Story by Allison Crawford, WKMS – Murray State University

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Sgt. Tiffany Anestis with the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery hands out supplies to local civilians during the unit’s deployment to Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, Dec. 11, 2012. Kentucky Guard leadership said the relationships built during the 2/138th deployment helped pave the way for the new partnership. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Alexa Becerra)

The Kentucky National Guard is beginning a new partnership with Djibouti to support defense security cooperation goals. The National Guard State Partnership Program works to develop military and civilian relationships with a variety of state partners. Spokesman Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht said this could include training and assistance with things like security, emergency management and building schools.

The partnership includes personnel exchanges between the two countries.  But Hilbrecht said it’s about more than just skills and training.

“It is a true cultural exchange. And for them to really get a great taste of Kentucky, they’ll have to come here. And likewise, people who will be working with the Djiboutians will have to go to Djibouti. And we look forward to exchanges on both sides,” Hilbrecht said.

Hilbrecht said the partnership is meant to benefit both guardsmen and Djiboutians.

“It becomes something pretty cool when you say, ‘hey, we’re not just knocking down doors but we’re opening up hearts and minds by working with state partners like Djiboutians where they are really looking at us as… many things, not just military but also civilians. But again it helps us become more rounded individuals,” Hilbrecht said.

Guardsmen travel to Djibouti in June to formalize the new partnership. Hilbrecht said once Djiboutian needs and requests are determined, the guard will set up personnel exchanges.

Hilbrecht said the Kentucky Guard has had a successful partnership with Ecuador since 1996. The Guard will maintain its partnership with Ecuador while taking on the new partnership with Djibouti.

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

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Airman First Class Adam Cantrell, a security forces journeyman from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Security Forces Squadron, provides over watch during a mounted patrol as part of a training exercise at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., on Sept. 17, 2014. The unit’s Airmen conducted a five-day, combat-skills training course to prepare for future deployments. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

GREENVILLE, Ky. — Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123d Security Forces Squadron conducted five days of intense field training here recently to prepare them for future deployments in potentially hostile environments.

The training kicked off Sept. 15 with the Airmen being inserted into the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center via a Kentucky Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. From there, they set up a perimeter, completed a two-mile patrol and assaulted a village to rescue two simulated prisoners of war — all in just the first two hours.

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An Airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123 Security Forces Squadron aims his weapon at opposing-force actors during a training exercise at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., on Sept. 18, 2014. The unit’s Airmen conducted a five-day, combat-skills training course to prepare for future deployments. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

The Airmen also conducted exercises on land navigation and night patrols before concluding the week with a robust field-training scenario designed to simulate air base defense and mounted patrols in a combat environment, according to Lt. Col. George Imorde, commander of the 123d Security Forces Squadron.

Imorde said the training couldn’t have come a better time, as many of the squadron’s Airmen were preparing at the time to deploy to Africa in support of Operation United Assistance, the U.S. government’s multi-agency effort to stop the largest Ebola outbreak in history.

“This field training exercise enhanced our rapid-deployment ability to support Operation United Assistance, and the realistic base defense/force protection training provided a refresher of the duties and expectations directly related to our combat mission,” Imorde said.

A common misconception is that security forces only guard the gates at Air Force installations, secure the flight line and patrol the base, according to Tech. Sgt. Craig Davis, NCOIC of combat arms for the 123rd. But that is just a small portion of their responsibilities, he said.

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Personnel from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123 Security Forces Squadron apprehend a simulated opposing-force actor during a training exercise at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., on Sept. 18, 2014. The unit’s Airmen conducted a five-day, combat-skills training course to prepare for future deployments. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

“The bigger picture of what we do is the defense and protection of air bases in deployed environments,” Davis said. “The methodology of completing those tasks is really our primary mission. When we deploy, these Airmen and NCOs are expected to know air base defense.”

For some of the 123rd’s newest NCOs, the Greenville exercise provided their first opportunity to demonstrate leadership under a deployed base-defense scenario, Davis said.

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

Members of the Wing’s 123rd Force Support Squadron also participated in the exercise, serving hot meals prepared in the unit’s Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer.

Story by Ted Sloan, Kentucky Department of Agriculture

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Kentucky Adjutant General Edward W. Tonini and his wife, Carol, front row, third and second from left, join chef Kate Horning, center; Ben Shaffar, back row, second from left, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s director of business development; and members of the 123rd Airlift Wing who prepared the meal for the Survivors Luncheon. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Guests at the unveiling of the Kentucky National Guard Memorial on Memorial Day were treated to a luncheon of Kentucky Proud products prior to the ceremony at the Boone National Guard Center.

