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

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Spc. Timothy Smith with the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry hands a case of water to Anne Cockley, a Red Cross volunteer at Green Hills Elementary School in Bledsoe, Ky., Feb. 24, 2015. The Soldiers assisted with water deliveries throughout Harlan County in response to a water shortage caused by a recent winter storm. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

HARLAN, Ky. — More than 100 Kentucky Guardsmen were activated this week to assist local communities following a devastating winter storm.

Snowfall totals in excess of two feet along with bitterly cold temperatures pushed counties in Eastern and Southern Kentucky to the brink. With 93 of Kentucky’s 120 counties declaring emergencies, Gov. Steve Beshear issued a state of emergency Feb. 16, opening the door for the Guard to assist.

Soldiers with the 201st Engineer Battalion helped clear more than 70 miles of roads in Lee County alone. Trucks from the 138th Field Artillery Brigade and 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade moved palletized water from Louisville to staging areas.

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Spc. James Harmon with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry helps guide a pallet of water into a vehicle for distribution in Harlan, Ky., Feb. 24, 2015. The Guardsmen were able to supply distribution points across Harlan County to get the water closer to those in need. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

In Harlan County, Soldiers with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry transported pallets of water to distribution points throughout the county following water system failures.

“We have the equipment to do the job,” said Staff Sgt. Terry Brock with Alpha Co. “We’ve been delivering water, clearing roads, shoveling driveways, helping people get to doctors, just helping out wherever we can.”

Brock, who lives in Harlan County, even had to deliver water to his own family on one of the unit’s runs. “It was good to help them out and to be in a spot to help out the whole county of Harlan too.”

Visit our flickr site for more photos.

Frozen lines and pump failures knocked out the water to an estimated 45,000 households in Eastern Kentucky. Together with the snow, the rural mountain communities were impacted much worse than other parts of the state.

Harlan County Judge Executive Dan Mosley said he has requested a lot of local and state resources throughout this process and finds it encouraging to find so many willing to help.

“The Guard has helped us out in a big way,” he said. “We would not have been able to set up so many distribution points if it wasn’t for the National Guard, the Red Cross and Operation UNITE. There would be a lot of people without water in their homes if it wasn’t for the Kentucky National Guard units doing what they’re doing here.”

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Soldiers with the 201st Engineer Battalion work to remove snow from a road in Lee County, Ky., Feb. 19, 2015. The unit cleared more than 70 miles of snow following the winter storm that impacted much of Kentucky. (Photo courtesy of 201st Engineer Battalion)

According to Spc. James Harmon with Alpha Co., the unit was responsible for the delivery of more than 7,000 gallons of water. In coordination with the Red Cross, the Guardsmen supplied designated distribution points that were closer for citizens to pick up the water. Each run became similar to a wellness check as the Citizen-Soldiers recognized familiar faces and were able to judge the situation based upon the words of their own friends and locals they knew.

“I grew up here in Harlan, it’s a great community of people,” said Harmon. “I just helped deliver water to my old elementary school in Bledsoe. It’s why I enjoy being a part of the National Guard. We serve our Nation, but are also here to help our neighbors get back on their feet.”

Soldiers in the are also provided transportation assistance to emergency personnel, ensuring doctors, nurses and health care staff made it to work.

With more than 30 vehicles in use across the Commonwealth, the Guardsmen are expected to continue each mission through the week.

Check out some video of the Harlan County response mission below:

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

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Lt. Col. John Blackburn displays the epaulets of his Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, Maj. Eugene Crittenden in Frankfort, Ky., Jan. 16, 2015. The historical artifacts were a gift to Blackburn from from his aunt, Kentucky Lt. Governor Crit Luallen(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Lt. Col. John Blackburn has worn an Army uniform for 24 years. The Frankfort-native joined the Kentucky Guard in 1994, serving multiple tours overseas. Achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel in 2014 is but another accomplishment in his military career.

Joining the military was the result of a childhood fascination, Blackburn said, but a decision that is rooted in the history of Kentucky and those who have helped shape it.

“I’m not driven to tell my family ‘s story,” he said. “I just find personally interesting to learn the impacts my family has had in Kentucky and its ties back to the origins of the country.”

