Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Former Kentucky National Guardsman and University of Kentucky quarterback Freddie Maggard recently reached another milestone in his career, being inducted into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Announced in a June 8 press conference at the KHSAA Offices, Maggard and nine others were inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame, which consists of former high school coaches, athletes, officials, administrators and contributors.
A former officer with the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry, Maggard currently serves as the Kentucky Guard’s Community Relations Liaison.
“For me, this induction is a community award,” said Maggard. “I’m very proud of my roots in southeastern Kentucky. I don’t feel that a hall of fame induction is an individual accomplishment, but a culmination of dedication from my coaches, teammates, classmates, and community.”
In addition to representing the Kentucky National Guard in the communities, Maggard is a military spouse, which keeps him in touch with current needs of Guard families. For example, he and his wife, Chief Warrant Officer Jennifer Maggard joined the effort to get benefits for Guard members in Kentucky seeking to adopt.
“This community responsibility is the same I feel every morning when I come to work,” he said. “Our Soldiers and Airmen are a product of diverse communities across the Commonwealth collectively. I want Kentuckians to feel a personal connection to our service and family members. By this connection, a better understanding of the Kentucky National Guard’s responsibility and commitment will tell the story itself.”
Maggard is a three-sport standout and a 12-time letterwinner at Cumberland High School, Freddie Maggard starred for the Redskins on the hardwood, the gridiron and the diamond. On the football field, Maggard led Cumberland to a pair of state championship game appearances as a quarterback and defensive back, earning All-State honors at both positions from the Associated Press in 1986. He was a three-year starter and 1,000 point scorer on the basketball team, and a four-year starter and All-State selection as a pitcher and center fielder on the baseball team. His talents as a baseball player, which included a 28-1 pitching record, led Cumberland to three-consecutive regional championships from 1985-87, with the Redskins advancing to the state semifinals in 1985.
The Class of 2015 will be inducted in ceremonies scheduled for Saturday, March 21, 2015, at the Lexington Convention Center. The Class of 2015 will also be recognized during the semifinals of the 2015 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16®. The induction of the 10-member Class of 2015 will bring the total number of honorees in the Hall of Fame to 433.
Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs
FRANKFORT, Ky. — When the United State military calls up troops for battle, two things happen: men and women alike are trained and equipped for the mission before putting boots on the ground. It doesn’t matter if they’re heading out for the mountains of Afghanistan or a recovery duty following a tornado on the homefront; Soldiers and Airmen have to know what to do when facing a threat and they must have the resources to get the job done. It’s all part of maintaining an effective force and accomplishing the mission.
The same goes for the less glamorous but no less important assignment of protecting victims of sexual assault and harassment. The good news is that training and gear are being made available through the Kentucky Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program/Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Prevention.
One of the most important and innovative tools in dealing with sexual assault and harassment has been the Department of Defense Safe Helpline and its staff of trained and passionate professionals.
“The DOD Safe Helpline staff are there to provide confidential, anonymous support to the DOD community no matter where they are in the world,” said Lindsey Gundram, Safehelpline senior manager. “And we are there twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to help.”
Since its beginning in 2011 Safe Helpline has helped over 22,000 people and over 319,000 people received information from SafeHelpline.org.
NEED HELP? CALL 877-995-5247
Through their telephone helpline alone, Safe Helpline has help almost 11,000 callers since launching, providing over 9,500 service referrals (SARCs, Veterans Affairs, local rape crisis centers, etc.)
“The DOD Safe Helpline is a tremendous resource for folks in need,” said Charles Lay, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the Kentucky National Guard. “I’m impressed by the passion and dedication of the staff. They come from a variety of backgrounds, all coming together to help our military members in their time of need.”
A key tool offered by Safe Helpline is their website. Safehelpline.org offers a variety of resources to survivors of sexual assault and harassment, including crisis support and intervention services, emotional support, and information/referrals. Best of all, this is all done in a confidential, anonymous and secure environment.