Click here for more photos.

“We are honored and humbled that Kentucky Proud could play a small role in this solemn occasion,” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said in a statement. “Kentucky’s heritage of military service and agricultural achievement go hand in hand. Thanks to the Kentucky National Guard for allowing Kentucky food producers to be a part of this special day.”

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Ben Shaffar, Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s director of business development, addresses the crowd at the Kentucky National Guard Memorial Day luncheon in Frankfort, Ky., May 25, 2015. The luncheon featured Kentucky Proud products and Homegrown by Heroes. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

The luncheon honored survivors of Kentucky National Guard soldiers and airmen who fell in the line of duty. Participating Kentucky Proud and Homegrown By Heroes vendors included Brooks Meats of Boone County, Bush Farms of Boyle County, Chelsea Farms of Shelby County, Crank and Boom Ice Cream of Fayette County, Elmwood Farms of Scott County, Evermore Farm of Fayette County, Kight’s Pecans of McCracken County, and Weisenberger Mill of Woodford County. The meal was prepared by celebrity chef, lifestyle coach, and author Kate Horning of Lexington with members of the 123rd Airlift Wing of the Kentucky Air National Guard.

The Kentucky National Guard Memorial was built to remember the hundreds of soldiers and airmen who perished since 1912, when Kentucky adopted federal legislation that established the modern National Guard.

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Kentucky Guard leaders join surviving family members of fallen Guardsmen at a Memorial Day luncheon in Frankfort, Ky., May 25, 2015. The luncheon featured Kentucky Proud products and Homegrown by Heroes. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“A good many survivors [in the audience] have a loved one that this memorial is being dedicated to here today,” Kentucky Adjutant General Edward W. Tonini told an overflow crowd at the ceremony to dedicate the monument. “We didn’t do this just for our fallen Guardsmen and women. We did it also for their families and loved ones. And we did it for future generations of Guard soldiers and airmen. Now those who follow in step after us will better appreciate what it means to be a member of the National Guard.”

The memorial features a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Daniel Boone sculpted by Wyatt L. Gragg of Prospect and a 22-foot-wide granite stone in the shape of Kentucky bearing the names of Kentucky National Guard service men and women who have died in the line of duty. Smock Fansler Corp. of Indianapolis is the general contractor. Other contractors include Bender Associates Architects of Lexington and Muldoon Memorials of Louisville.

The shrine was built with private funds.

 

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

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Col. Charles Jones traces the etching of his son’s name on the Kentucky National Guard Memorial in Frankfort, Ky., May 15, 2015. The monument honors the memory of more than 230 Kentucky Guardsmen who have lost their lives on duty since 1912, including Jones’ son, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Jason Jones who died in Iraq in 2006. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Flags were raised, the ribbon was cut, names were read and the tears fell. Kentucky now has a permanent shrine to fallen Guardsmen.

Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen and Adjutant General Edward W. Tonini joined hundreds of current and former Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, friends and family members in a dedication ceremony for the Kentucky National Guard Memorial on Memorial Day, May 25 at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky.

“With a beautiful stone map of Kentucky and that incredible statue of Daniel Boone standing guard … there’s nothing quite like it in our city,” said Lt. Gov. Luallen. “I don’t think there’s anything quite like it anywhere in the state of Kentucky.  It is a fitting tribute to your fallen loved ones, and serve as a reminder to all of us that freedom isn’t free.”

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Lynn Romans (center) and other family members trace the names of their fallen loved ones on the Kentucky National Guard Memorial in Frankfort, Ky., May 25, 2015. More than 230 names of fallen Guardsmen are etched on the new memorial at the Boone National Guard Center. (U. S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Click here for more photos.

Nearly ten years in the making, the memorial honors more than 230 Guardsmen who have given their lives in the line of duty since 1912, in defense of the nation overseas and here at home.

One of those is Lynn Romans’ son, Sgt. Darrin Potter who was killed in Iraq in 2003. Romans is happy the memorial is finished and so close to the road for people to see.

“Recognizing everyone on that wall will ensure that they are never forgotten,” she said. “This recognizes the real heroes among us and we all should take a moment and relish our freedoms we have because of them.”