Blackburn’s pride in his family tree is substantiated by his connections to three Kentucky governors, a founding father of the bourbon industry and current Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen.

Blackburn is the nephew of Lt. Gov. Luallen, who presented him with a family heirloom as a gift in honor of his promotion in 2014. He received the uniform epaulets of his Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, Maj. Eugene Crittenden, who served in the U.S. Army during and after the American Civil War. Luallen also included a note congratulating him on his promotion and reminding him of his family’s legacy.

“Yours is a proud heritage of fine and brave men who served their country and their families in remarkable ways,” wrote Luallen. “You are carrying on that tradition with your outstanding leadership, strong character and loving spirit.”

Blackburn said he was taken aback by the gift and did not want them just sitting around his office. He turned to John Trowbridge, historian for the Kentucky Guard who helped fill in the blanks of Eugene’s history.

“I had not known much about Eugene other than bloodline and to receive such an important family heirloom of historical significance was indeed humbling,” he said. “John Trowbridge provided me with a wealth of information that really brought the epaulets to life.”

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U.S. Army epaulets of Maj. Eugene Crittenden from the 1870s will be displayed in the Capital City Museum in Frankfort, Ky. They were a 2014 gift to Kentucky Guardsman, Lt. Col. John Blackburn, Crittenden’s great-great-great grandson. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Blackburn and Trowbridge worked with the Capital City Museum in Frankfort to get the epaulets on display. They agreed with the museum’s curator, Tom Fugate that the items are a missing link in Kentucky military history.

According to Fugate, Eugene remained in the shadows of his much more famous brothers, George and Thomas, both of whom would become generals on opposing sides during the war.

“We were really excited when Lt. Col. Blackburn and Mr. Trowbridge brought these to our attention,” said Fugate. “They enable us to tell the whole story of brother against brother, bringing Eugene’s story out of obscurity.”

Crittenden joined the Army in 1855 as an officer with the 4th U.S. Cavalry. During the war in 1863, he was appointed colonel of the 12th Kentucky Cavalry, commanding the unit throughout the remainder of the war.

In a fitting example of the fracturing of the country during the Civil War, two of the Crittenden brothers on the field of battle in September, 1863. Eugene and brother George, who served as a major general for the Confederacy led their troops against each other in action at Carter’s Bridge, Tenn.

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U.S. Army Maj. Eugene Crittenden, circa 1865. (Courtesy photo)

After the war, Eugene was assigned to the 5th U.S. Cavalry during the Indian Wars and was stationed at Fort Bowie, Ariz. He died of a stroke in 1873 at the age of 41.

Eugene was initially buried at the fort, but was disinterred to be returned to Kentucky, where he is now buried in Frankfort Cemetery. After Fort Bowie closed, the remains of its Soldiers were moved to the San Francisco National Cemetery in California. Today, Eugene Crittenden rests in Kentucky, but also has a headstone in California.

“We want to remind the community of the significance and importance of the traditions of the Kentucky Guard and their role in the city and across Kentucky,” said Fugate.

See the epaulets on display along with 200 years of Kentucky history to explore at the Capital City Museum at 325 Ann St. in downtown Frankfort. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10AM-4PM with free admission.

 

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

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Master Sgt. Carl Shaffer, a C-130 crew chief in the 123rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, works to disconnect a tow bar from a C-130 Hercules aircraft on the flight line of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 21, 2015. The aircraft, which subsequently departed for the Persian Gulf along with 37 deploying Kentucky Air Guardsmen, was being housed in a hangar because of severe weather conditions. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The first 37 of more than 110 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen departed Louisville, Feb. 21 for deployment to an undisclosed air base in the Persian Gulf region.

The Airmen left aboard a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 Hercules for a four-month mission supporting coalition military operations in the United States Central Command Area of Responsibility, which includes the Persian Gulf, Northern Africa and Afghanistan.

The Airmen, who include aircrew members, aircraft maintenance personnel and support staff, will fly troops and cargo as needed across the region in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, said Lt. Col. Matt Quenichet, a Kentucky Air Guard navigator and mission commander.