“Safety and security for the victims of sexual assault is foremost on our minds,” said Lay. “When a person has been violated, trust is usually the first thing to go. It’s essential that we do everything we can to reassure them that they do not have to go through this experience alone, and that we can be trusted to see this through with them.”
The website is easily accessed by government computers as well as mobile devices to include Blackberries, iPhones and Android.
There’s even an app to access the Safe Helpine resources, available for both iPhone and Android devices. The app contains allows sexual assault survivors in the military to create a self care plan and access resources from anywhere in the world.
The app also has self-care exercises to help victims deal with stress and panic attacks at the touch of a finger.
An important feature of the app is that, like the website, everything is anonymous and confidential. Once you download the app you don’t need an internet connection to use it. And when deleted, everything disappears; its as if it never existed on your device.
“From the soldier perspective, this is a complicated issue,” said Maj. Bobbie Mayes, who took part in the sexual assault response training. “Both males and females are expected to be tough in the face of adversity. But you’re sexually assaulted, especially by a fellow soldier, and trying to report the incident, that’s an extremely difficult thing to do.”
Mayes thinks the anonymous features of Safe Helpline and its website and apps can give victims the boost in confidence necessary to survive and deal with the aftermath of a sexual assault.
“Giving someone a tool like Safe Helpline, either online or through the apps, where they are safe and secure and can discuss their options with someone who is trained to understand the issues at hand, this the first step in preparing to take your case to leadership,” she said. “It’s a process that everyone goes through differently, but you have to begin somewhere. And this gives you that place to begin.”
For more information on how to combat sexual harassment and assault, call 502-607-1276/1384/1249.
You can email Charles Lay at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Story by Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Civil engineers from the Kentucky Air National Guard spent part of their summer giving back to the community while accomplishing valuable annual training, renovating a Boy Scout camp in rural Maine.
About 30 Airmen from the 123rd Civil Engineer Squadron, based in Louisville, joined with 18 Airmen from the Tennessee Air Guard’s 118th Civil Engineer Squadron and 20 Marine Corps Reservists to build cabins, install equipment and improve roads at Camp William Hinds in Raymond, Maine, as part of a Department of Defense program called Individual Readiness Training.
The training, which took place over two weeks in June, provided an outstanding opportunity to do something valuable for the civilian community while enhancing war-time readiness skills in civil engineering, said Chief Master Sgt. Marty Fautz, chief enlisted manager for the 123rd CES.
“Every career field had work,” Fautz said. “The overall quality of the training was the biggest accomplishment. We got a lot of hands-on training for all of our (career fields) that the guys can’t get back home. Some of the guys haven’t touched the equipment we used since technical school, so it was a good two weeks for those guys.”
The Scouts supplied building materials and equipment rentals — paid for with private fund-raisers — while the Air Guard and Marine troops provided labor that matched with their unique areas of expertise. Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, power production specialists, heavy equipment operators and civil engineers all helped in the renovations, Fautz said.
The Airmen installed a zip line, graded roads, built cabins and renovated a dormitory building for Scouts and Scout Masters. Air Guard surveyors also worked extensively with the Marines, establishing plots for a shooting range by moving dirt and cutting into a hillside.
Fautz said mission was an especially rewarding one.
“When you talked to the civilians there that run the program, you could see how wrapped up they were with the Scouts, and how important and meaningful it was to do these upgrades for the benefit of the Scouts coming in,” he said.
“There were no big roadblocks, the equipment was there, the supplies were there, the manpower was there — we just had to cut the guys loose and let them go to work. When we left, everyone felt good about what they did and the training they got. It was a great trip.”
Lt. Col. Phil Howard, commander of the 123rd CES, explained that a lot of summer IRTs come with a checklist of items that have to be accomplished on a tight schedule, but this one provided enough time to work at a measured pace.
“This allowed the guys to slow down and actually train some of the younger troops,” he said. “Give them a hammer, in other words, rather than have the supervisors work on it because they have to get it done. So it was really an excellent training opportunity and one of the best (IRT missions) I’ve been on.”
