military Reserve Exchange Program hold a group discussion in Nymindegab, Denmark. (Courtesy photo)

In Denmark the Home Guard is an all-volunteer, unpaid force that supports the country’s active military, police, and customs services. They are split into the Army, Air Force, and Naval Home Guard. The Army is further separated into Police, Reconnaissance, and Infrastructure Guard units. Members from each of the branches were present in the 18 person class, which included six Americans from across the country.

The course itself covered basic leadership concepts such as effective communication, problem solving, human motivation, and group dynamics. These are basic concepts that I’ve seen in many courses from the old Primary Leadership Development Course through ROTC and other college level leadership courses, but the way they presented the material was extremely effective. Things are kept deliberately ambiguous to force you to think about what you are learning and why it’s important. Personality conflicts and how to work through them are a major part of the course, and the groups we worked in were designed to facilitate that.

Instead of the typical PowerPoint-heavy class, there was a big emphasis on individual and small group learning, which was then shared with the entire class to reinforce common themes and highlight differences caused by the different makeups of each group. Outside of class, there were great opportunities to talk to each other and build some cultural understanding over meals and the occasional off-duty beverage in the Officers’ Club.

One of the biggest questions we had was ‘How do you maintain an unpaid force?’ The benefits we give to National Guard members to assist in recruiting, like helping with college expenses and healthcare, are already built into their social system, so they can really focus on people who are willing to serve.

Reminders of why the Home Guard is needed are easy to find at the Home Guard School, located in the coastal town of Nymindegab. Built by the Nazis during World War II, the buildings were a military outpost that served as part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. Concrete pillboxes, coastal fortifications, overgrown trenches, and ammunition bunkers litter the small compound.

You could see by the construction methods they used that they built this place with the intention of still being here today. These are solid brick buildings, very different than either the wooden WWII barracks we built or the hasty construction in Iraq or Afghanistan.

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Morning formation of participants in the 2014 Military Reserve Exchange Program in Nymindegab, Denmark. (Courtesy photo)

Despite that history, the two nations are now both members of the European Union and German tourism is a staple of the western Danish economy.

One major difference between the Danish Home Guard and the U.S. forces is the role rank plays. The leadership course included ranks from private to sergeant first class to captain, but especially in the Naval Guard, the commander of a ship may actually be the lowest ranking individual aboard.

There is a much bigger emphasis on building consensus in their culture. Platoons of the Home Guard have deployed to Afghanistan and Kosovo to perform force protection duties, but because they do not typically have the direct combat missions that the U.S. reserve forces perform, most Home Guard members are only required to perform 24 hours of training a year to maintain their status. Many of the people I met perform hundreds of hours each year, which speaks to their level of commitment.

Anytime you get to travel overseas, work with a new group, and learn about a new culture is a great opportunity. This program runs every year and there are lots of spots available, so I’d encourage Soldiers to apply for this.

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

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Aerial porters from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group off-load the unit’s gear from a Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal, Oct. 4, 2014, in support of Operation United Assistance. More than 70 Kentucky Airmen arrived with the gear to stand up an Intermediate Staging Base at the airport that will funnel humanitarian supplies and equipment into West Africa as part of the international effort to fight Ebola. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

DAKAR, Senegal — More than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group stood up a cargo hub here Oct. 5 that will funnel humanitarian supplies and equipment into West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance, the international effort to fight Ebola.

The epidemic has already claimed over 3,500 lives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The majority of Kentucky Airmen arrived Oct. 4, joining a 13-member assessment team that has been in place since Sept. 28. They’re operating an Intermediate Staging Base to Support Joint Task Force-Port Opening operations at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport, according to Air Force Col. David Mounkes, commander of the Louisville-based 123rd.

Click here for more photos.

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Air Force Lt. Col. Bruce Bancroft of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group talks to unit members about their role in Operation United Assistance during a briefing in the Joint Operations Center at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal, Oct. 5, 2014. The Kentucky Air Guardsmen stood up an Intermediate Staging Base at the airport that will funnel humanitarian supplies and equipment into West Africa as part of the international effort to fight Ebola. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

The Intermediate Staging Base is designed to accept large quantities of cargo arriving on C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, process the material for forward movement, and load it onto C-130 Hercules aircraft for distribution into affected areas. Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 689th Rapid Port Opening Element also are assessing the movement of cargo here from seaports along the African coast.

The Kentucky Airmen landed in Senegal with all the equipment they need to provide command and control of aircraft and aerial port operations, including all-terrain forklifts, satellite communications gear and power-production capability.

“Our job is to get the right cargo to the right place at the right time,” Mounkes said. “This is the mission we train for 365 days a year, and our personnel are some of the best in the business. We’re ready to execute.”