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More than 35 members of the 123rd Airlift Wing board a C-130 Hercules aircraft at Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 21, 2015, for a four-month deployment to the Persian Gulf region in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. The Airmen will fly troops and cargo across the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility, which includes the Persian Gulf, Northern Africa and Afghanistan. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Col. Barry Gorter, commander of the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing, thanked the deploying Airmen for their commitment to the mission.

“I know that you’re leaving here today ready to perform this mission because of the unsurpassed level of professionalism and excellence you display every day,” Gorter told the Airmen. “I’m proud of you, and I’m humbled to be you wing commander.”

He also praised family members and community partners for their continued support over the next four months.

“Our Airmen are leaving family and friends behind while they deploy overseas for this important mission, and many are taking leave from full-time civilian jobs,” Gorter noted. “Those family members and civilian employers will have to take on extra responsibilities while their citizen-Airmen are deployed, and we deeply appreciate that.

“Our Airmen simply could not perform this mission without the full support of their families, employers and coworkers, all of whom are our full partners in the defense of America.”

A second group of Kentucky Airmen is scheduled to depart from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base next week aboard a 123rd Airlift Wing C-130, while a third rotation will deploy in late April. The mission is expected to be complete in early July.

Visit our flickr page for more photos.

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

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

Story by Capt. Ryan Hubbs, Kentucky National Guard Resilience Coordinator

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Multiple deployments can take their toll on our citizen soldiers and their families, which in turn degrades readiness. Resilience training offers tools and resources to combat the negative affects incurred during mobilization. (Photo by Sgt. Alexa Becerra, 2/138th PA)

GREENVILLE, Ky. — What makes a person be able to bounce back from adversity? Why do some people seem to thrive under pressure, while others can barely cope with the stresses of everyday life? Is it something you were born with, or is it a skill that can be learned?

For answers to these questions, the U.S. Army teamed up with the University of Pennsylvania and prominent psychologists to see what it was that makes an individual “resilient.”

Resilience is defined as the ability of an object to spring back into shape, or more specifically (when dealing with Soldiers) the ability of a person to recover quickly from adversity. Although originally, psychologist believed that resiliency was a trait individuals were born with, they have now discovered that resiliency is a skill that can be learned by anyone.

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Kentucky Guardsmen participate in a group discussion as part of their Master Resiliency Trainer Course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., Jan. 20, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Mike Moynahan)

It is no secret that today our men and women who serve in the National Guard face many situations which bring about stress. Juggling deployments, annual training, and drill weekends with a civilian job and family relationships can be extremely difficult, even for the most resilient individuals. It is because of this recognized stress that the Kentucky Army National Guard has seen fit to get as many Master Resilience Trainers as possible to teach these skills in their units, in order to make our Guard stronger.

From Jan. 12-23, leaders from a variety of units of the Kentucky Army Guard attended the Master Resilience Trainer Course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville. Lead by Abbey Bradshaw, a resilience specialist from Fort Knox, the Resilience Team from the Michigan National Guard’s Great Lakes Resilience Center and some help from the Army Reserves, Soldiers from across Kentucky were immersed in the optimistic world of resiliency.

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The graduating class of the Kentucky National Guard’s Master Resiliency Trainer Course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., Jan. 23, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Mike Moynahan)

The two-week course teaches Soldiers a variety of skills dealing with how to become more self-aware of counterproductive thoughts and emotions and how to regulate them. The course focuses on optimistic thinking and gives Soldiers the tools be cool and confident in any situation. The course even teaches skills such as active constructive responding that help to foster better relationships with friends, family, and coworkers alike.

The course is with not without its critics though. The Army has been trying to eliminate the perception that it is “not okay” to share feelings.

“I was concerned about having to sit in a drum circle and talk about feelings,” said Master Sgt. Chuck Shuff with the 20th Special Forces Group when he first learned he was going to attend the course. “I was relieved when that turned out not to be the case at all. These are practical skills that Soldiers need to have.”

It is not uncommon for those who enter the course to be a little leery at first. However, by the end, almost all who complete the course say they come away with invaluable skills that not only help them become better Soldiers, but also better people.