Tonini thanked the crowd and everyone who contributed to the memorial including local Future Farmers of America members who added the final touches of landscaping just days before. He stated that a part of the memorial is a part of everyone who helped along the way.

“I am truly awe-struck by this beautiful, polished granite rendition of the Bluegrass State, listing the names of our fallen troops … protected by the larger than life figure of the legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone,” stated Tonini. “And as we stand together, I want to remind you that we didn’t just do this for our fallen Guardsmen and women.”

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(Left to right) Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini and Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Adams III cut the ribbon officially dedicating the Kentucky National Guard Memorial in Frankfort, Ky., May 25, 2015. The memorial was ten years in the making and was built for roughly $1.3 million. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“We also did it for their families and loved ones,” he said. “We did this for future generations of Guard Soldiers and Airmen.  Now those who fall in step after us can better appreciate what it means to be a member of the Kentucky National Guard.”

The ceremony also featured a fly-over by a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 and two Blackhawk helicopters, and a 21-gun salute from Howitzer cannons of the 138th Field Artillery Brigade.

Soil from all 120 Kentucky counties was planted at the site in recognition of the Kentucky National Guard being the commonwealth’s “hometown defense force.”

The memorial was built with private funds.

What does Memorial Day mean?

On May 25, 2015, in Kentucky National Guard, by scottraymond1

Staff Report

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A statue of Daniel Boone keeps watch over the new Kentucky National Guard Memorial in Frankfort, Ky. The monument with the inscribed names of more than 230 Kentucky Guardsmen will be dedicated this Memorial Day. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — On a Memorial Day unlike those gone by, the Kentucky Guard stands proud before a fitting monument to those Citizen-Soldiers who gave the last full measure of devotion for their home and Nation. The dedication of the Kentucky National Guard Memorial has been a long time in the making. But as we present it to the world, Guardsmen are reminded, and will be everyday henceforth, ‘What Memorial Day mean to me?’ 

“Memorial Day is a day that is set aside to remember and honor those who served and gave their lives so that we may live and continue to live in this country freely. Not only is it a day to reflect on the sacrifices made by the Service members, but in my opinion it is also a day to hold those ones close who have lost a father, mother, child, brother, sister or a friend, while they were selflessly serving and defending our Country.”

Spc. Stacy Pesut, 103rd

“Memorial Day is a day to reflect for me. Having been born in a different country, under a different political system, I am acutely aware that America is the greatest country in the world; and Memorial Day is a day when I can reflect and show reverence to the men and women of our armed forces who gave their life in order to ensure it stays that way.”

1st. Lt. Marlon Jones, 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery

“Memorial Day is a day I take time to remember my fallen brothers I knew, who served with my unit once upon a time.”

Staff Sgt. Dana Stringer, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

“I don’t think you’d have to call it Memorial Day, nor do I think it matters what you call it. We need an occasion annually to gather together and remember our fallen brothers and sisters, because it is through that fellowship that we heal and through that fellowship that the fallen live on in our memories. We call it Memorial Day, but that’s not what’s important.”

Col. Michael Abell, Director, G1

“It is a day when we should all pause to honor the Service members that paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms, rights and liberties. It should also be a day that we recommit ourselves to maintaining vigilance over those freedoms so that their sacrifices are not wasted and that our children and future generations have the same rights and opportunities.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Rowan, 198th Military Police Battalion

“This day is a standstill moment in time for us to stop what we’re doing, remember the fallen and what the words honor and duty actually mean. We need to celebrate and appreciate what we have, because many lost everything to give us the freedom to choose who we are and the ability to live life to the fullest.”

Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

“For most people Memorial Day represents the beginning of summer, a time for picnics, beach trips, boating and vacations.  Some feel this is shallow and inappropriate, but I’ve come to think otherwise:  It is because of the sacrifices of those who fell in defense of our nation and our unique American way of life that we can have the freedom to do all of these things. So celebrate, America, party on!  Go four-wheeling and hiking and skiing and have a wonderful time.  And as you gather around the barbeque at the end of your Memorial Day and watch the setting sun, be sure to raise a glass in honor of those who made this all possible, our honored fallen, for they are surely looking down upon us with pride … and more than a little envy.”