Check out our most recent Bluegrass Guard – this issue ranges in stories from the Kentucky Air Guard in Alaska to Capt. Ryan Hubbs from the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry and his finish at the Best Ranger Competition.
Let us know what you think by emailing us at PAO@Kentuckyguard.com!
This is part I of a three-part series on the Kentucky National Guard’s Resiliency Training Assistant Course conducted for Guardsmen returning from deployment.
Commentary by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson
LEXINGTON, Ky. – When you’re blindfolded, turned around five times and handed the lead rope to a 1,300-pound American Draft horse, your heart will pound so loud that it ends up practically in your throat. Your other senses take over. The distinct smell of hay, manure and leather will hit you like a ton of bricks. You feel the ground, every shake from the stomp of a hoof, every uneven pebble, pile of unmentionables, straw of hay in the arena. You’ll hear the woosh of each breath that enters his nostrils, fills his lungs then releases. You’ll match his breath, which sounds just as loud as his. You’ll feel the wind at your face, the fly that bounces from his mane to your ear. Everything becomes clear.
It’s an exercise in trust. Between me and Sargent – the 1,300-pounder who could break my foot with one wrong step.
It’s an exercise in listening. Of the directions Sgt. Brandy Mort calls out to lead me through cones, around barrels, over jumps and into a hula-hoop.
It’s an exercise in self. Focusing on just the task at hand, not worrying about the e-mails I’m missing, the family drama I’d just experienced, the memories of a 10-month deployment or who I’m going to pick for my fantasy team.
As Soldiers, we train for combat; the worst case scenario is always present in the back of our minds. We’re high strung, but that’s a good thing because we need to be. Survival is key, mission success is essential.
But when the mission ends and the welcome home party subsides, the life we left prior to deployment starts again. Sometimes it’s changed so drastically we seem lost in our own homes. As our battle buddies readjust to their own lives, even they become distant because the team isn’t together 24/7. It seems that the puzzle pieces just don’t fit because they came out of different boxes.
But in case you forgot, it’s okay to come from different boxes. Sometimes we forget that. As leaders, it’s imperative to recognize our Soldiers, their backgrounds, their needs. And when we see that a Soldier needs to reassess and regroup, it’s our job to provide every resource possible to make that Soldier successful on the home front and within our ranks.
The Kentucky National Guard’s Resiliency Program isn’t your average cookie-cutter class. It’s an outside-the-box course that combines instruction in basic resilience principles designed to increase a Soldier’s effectiveness and well-being to develop and enhance their leadership potential. It focuses on self-awareness and regulation, connections and character strengths to help participants grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity.
While thousands of Soldiers across the globe are required to train using this approved University of Pennsylvania program, no other program in the Army uses horses on a daily basis through the course to reinforce the principles and capitalize on the lessons learned in a classroom setting. That’s what makes Kentucky’s program unique – what helps us to maintain that Unbridled Service and commitment to our Soldiers well-being.
The Central Kentucky Riding for Hope program partnered with the Kentucky National Guard Resilience Program in 2012, using equine therapy to help Guardsmen deal with emotions of internal conflict, personal relationships, mental agility and character strengths. Every principle discussed throughout the training is applied with daily interaction with the horses to help Guardsmen achieve their maximum potential.
It’s a program that leaders at every level should, and do support. Though resilience training is a quarterly requirement at the unit level, the one-week course held at the Kentucky Horse Park is something that the Kentucky National Guard Resiliency Team opens up throughout the year to Soldiers and leaders.
Its goal is to help Kentucky Guardsmen who are in need. It’s more important now than ever. There are reports of 22 veterans committing suicide every day. The program is another tool to spread awareness and provide knowledge to Guardsmen on how to tap into their own strengths to become better communicators and better leaders in their unit, the community and for their Family.
On that particular day, my goal was to not be stepped on. But that didn’t happen. Sargent got me. Instead of trying to lead him, I should’ve been next to him. It’s a humbling moment when 1,300 pounds comes landing on your heel. It wasn’t Sgt. Mort’s directions or Sargent trying to get ahead. It was me, getting ahead of myself, of Sargent, of Sgt. Mort.