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Kentucky Guardsmen attend a Master Resiliency Trainer Course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., Jan. 15, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Mike Moynahan)

In an effort to spread the resiliency program, it is important to get buy-in from leaders at the top and whom Soldiers respect.

Capt. Mike Moynahan, a Ranger qualified Infantry company commander said, “The skills taught during the course are proven and effective, but it takes practice to become good at them. Mandatory training requirements can be overwhelming at times, but these skills will pay dividends while deployed for soldiers and their families.”

Overall, the 32 Soldiers who participated in the training had overwhelmingly positive things to say about the course. In addition, the Kentucky Army Guard is now at 96% strength for units that require an MRT. Facts that keep leadership optimistic for the future of resiliency in the military.

“The positive response for the program here in Kentucky has been encouraging,” said Maj. John Harvey who oversees the program. “With more than 125 MRTs trained and more classes scheduled, the Kentucky Guard is quickly becoming one of the most resilient states in the Nation.”

For more details on how you can receive resilience training or become involved in the state resilience program, please contact your unit MRT or State Resilience Coordinator.

 

Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Staff Report

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Maj. Chip St. Charles speaks to friends and family of Bravo Company, 351st Aviation Support Battalion during a departure ceremony in Frankfort, Ky., Feb. 16, 2015. The Guardsmen will deploy to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky National Guard command staff honored the members of Bravo Company, 351st Aviation Support Battalion in a departure ceremony, Feb. 16.

Despite inclement weather, a large crowd of family members and friends gathered to say their last farewell.

Click here for more photos of this event.

During their deployment to the Middle East the aviation soldiers of Bravo Co. will provide aviation maintenance support to a variety of Army aircraft throughout the theater of operation for Operation Spartan Shield.  They will first go to Fort Hood, Texas for pre-deployment training before heading overseas.

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A Soldier with Bravo Company, 351st Aviation Support Battalion enjoys a family portrait during a departure ceremony in Frankfort, Ky., Feb. 16, 2015. The unit will support military operations in the Middle East for roughly one year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Kentucky’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini presided over the event. Tonini spoke of the unit’s readiness and the support the family members at home will receive.

“Maj. (Chip) St. Charles has prepared his Soldiers superbly, they’re ready to do this mission and ready to respond to whatever the circumstances might be overseas,” said Tonini. “For the families, our family support structure that has been honed over the past 12 years, and if you stay in communication, your needs will be met. We need to make sure you are part of our family.”

Col. Michael Stephens, commander of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade reminded each Soldier and family member that they are important and matter to the mission and to the organization. In describing the unit’s task, Stephens said Bravo Co. would be among the only aviation mechanics in the theater and will be vital to military operations.

“I want everyone of you Soldiers who fix these aircraft to be proud. Pilots wave their hands and get a lot of attention, but without the mechanics and crew chiefs, none of these aircraft will fly, said Stephens. “I’m proud of you for standing up and making a difference for our country.”

This is not the first deployment for the troops of the 351st, having deployed to the Middle East in 2006-2007.  The unit has also served during several natural disaster missions to include Hurricane Ike wind storm in 2008 and the Winter Storm of 2009.  During these extreme weather conditions, the soldiers deployed across the commonwealth providing generators, door to door health and welfare checks, traffic control, and debris removal.

Story by Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Lyddane

2nd LT Marlon Jones

Marlon Jones as a freshly minted “butter bar” just before his tour of duty in Djibouti. (Kentucky Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — First Lieutenant Marlon Jones is the training officer for the 2nd Battalion 138th Field Artillery. One only needs to take a quick glance at his bio to distinguish him as one of the best suited officers for this or any other leadership position within the Kentucky Army National Guard. You could say leadership is his life; just look at his signature block and see a quote from the business entrepreneur Jerry McClain that reads, “The best example of leadership is leadership by example.” Jones certainly lives by this mantra.