Staff Sgt. (ret.) David Altom, Public Affairs Office

 

Story by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell, II Marine Expeditionary Force

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Two Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron off load 50 cc mini bikes to stage on a runway at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., April 28, 2015, prior to a static line jump and Jump Clearing Team mission from a KC-130J Super Hercules assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 during exercise Emerald Warrior 2015. The mini bikes are used to patrol the air strip before the plane lands to ensure there is no debris or hostile forces near the landing zone. Emerald Warrior is a joint exercise led by Air Force Special Operations Command that provides pre-deployment training for U.S. and partner nation special operations forces and interagency elements. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. — Marines with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing transported a team of 20 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron and Chilean Air Commandos aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules during Emerald Warrior 2015 here April 28.

Working with VMGR-252, the team landed and prepositioned two 50cc mini bikes at an airfield before later taking off again and jumping out to parachute down to the airfield to conduct their planned Jump Clearing Team mission.

“Flying with Americans and the unit helps us toward the training that we do out here,” said Rudy, a team leader with the Chilean Air Commandos. “Working together helps with future missions in a combat area.”

The Marines aboard the Hercules set up static lines and locked down the bikes aboard the aircraft. The 123rd STS and Chilean jump masters worked side by side with Marine crew masters during jumps to ensure safety, speed and proper technique.

“We run checklists before the jumps to ensure quick and safe executions,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Arnold Sosa, a crew master with VMGR-252. “Once we secure the inside of the plane and open up the back ramp, the jump master takes charge of his jumpers while I make wind and time calls prior to the jump.”

Once the jump is complete the crew masters relay information to the pilots.

“I notify the pilots when the first jumper goes as well as the last jumper,” Sosa said. “After that, we give them a total jumper count and total chute count to ensure a safe jump.”

The partnership between the different services and partner nations during training exercises like Emerald Warrior 2015 further enhances their relationships.

“It is a great partnership with great forces,” Rudy said. “Training together and completing missions during Emerald Warrior help toward our commando unit in the future. It brings our guys and American forces together in a strong bond.”

Emerald Warrior is a joint exercise led by Air Force Special Operations Command that provides pre-deployment training for U.S. and partner nation special operations forces and interagency elements. The annual exercise is the Department of Defense’s only irregular warfare exercise.

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

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Kentucky National Guard Maj. Catherine Forsyth, logistics officer-in-charge, and Spc. Madison Witzleb, aviation operations specalist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, enjoy a box of Girl Scout cookies during an annual training exercise at Camp Atterbury, Ind., April 27. Girl Scout Troop #1199, a Taylorsville, Ky.-based troop, donated boxes of cookies to the Kentucky Guardsmen as a comfort care-package to open during the unit’s week-long annual training exercise in support of Vibrant Response 2015. The cookies were used as a service project to earn the Troop to Troops badge for the Girl Scouts. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson)

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. – When Soldiers are away from their families, it’s the little things that mean the most. Even if you’re only across the river for a training exercise at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

For Soldiers of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, comfort was in the form of America’s favorite chocolate, shortbread and lemon-flavored cookies that only come out one time a year. And thanks to the Taylorsville, Ky.-Girl Scout Troop #1199, it was the perfect treat at the end of a 12-hour shift.

“Reading the handmade card attached to each box of Girl Scout Cookies thanking Soldiers for their service has touched our hearts,” said Staff Sgt. Carrie Payne, training noncommissioned officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 63rd TAB.

“Everyone enjoyed the contribution of the cookies,” she said.

In 2014, the Girl Scouts, nationally, donated 12,108 boxes of cookies to U.S. Service members around the world.

Known as “Troop to Troops,” the gift of caring is a combined effort of community donations and extra cookies purchased to spread the joy in each box. According to Troop leader Jennifer Pucko, the Taylorsville troop has donated boxes shipped overseas before, but wanted to do something local this year.

“Most of the cookies are paid for by local donations the girls receive at the cookie booths,” she said. “One of our girl’s dad is in the National Guard, so we thought this year we’d find a local unit.”

Troop #1199’s cookies were served April 27 during shift change at the 63rd TAB’s annual training. The Kentucky Guardsmen were part of 3,000 military, federal and civilian personnel who participated in Vibrant Response, the nation’s premiere homeland defense exercise.