I didn’t drop the lead, pull off my blindfold and stomp away with my pride degraded. I regrouped, stood beside Sargent and walked with him through the next obstacle. I finished the task at hand and thanked Sgt. Mort for her solid directions and communication skills. And I praised Sargent for his ability to follow my misguided movements and judgments.
Then, as a leader I understood.
Photos and story by 2nd Lt. Michael Reinersman, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Officer
CAMP ATTERBURY, Indiana – The City of Indianapolis was chosen as the site for a nuclear disaster during Vibrant Response 14. Vibrant Response is a U.S. Northern Command-sponsored field training exercise for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive consequence management forces, and is designed to improve their ability to respond to catastrophic incidents.
Approximately 5,500 military and civilian personnel from 28 U.S. states and territories took part in the largest confirmation exercise that the Department Of Defense conducts for its specialized response forces. Vibrant Response 14 used seven training areas in central and southern Indiana. Primarily, units trained at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center near Edinburgh, Ind. The training event simulates a tiered response from military and federal agencies to a nuclear or biological disaster in the United States.
The 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade has participated in the last three Vibrant Response exercises as part of their validation requirements by their higher headquarters, U.S. Army North. The 63rd TAB based in Frankfort, KY is the command and control element of aviation assets to ensure that missions requiring aviation support happened. Missions’ like moving equipment, personnel, and medical evacuations, or MEDEVAC were all coordinated within 63rd TAB’s Tactical Operation Center. Better known as “TOC Mahal”. To create practicality and rigor to the exercise, the TOC was manned and operated 24 hours during the 8 day exercise window from July 31st to Aug 7th.
“I was proud of the Brigade’s team effort.” said Lt. Col Michael Stephens, Commander of the 63rd TAB. He added, “Everyone’s individual acts led to the Brigades overall success during the training exercise. We have continued to build on previous training exercises and we will continue to refine our skill sets to be prepared for any civil support needed during a disaster.”
Vibrant Response provided a wide variety of training experiences to Soldiers of the Kentucky National Guard. Kentucky National Guardsmen of the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion, based out of Burlington, Ky. and Indiana National Guard’s 38th Combat Aviation Brigade, out of Shelbyville, IN partnered on sling load operations. They moved 500 gallon water blivets to supply water to Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Night Hawk, Campy Atterbury for hydration, cleaning, and cooking purposes. “New pilots from flight school and Soldiers from both units are able to maximize their training opportunities by practicing their individual tasks together.” said pilot Maj. Travis Ward with the 38th CAB. The training demonstrated the National Guards capability to deliver food and fresh water during a disaster.
Refueling helicopters, trucks and generators was the 1204th ASB primary mission during the exercise. “We are working rotational shifts to give us the chance to train on different things,” said Petroleum Supply Specialist Pfc. Adam Watts with Alpha Company, 1204th Aviation Battalion.
“Most of us that deployed in 2011 have refueled over 3,000 aircraft. This exercise gives our new Soldiers the chance to get hands on experience,” said Staff Sgt. Dave Rinehart with the 1204th Alpha Company. “You can’t go wrong working around aircraft. I love this job.”
Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Did you know August is Anti-Terrorism Month? Okay. Fine. So August is Anti-Terrorism Month. Why should you care? (Hint: You probably should, especially if you’re in the military.)
In all seriousness, all you have to do is read the daily headlines to see that terrorism continues to be a primary threat to the safety and security of people around the world — and here at home. While these threats are often defined by their ethnic, religious or political origins, they all common goals: instilling fear, disrupting lives and creating violence.
“There is a continuing need to combat the threat of terrorism,” said Warrant Officer Charlie Harris, intelligence/security officer for the Kentucky National Guard. “With incidents like the Boston marathon bombing, in mind, there has been a constant threat of since 9/11. Military bases are a focus, of course, and so we keep on our game here in Kentucky.”
Anti-Terrorism Month is nothing new, according to Harris. This is the fifth year in a row it’s been done, taking one month out of the year to exercise plans and test equipment and procedures.