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Marlon Jones as a “leatherneck.” He deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Force just one week after 9/11 as part of the first major force in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy 1st. Lt. Marlon Jones)

Jones was born in 1982 on a small island in the Caribbean known as Trinidad & Tobago and later relocated to Philadelphia, Pa. at age 10. At age 17 he had a calling to join the Marines where he enlisted as an Infantry Mortarman. Then came 9/11.  Most people can recall what we were doing during the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001.  Not many did what he did:  deploy with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Force (MEU) just one week later as part of the first major force in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“I came to the United States when I was of 10 years old, so most of the experiences which shaped who I am today have been in this country,” said Jones. “I am keenly aware though, that many of the opportunities that I have had — educational, career and the like — would not have been as accessible and some not even possible if I were still in Trinidad. Don’t get me wrong, Trinidad is a developed country, with a stable government, and an moving economy, and I imagine that I would have excelled and made a decent life for myself because it’s in my nature to drive toward success; but, I know definitively that I would not be where I am today and would not have the future opportunities that I see ahead were it not for me being in America.”

After his tour with the Marines, Jones joined the Kentucky Army National Guard in 2004.  This time when he took the oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” it was with a commitment to the 206th Chemical Battalion in Richmond, Ky.  He has always served with pride, humility, and been prepared to make the sacrifices required of him.

Jones’ mobilizations include Cuba in 2003, a second time to Afghanistan in 2005 with the 198th Military Police Battalion and then to Djibouti, Africa in 2012 with the 2nd Battalion 138th Field Artillery.  In Africa he was able to showcase his talents as an officer by serving as the Platoon Leader of Flight Line Security.  He also represented the Kentucky National Guard through joint training opportunities with the French Army.

“I debated whether to stay in the National Guard or to go back to the Marines after college,” said Jones.  “The National Guard though, has a distinctly different perspective form the active component. I have been all over the world and seemingly helped people whose lives are changed forever, and that’s a great thing. I feel privileged to have had those opportunities. It’s different though, to help your own people; your fellow Americans. There is a level of connection that is hard to explain, but it’s there. I felt that personally for the first time during the ice storm of 2009. At that point I was all in.”

“You often hear that someone is a rising star in the Kentucky Army Nation Guard’s officer corps,” said Lt. Col. Robert Larkin who served as Jones’ commander during the deployment to Djibouti.  “Marlon Jones is ‘that guy.’  He is a professional, a tremendously focused and disciplined young officer and at the same time personable and is able to interface well with other soldiers.”

Jones lives by the adage, a good soldier always does the right thing and completes their assigned duties but a great soldier constantly looks for the next challenge.

“I decided that I didn’t want to simply be part of this great organization for the foreseeable future,” he said.  “Instead I wanted to help shape its future. What better way to shape the future than to lead it?“

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1st Lt. Marlon Jones and his wife Isabel and daughter Karmyn. “We are a busy family with early days and late evenings,” said Jones. “I am blessed to wake up every day and look forward to its start.” (Photo courtesy 1st Lt. Marlon Jones)

There are no success stories of individuals who made it to where they are by themselves. Besides the mentorship provided him by the military, Jones has had the constant love and support of his wife, Isabel and daughter, Karmyn.  Isabel, shares her husband’s ambition and passion, pursuing her own goal attending school to become an Advanced Practice Nurse. Karmyn proves the “apple does not fall far” by being involved with gymnastics, various academic teams and many other extracurricular activities.

“We are a busy family with early days and late evenings,” said Jones.  “I am blessed to wake up every day and look forward to its start. Not very many people have that opportunity. So many get caught up in making ends meet and just keeping their heads above water that they never truly do what they are called to.

“Years ago, after one of my deployments, my mother and I had a conversation where she said something to the affect of “Why don’t you get out and get a good job.” She meant well and have always had good intentions at heart, but she just didn’t get ‘it’. My response to her was “Mom, this isn’t just a job to me; this is who I am, and this is what I was meant to do.”

 

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

Thunderbird arrives in Louisville for air show planning

Maj. Scott Petz, a pilot with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration squadron, taxies his F-16 Fighting Falcon to a parking spot at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 12, 2015. Petz was in Louisville to coordinate logistics for the Thunderbirds team, which will be the marquee attraction at this year’s Thunder Over Louisville air show April 18. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

LOUISVILLE , Ky. — Two members of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds arrived at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base today in preparation for the Thunder Over Louisville air show, flying their trademark red-white-and-blue F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

Click here for more photos of their visit to Louisville!