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Staff Sgt. Carrie Payne, training noncommissioned officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, holds a box of Girl Scout cookies during an annual training exercise at Camp Atterbury, Ind., April 27. Payne said the hand-written notes attached to the boxes that Girl Scout Troop #1199, a Taylorsville, Ky.-based troop donated, were very much appreciated by her Soldiers that were on their annual training exercise in support of Vibrant Response 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson)

There is a special patch that the Girl Scouts receive if they donate at least six boxes of cookies to Troop to Troops. According to its website, the Girl Scouts is a leadership-driven organization that engages girls to discover who they are, connect with others and take action to make the world a better place. The same types of activities and values that Soldiers like Payne experience in the National Guard.

“These young girls should be proud of themselves as individuals for recognizing those who serve our country,” Payne said.

My message to each one of these girls is to take one day at a time and always put your best foot forward,” she said. “Stay the leader you are being taught to be, not a follower.”

Commentary by Chief Warrant Officer Joseph P. Lyddane, 138th Field Artillery Brigade

AAPIHM_15_poster (May)FRANKFORT, Ky. — The transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 by Chinese immigrants and twenty-six years before that, on May 7, 1843 the first Japanese people began migrating to the United States. These are but two of the many reasons why the month of May was chosen to take the opportunity to recognize the contributions made by Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). They represent almost fifty countries with more than one hundred languages and dialects. According to the Census Bureau, there are 16.6 million AAPIs residing in the US which accounts for 5.4 percent of the US population and it is estimated that by 2050 that number will rise to about 42.6 million.

For generations Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have impacted the United States helping to develop and defend the country, often times amid racial and cultural prejudice. The American way of life has been improved by AAPIs through major contributions to athletics, public servitude, science initiatives, and artistic achievements, to name a few.

Click here for more information on Asian American Pacific Islander Month.

tanaka

Nicknamed Road Runner for her unflagging energy and enthusiasm, Carolyn Hisako Tanaka served in Vietnam in spite of a scarring childhood memory. At the age of six, she saw her family evicted from their California home in the wake of Pearl Harbor and relocated to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona. When the family returned to California after the war, they found their home burned to the ground. In 1966, as an emergency room nurse, she decided to enlist in the Army, telling skeptical friends, “I have a skill that is needed in Vietnam, and I’m going there to do my duty for my country.” Ironically, she returned from that war to a “welcome” that brought back bitter memories.

Daniel Inouye was a Medal of Honor recipient who was wounded during WWII and served on the US Senate;  Patsy Mink was the first Asian American Congresswoman; Har Gobind Khorana was a significant contributor to discovering the genetic code and later won the Nobel Prize in 1968; Elaine Chao was President Bush’s deputy secretary of transportation and director of the Peace Corps in the early 90s; Maya Lin, a world renowned architect and designer of the Vietnam Memorial; and Norman Yoshio Maneta who served twenty years in the US House of Representatives.

Kanaya

As a youth, Jimmie Kanaya became fascinated with the military, and at 20 he jumped at the chance to enlist in 1941—months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After helping his parents relocate from their Oregon home to an Idaho internment camp, Kanaya took his skills as a medic to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He aggressively looked out for his men, even negotiating a halt to fighting to bring in casualties from the battlefield. Captured by German troops, he escaped three times and at war’s end was the only non-Caucasian in his POW camp. Kanaya continued to serve his country during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

These are just some of the countless individuals who overcame adversity and made an impact.

Through partnerships like that of the United States and AAPIs we are able to broaden our horizons and enhance our effectiveness. Diversity is about acceptance; the U.S. military depends on it.

Take time this month to reflect on diversity and the benefits of including everyone. Research other cultures and educate yourself on what makes each of us different; by doing so you will discover how similar we all are and possibly gain a new perspective.

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

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Brig. Gen. David San Clemente (third from right), deputy director for strategy, plans and programs at U.S. Africa Command, talks with members of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a visit to the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., May 12, 2015. San Clemente toured the wing’s 123rd Contingency Response Group, Fire and Emergency Services, and Headquarters facilities. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Brig. Gen. David San Clemente, deputy director for strategy, plans and programs at U.S. Africa Command, visited with members of the 123rd Airlift Wing during a visit to the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., May 12, 2015. San Clemente toured the wing’s 123rd Contingency Response Group, Fire and Emergency Services, and Headquarters facilities.