“We practice everything from, say, what if we couldn’t use one of our buildings due to an anthrax scare, or what if our generators were down,” he said. “We’re also stressing the importance of emphasizing individual antiterrorism actions, such as reminding personnel throughout our Kentucky Guard family to report suspicious activity and to review active shooter guidance.”
“The idea is to be ready for every contingency,” he said.
Anti-Terrorism Month in August isn’t just a National Guard thing; it’s practiced world-wide in the U.S. Army. And Kentucky is leading the way.
“Our program has been recognized nationally by the Army and DOD, and we’ve won some pretty nice awards,” said Harris. “But we’re not letting our guard down. Our troops take it seriously, which is why we have such a successful program.”
Program builds cultural awareness and foreign language skills in future leaders
By Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor didn’t know a single word of French when she arrived in Burkina Faso in early June, traveling not as a tourist but as a mentor to the eight Army ROTC cadets who accompanied her.
In support of the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program (CULP), Taylor’s mission was to serve as their cadre leader, aiding the young cadets in bridging cultural divides between themselves and African officer cadets from the Georges Namoano Military Academy.
“I was really excited to be chosen for this mission,” said Taylor, a Kentucky Air National Guardsman who normally serves as dining facility manager for the 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville. “This gave me an opportunity to mentor young people and to test my leadership skills.”
While in Burkina Faso, Taylor and the cadets lived in barracks alongside their African counterparts, attended classes with them and visited a local population whose dominant language is French.
“Some of their cadets could read and write our language, but had little understanding of it,” Taylor explained. “Our cadets went through English language workbooks with them and provided teachable moments. It was a wonderful experience for both groups.”
The idea behind the CULP Program, which is headquartered at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is for young Army leaders to develop more cultural awareness and foreign language proficiency skills. According to the program’s website, cadets experience up to three different “venues” during immersion, learning about humanitarian service, host nation military-to-military contact, and the social, cultural and historical aspects of a country.
In 2013, more than 1,200 ROTC Cadets traveled across the world to participate in CULP. As the program has grown, the Army discovered it did not have enough personnel to accompany the cadets, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Shawn Keller, so other services were invited to provide cadre leaders. The 2014 effort marked the second year of participation for the Kentucky National Guard.
Keller, a Kentucky Air Guardsman and director of the Kentucky National Guard State Partnership Program, became a bridge between the Cadet Command and the Kentucky Guard in 2013, serving as a test case by accompanying a group of cadets to Burkina Faso last year. Upon his return, he knew the mission could be fulfilled by the state’s Army and Air Guard members.
“The program sends cadets to more than 40 countries around the world each summer for a period of approximately three weeks,” Keller said. “When the program reached out to the Kentucky Guard, they found qualified people with life experience and experience working with young people. When the Army asked for the Guard’s assistance, I knew where to get it.”
This partnership between the Army and Kentucky Guard is an invaluable asset to the continued growth of the program, according to Cadet Command officials.
“We recognize and appreciate the outstanding support we get every year from the Kentucky National Guard and other National Guard partners across the United States,” said Army Col. Brian Mennes, deputy commanding officer for U.S. Army Cadet Command. “This year 75 percent of our culture and language proficiency missions are supported with National Guard NCOs and officers, who are acting as cadre, providing essential coaching, mentoring and training to our future leaders.
“Missions such as these,” he continued, “are good examples of the experience and knowledge our cadets gain from their time with members of the National Guard.”
Besides Taylor, three additional Kentucky Air Guardsmen and two Soldiers from the Kentucky Army Guard accompanied cadets overseas this summer. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian McMorrow, medical plans and operations officer for the Kentucky Air Guard’s CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, accompanied one group to the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Air Force 1st Lt. Jessica Ellis, medical liaison officer for the CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, took another group to Croatia. Air Force Lt. Col. Dallas Kratzer, director of military personnel for the Kentucky Air Guard, traveled to Bosnia where his group of cadets experienced all three venues of the CULP Program.