The Department of Defense has committed to deploying up to 3,000 troops in support of the United States Agency for International Development, the lead federal agency coordinating the U.S. Government’s comprehensive response for Operation United Assistance. In addition to the creation of the cargo hub here and logistics nodes across West Africa, American forces will construct a hospital and more than a dozen other treatment facilities in affected areas.

Air Force Lt. Col. Matt Groves, commander of the 123rd’s Global Mobility Readiness Squadron, underscored the importance of the Intermediate Staging Base mission.

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Air Force Master Sgt. Paul Edwards of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group establishes satellite communications for the Joint Operations Center at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal, Oct. 5, 2014, in support of Operation United Assistance. More than 80 Kentucky Air Guardsmen stood up an Intermediate Staging Base at the airport that will funnel humanitarian supplies and equipment into West Africa as part of the international effort to fight Ebola. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

“What we’re doing here could save hundreds of thousands of lives,” Groves said. “We’re talking about a disease that, if left untreated, has a mortality rate of up to 50 percent. There is absolutely no other mission we will perform this year that is more important, or will impact more people, than this one.”

The 123rd Contingency Response Group is the only unit of its kind in the Air National Guard. Conceived as an “airbase in a box,” the group acts as an early responder in the event of contingency operations worldwide. Its personnel are capable of deploying into remote airfields, providing command and control of aircraft, and establishing airfield operations so troops and cargo can flow into affected areas.

Unit members represent a broad spectrum of specialties, including airfield security, ramp and cargo operations, aircraft maintenance, and command and control.

In 2010, the group was one of two Air Force contingency response units to establish overseas airlift hubs supporting earthquake-recovery efforts in Haiti, directing the delivery of hundreds of tons of relief supplies into the Dominican Republic for subsequent trucking to Haiti.

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Lt. Col. Michael Stephens, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade commander, passes the 751st Troop Command colors to Lt. Col. Gary W.D. Lewis during a change of command ceremony Sept. 27, at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. David Bolton/ 133 Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade welcomed the 751st Troop command to its ranks Sept. 28 and honored Lt. Col. Todd Ewing as he relinquished command to Lt. Col. Gary W.D. Lewis during a ceremony held at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort.

“I am honored to have led such an outstanding group of Soldiers over this last year,” Ewing said during the ceremony.

Ewing highlighted the accomplishments of the units under his command before he presented Command Sgt. Maj. Patricia Copas with the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal for her dedication to the Soldiers of the 751st. Ewing also received the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal during the ceremony.

The battalion has a rich 21-year history in providing administrative, training and logistical support to specialized units that are essential to the U.S. Army and Kentucky National Guard’s role in homeland security, emergency preparedness and contingency operations. The battalion recently reorganized under the 63rd TAB and supports six subordinate units:

– Charlie Company, 1/376th Aviation (Security and Support)
– Detachment 11, Operational Support Airlift
– Detachment 1, Company C, 2/238th MEDEVAC
– Bravo Company, 2/147th Aviation (currently deployed to Kuwait)
– 202nd Army Band
– 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

According to Lewis, the 751st Troop Command stands ready to provide aviation and operational support to the Kentucky National Guard’s initiatives at home or abroad. He said the key to doing so is a good family support system.

“In this aviation community, we are about family,” he told his Soldiers during the ceremony. “We welcome the Band and MPAD into our aviation family.

“We also know that it takes a strong family support system at home to be successful,” he said. “I am here for the Soldiers and their families for whatever you need.”

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Raising awareness about suicide prevention:  1st. Lt. Bryson Yarbrough, 2nd Lt. Jacob Conner, Sgt. Billie Jacobs, Sgt. Dallas Robinson and Capt. Ryan Hubbs lifted 1,093,910 pounds in six hours and fifty-five minutes for the cause. 1st. Lt. Joshua Daugherty, far right, is the Kentucky National Guard Suicide Prevention Program Manager.  (Photo by Alli Burton, Kentucky National Guard Community Outreach)

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Olympian and Kentucky National Guard Sgt. Dallas Robinson was joined by four of his fellow soldiers in raising awareness for suicide prevention by participating in a Million Pound Weightlifting Challenge. The event took place Sept. 29 at Man O’War Crossfit, 110 Bradley Drive, Nicholasville.

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2nd Lt. Jacob Conner hard at work, raising awareness about suicide prevention. Each member of the team committed to lifting at least 200,000 pounds by the end of the deadline. (Photo by Alli Burton, Kentucky National Guard Community Outreach)

Click here for more photos of this event.

Click here for the video.

Robinson was on the United States bobsled team during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The original plan was for the team to lift one million pounds of weights in a 24 hour period, taking periodic breaks to rest, eat and hydrate. There were four exercises/lifts that the soldiers could do: bench press, squats, chin-ups or pull-ups and dead lifts.

“This is a symbol of a bunch of soldiers coming together and obviously our sums of each of us added together are far greater than any of us individually,” said Robinson.  “No one of us can lift a million pounds, but as a team, we can do something that is seemingly unachievable.”