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Col. Barry Gorter (center), commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, discusses the mission of the 123rd Contingency Response Group with Brig. Gen. David San Clemente, deputy director for strategy, plans and programs at U.S. Africa Command, during a tour of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., May 12, 2015. The group deployed more than 80 Kentucky Air Guardsmen to Africa in 2014 to stand up and operate an aerial port of debarkation in support of Operation United Assistance, the U.S. government’s coordinated effort to fight the worst Ebola outbreak in history. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

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Col. Barry Gorter (center), commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, discusses the mission of the 123rd Contingency Response Group with Brig. Gen. David San Clemente, deputy director for strategy, plans and programs at U.S. Africa Command, during a tour of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., May 12, 2015. The group deployed more than 80 Kentucky Air Guardsmen to Africa in 2014 to stand up and operate an aerial port of debarkation in support of Operation United Assistance, the U.S. government’s coordinated effort to fight the worst Ebola outbreak in history. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

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

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Kentucky National Guard Spc. Madison Witzleb’s smile and positive attitude keeps the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade’s Tactical Operations Center a little less stressful during USARNORTH’s Vibrant Response 2015 exercise at Camp Atterbury, Ind. Witzleb, an aviation operations specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, is the newest member of the 63TAB, and said her first annual training with the brigade was challenging and fun. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson)

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. — There’s always that one. The young Soldier, fresh out of Advanced Individual Training (AIT), who shows up, loves the Army and smiles a lot.

For Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, it’s Spc. Madison Witzleb. She can run through the tactical operations center, affectionately known as the “TOC-mahal,” and if you blink, you’d miss her. She’s got a voice that will command even the hardest of hearing to attention if a distinguished visitor walks in. And a smile that her leaders and fellow Soldiers say can make any long day of training seem better.

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Kentucky National Guard State Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Chumley presents Spc. Madison Witzleb, aviation operations specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, with his challenge coin April 23, at Camp Atterbury, Ind. Witzleb was nominated by leadership to receive the coin for her motivation and determination to tackle every task with a positive attitude. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson)

“Spc. Witzleb is constantly looking for ways to better herself and is never satisfied with just doing what she has been asked to do,” said Sgt. Maj. Kevin Wilkins, aviation operations chief for 63rd TAB. “She displays a willingness to learn as much as she can and she always has a smile on her face.

“My advice to our young Soldiers,” Wilkins said is, “display the same enthusiasm and dedication that Spc. Witzleb does.”

That passion for success is what makes Witzleb stand out in the crowd, and what landed her front and center before State Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Chumley April 23. The 18-year-old aviation operations specialist was the first 63rd TAB Soldier to receive a coin during the unit’s annual training in support of Vibrant Response, which also happened to be her first coin ever.

“My face turned 50-shades of red,” she said, “but I was able to smile because I was on an excitement rush. I’d never received a coin before that.”

The challenge coins, a military tradition, are presented in recognition of special achievement. Witzleb was nominated by leadership to receive the coin for her professional work ethic and balanced attitude.

Witzleb said her first coin is something she will remember for a while, “the first words I said were: ‘I finally have one my dad doesn’t have!’”

Competition is in her blood. She was on her high school rifle team, plays golf, runs like the wind, and hopes that being in the Guard will help her compete with – and exceed her older brother’s physical fitness abilities.

“One day I will be able to beat him,” she said.

Besides the competition, her family is also good for inspiration, she said. Her father had a large impact on her decision to join the military, and her mother’s advice has kept her going, especially this AT when she really didn’t know what to expect.

“Coming into this (Vibrant Response) as my first exercise, it was nerve racking,” she said. “I was afraid of not being able to succeed in my tasked position.

“My mother always taught me to hold my head up high, even in a time of doubt,” she said. “I love a good challenge and this exercise holds up to its name.”

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Kentucky National Guard Spc. Madison Witzleb’s smile and positive attitude keeps the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade’s Tactical Operations Center a little less stressful during USARNORTH’s Vibrant Response 2015 exercise at Camp Atterbury, Ind. Witzleb, an aviation operations specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, is the newest member of the 63TAB, and said her first annual training with the brigade was challenging and fun. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson)

As the newest member of the 63rd TAB, Witzleb has many more challenges ahead for her Guard career. She’ll attend Morehead State University this fall to study criminology and take Reserve Officer Training Corps classes. She’s looking forward to also earning her status as a Kentucky Woman Veteran.

“Being a female veteran who can succeed in this career is an amazing accomplishment,” Witzleb said.

“I know many more have come before me, and they are providing some very large boots to fill,” she said, “but I am up for the challenge.”