“Originally, my group of cadets was going to go to another location when record rains turned into devastating floods throughout Bosnia,” Kratzer explained. “We were rerouted to Bosnia to help with flood-relief efforts. The operation became a multi-nation effort as military forces from around Europe came to help.
“Working side by side with so many different militaries was an invaluable learning experience,” he continued. “The students were focused on getting to know the other service members as well as assisting local Bosnians. When we ended the mission with one-on-one contact with the cadet officers, it gave our cadets a true sense of immersion into different cultures. It was a truly fantastic mission.”
McMorrow’s mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo mirrored Taylor’s mission to Africa, with U.S. cadets visiting foreign military cadet installations and teaching English language and culture to their foreign counterparts.
“It was truly fabulous watching our young Army cadets leading their (Congolese) cadet officers and building relationships with each other,” McMorrow said. “The give and take between the two vastly different groups on such a human level was an experience that I and my group of cadets will never forget.”
Taylor echoed those sentiments.
“This was a great leadership opportunity for me,” she said. “I was solely responsible for these cadets, getting them to their mission location and taking care of them from start to finish. The mission didn’t improve my French, but it has made me a better leader. I know the cadets’ experiences will make them better leaders, too.”
Story by Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, Director of Public Affairs, Kentucky National Guard
FRANKFORT, Ky – Kentucky’s Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Natalie Lewellen has a vision for her Judge Advocate General directorate.
“Our door is always open and we will always give you our best legal opinion. Hopefully such advice will be helpful to the Commanders and Service members we are here to serve,” Lewellen stated. “There may not always be an easy legal ‘Yes’ in every scenario or proposal, but we will always try to help you find a legal and ethical option that will work.”
Kentucky’s State Judge Advocate has seen a significant uptick in casework with in the National Guard and Kentucky. Most of these cases involve violations in ethics, regulations and sexual assault cases. Lewellen attributes the increase in caseloads to the drawdown in theatre operations and an increase in ethic and work environment awareness.
“The military has amplified focus in the areas of government ethics and sexual assault prevention in recent years,” said Lewellen. “As a result, there are now higher demands for education, training, investigation and resolution in these areas, which expands the scope of the traditional legal caseload. In fact, elements in both the NCOER and OER directly reflect the Soldier’s workplace attitude and bearing with regard to these ideas, as to the wave of new policies, instruction and directives issues by higher authorities in these areas.”
With only Lewellen and Staff Sgt. Paulette Terry, full-time staff paralegal, serving Kentucky’s 8,500 troops on a daily basis, case work began to pileup.
To expedite the increased case load, Lewellen brought on two more full-time JAG officers; Lt. Col. Jason Shepherd and Capt. Spencer Robinson.
Both have extensive backgrounds in law and regulations. Prior to joining the Kentucky Guard JAG team, Shepherd worked for the IRS’ tax exemption and government divisions. Robinson worked as a contractor for Medicaid cases and in a private law practice.
“I was interested in the types of cases the Kentucky JAG office worked on,” stated Robinson. “This JAG office is more interesting and challenging that the general practices and state agencies I’ve served.”
Though this current JAG team has been together for a short time, they have quickly learned to exercise each others’ strengths.
“I really like the crosstalk and the complimentary talents each of us has to serve our Kentucky Guard,” said Shepherd. “Having a qualified JAG office focused on helping our Kentucky Guard find the right way through a problem truly is good news.”
by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce, 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
GULFPORT, Miss. (7/1/2014) – Airmen from the 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, and 123rd Airlift Wing, Kentucky ANG, deployed to the Combat Readiness Training Center here to participate in cooperative Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft maintenance training June 23 through June 27.
This training deployment also marked the first opportunity to conduct an organic airlift-mission with the C-130H for the men and women of the 103rd Airlift Wing.
“An organic mission means it’s completely from start to finish a locally generated mission,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Behr, commander of the 103rd Maintenance Squadron.
“It was a great opportunity,” Behr said. “We had everybody including maintenance, operations, and support involved to get us down here.”
The intensive local planning involved in flying one of the 103rd Airlift Wing’s C-130Hs down to Gulfport, however, was just one small fraction of the overall mission.