Amazingly, the five soldiers got the job done in six hours and fifty-five minutes.

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Sgt. Billie Jacobs, an MP with the 617th Military Police Company, has a special reason for taking part in the Million Pound Challenge: her mother took her own life last year. (Photo by Alli Burton, Kentucky National Guard Community Outreach)

“It was kind of surprising to get it done so quickly,” said Sgt. Billie Jacobs, an MP with the 617th Military Police Company.  “I knew the caliber of guys I’d be lifting with, so I was confident we’d get it done by the deadline.  To finish up so quickly was very cool.”

Each soldier committed to lifting 200,000 pounds apiece by the deadline.  In the end, they lifted a combined 1,093,910 pounds.

But it wasn’t all about lifting weights.  The Kentucky National Guard has a proactive Suicide Prevention Assistance Program that provides resources for citizen soldiers and airmen and their families.  Jacobs and her fellow troops wanted to bring attention to this very important issue.

“My mother committed suicide last year,” she said.  “So I’ve got a personal stake in this.  Her death hit me pretty hard.  If something like the million pound challenge helps get the message out, then count me in to do this again.”

In addition to Robinson and Jacobs, Capt. Ryan Hubbs, 2nd Lt. Jacob Conner and 1st. Lt. Bryson Yarbrough were on the team.

If you or someone you know needs help, reach out for assistance.  Click here for more information on suicide prevention. 

Story by Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, Director of Public Affairs, Kentucky National Guard
Photos by SSG Scott Raymond, Kentucky Guard Public Affairs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (2OCT14)– More than 60 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard will begin departing Thursday afternoon for Senegal to establish a cargo-processing hub in support of Operation United Assistance, the international effort to battle Ebola in West Africa (photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs).

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — More than 60 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed Oct. 2 to Senegal to establish a cargo-processing hub in support of Operation United Assistance, the international effort to battle Ebola in West Africa.

Click here for more photos of this story.

Kentucky’s Airmen departed aboard multiple aircraft along with all the equipment necessary to establish an Aerial Port of Debarkation at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport.

The Aerial Port of Debarkation, or APOD, is designed to accept large quantities of cargo arriving on C-17 and C-5 aircraft, process the material for staging and then load it onto smaller aircraft for distribution into affected areas.

The Kentucky Airmen assigned to the Louisville-based 123rd Contingency Response Group, will remain in place as long as the mission dictates.

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Airmen with the 123rd Contingency Response Group board a Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 headed for West Africa from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 2, 2014. The Guardsmen will work to set up a logistics hub in support of Operation United Assistance. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

An advance team of eight Kentucky Air Guardsmen and one active-duty Airman arrived in Senegal on Sunday to assess the airfield and operational capabilities.

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Lt. Col. Matthew Groves, commander of Global Mobility Readiness Squadron of the 123rd Contingency Response Group says farewell as he joins his fellow Airmen headed for West Africa Oct. 2, 2014. The Guardsmen will work to set up a logistics hub in support of Operation United Assistance. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“The eyes of the world are on West  Africa right now and Kentuckians are on the way to help,” said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, adjutant general for Kentucky.  “There is no better organization to respond to this kind of mission than the Kentucky Air National Guard.  The men and women of the 123rd Contingency Response Group are trained and experienced professionals, and I am confident they will make an important difference during this crisis.”

“We know that this mission is not about us. The estimates that we’ve seen are somewhere between 500,000 and a million lives that could potentially be lost in this epidemic and that’s what we are going to stop that’s what we are going to be part of,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Groves, commander of Global Mobility Readiness Squadron of the 123rd Contingency Response Group.

The 123rd Contingency Response Group is the only unit of its kind in the Air National Guard. Conceived as an “airbase in a box,” the group acts as an early responder in the event of contingency operations worldwide. Several members of the CRG were involved in previous humanitarian missions, to include Haiti earthquake aid in 2010.

Its personnel have the training and equipment to deploy to remote sites, rapidly open a runway and establish airfield operations so cargo or troops can begin to flow into affected areas. Unit members represent a broad spectrum of specialties, including airfield security, ramp and cargo operations, aircraft maintenance, and command and control.

MEDIA HITS:

WHAS-11 (ABC Louisville Affiliate):
http://www.whas11.com/news/Airmen-from-Ky-Air-National-Guard-heading-to-West-Africa-to-fight-Ebola-virus–277938411.html

WDRB-41 (FOX Louisville Affiliate):
http://www.wdrb.com/story/26693076/kentucky-national-guard-members-leave-to-help-with-ebola-crisis

Courier-Journal

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/life/wellness/health/2014/10/02/ky-guardsmen-part-ebola-response-africa/16599343/

Lexington Herald-Leader
http://www.kentucky.com/2014/10/02/3460137_kentucky-national-guard-sends.html?rh=1