“Training is the goal for the mission, particularly, training alongside our sister wing with the Kentucky Air National Guard,” said Behr. “We want to benefit from the knowledge, training, and experience from our Kentucky counterparts because they’ve been doing this mission for a long time.”
The ANG has been conducting the in the C-130 mission for more than 30 years.
“The good thing about the C-130 mission is that it’s been around for a long time,” said Behr. “There’s very little out there that our sister wings in the guard haven’t seen or learned already, so I always think it’s better to learn from other people’s experience, than it is by yourself.”
That’s one of the benefits we have by being with the 123rd Maintenance Group. They’ve been doing this a long time, they bring our people out on the aircraft, in the classrooms, and go through systems and talk about different capabilities of the aircraft, what the aircraft can and can’t do, and a variety of things we wouldn’t know without help, said Behr. We’d have to learn it the hard way, but instead, we are benefitting from the knowledge, training, and experience that they’ve had for the last 30 years.
“We brought everybody down here to get as valuable of training as possible,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Marks, non-commissioned officer-in-charge with the 103rd Maintenance Squadron during this training mission. “This is our second transition in the last seven years, we’ve done it once before but it’s a lot easier with someone guiding you along the way.”
Though this mission transition has been more difficult than the last when considering the age of the aircraft and specialized equipment, we are making great strides due to the 123rd’s assistance, said Marks. When comparing the fact that we flew only one or two flights in January to now, when we are up to approximately 20 flights a month, we can definitely see where we, as a wing, and a squadron, have excelled.
While Marks believes training together with another unit has been beneficial, he also sees the value in training away from home.
“It’s nice get away from home-station and focus on training where Airmen aren’t dealing with the hectic flying schedule they’d be dealing with back home,” said Marks. “It’s beneficial to conduct training in a different environment so when time comes to deploy, the Airmen are better equipped to adapt to the constantly changing situations during a deployment.”
With the specialized and focused C-130 maintenance experience earned through this weeklong training mission in Gulfport, comes expectations of increased proficiency.
“My Airmen’s biggest gripe is that they never get to work on the planes as much as they like during drill weekends,” said Col. Ken Dale, commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group. “In between retirements, promotions, and ancillary training, my Airmen get maybe two or three hours a drill to actually turn a wrench. With this training program, we let the Airmen tell us what they wanted for training, and that is how we came up with a syllabus.”
All the Airmen who have come back from this training have had great things to say about it, said Dale. They say they feel more proficient on the airplane. For example, take a hydraulic guy who never gets to change a hydraulic boost pack. Here, he is able to perform this task and get it signed off whereas it would probably take a couple years just to get it signed off at home. We have crew chiefs who hardly ever get to do a full (basic post flight operations inspection) on their own, and they get to do it all here, hands-on.
“Our benefit is that we get more proficient, highly trained individuals we are able to send all over the world,” said Dale. “Ultimately, the purpose of all this training is to build proficiency and confidence so I can send my Airmen, unescorted to Bagram (Afghanistan) to go and handle their maintenance jobs all on their own.”
The Airmen, themselves, realize how valuable this training mission is and have been taking full advantage of the program.
In one of our training classes, we were able to practice a theoretical prop change during an engine run, said Senior Airman Steven Maniscalco, aircraft maintainer in the 103rd Maintenance Squadron.
Being able to do it here theoretically has been extremely beneficial, I’m not as nervous and the whole experience isn’t as nerve wracking as if it were a real life prop change. I feel more confident and know that I’m becoming more proficient during this training, said Maniscalco.
According to Behr, the training in Gulfport appears to be another successful mission the 103rd Airlift Wing can add to its record.
“It’s great to see the whole organization come together; support group, maintenance, operations,” said Behr. “It took everybody to get us here, including our friends in Kentucky. The maintenance group leadership in Kentucky has just been outstanding. There’s nothing they’ve not helped us with, a lot of times it’s without us even asking. It’s just been terrific; I look forward to this relationship continuing.”