The Airmen are in town to coordinate logistics, maintenance and air show requirements with aviation officials and members of the Kentucky Air National Guard, who will provide the Thunderbirds with complete support during the April 18 air show, according to Maj. Scott Petz, the team’s advance pilot and narrator.

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Maj. Scott Petz, a pilot with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration squadron, speaks with members of the news media at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 12, 2015. Petz was in Louisville to coordinate logistics for the Thunderbirds team, which will be the marquee attraction at this year’s Thunder Over Louisville air show April 18. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Petz promises an exciting show.

“We’re looking forward to bringing the whole crew — 60-plus personnel and eight high-performance F-16 aircraft,” he said. During the show, “six aircraft will fly within 18 inches of one another in a diamond formation, and two opposing soloists perform high-speed passes.”

“It’s going to be a great show.”

While the Thunderbirds will serve as the marquee act this year, Thunder Over Louisville continues to feature a wide range of civilian and military aircraft, said Mike Riordan, the show’s air boss.

Those aircraft include a T-28 “warbird” demo team called the Trojan Horsemen, and multiple vintage World War II-era planes. Other acts scheduled to perform include the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration team and the U.S. Marine Corps Harrier Demo Team.

“A lot of people don’t realize how big (Thunder Over Louisville) has become,” Riordan said. “It’s the fifth-largest air show in the country and draws up to 500,000 spectators every year.”

This year’s event, themed “Boom with a View,” is the 26th Thunder Over Louisville. The Thunderbirds last appeared here in 1997.

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

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Steven P. Bullard (center), chief of staff for Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard, is promoted to the rank of brigadier general during a ceremony held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 7, 2015. Pinning new rank insignia to Bullard’s uniform are his wife, Janice, and Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, adjutant general for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Steven P. Bullard, chief of staff for Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard, was promoted to the rank of brigadier general during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here Feb. 7.

Bullard’s new rank insignia were pinned on by his wife and sons before an audience more than 200 family, friends, coworkers, senior leaders and members of the Kentucky General Assembly.

“Steve’s career and dedication to our Guard force and the Commonwealth is truly the definition of our slogan, ‘Unbridled Service,’” said Kentucky’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, who officiated the ceremony. “I believe we are very lucky, and I am very lucky, to have him on our team.”

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Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini (left), adjutant general of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, administers the oath of office to Brig. Gen. Steven P. Bullard, chief of staff for Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard, during a promotion ceremony for Bullard held Feb. 7, 2015, at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. Bullard is responsible to the assistant adjutant general for Air and to the adjutant general for coordination of policy guidance and the direction of more than 8,500 Kentucky Army and Air National Guardsmen. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Calling him a “remarkable person,” Tonini went on to recognize Bullard’s many achievements, most of them accomplished while serving as a “traditional” drill-status Guardsman.

“When I met Steve, I was looking for someone I could depend on, who was a reliable person and who would just get the job done,” Tonini said. “That was Steve.”

Bullard, who also serves as deputy chief of the Joint Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters- Kentucky National Guard, first entered the Air Force in 1985. He worked as an aircraft instructor-navigator at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., for 4 ½ years before separating from the active duty in 1990. Nine months later, he joined the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing as director of the Mission Planning Cell. He would go on to command Kentucky’s 123rd Mission Support Group and the 123rd Medical Group before being selected as the wing’s vice commander, a position Bullard held from December 2010 through September 2012. The general has served in his current capacity since November 2012.

In addition to his leadership posts in Kentucky, Bullard has held numerous high-profile assignments outside the Commonwealth. The general served as chief of operations for the Joint Intelligence and Operations Center at Headquarters, U.S. Central Command, from August 2008 through January 2009; and as the Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, Senior Airfield Authority for the NATO International Security Assistance Force and commander of the 451st Air Expeditionary Group from September 2006 through March 2007. Bullard also deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2006 as the deputy director of the Air Component Coordination Element and the U.S. Air Force liaison with Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan and the Government of Afghanistan.

During his Air Force career, the C-130 Hercules master navigator has flown missions in 75 countries, participating in Operations Just Cause, Desert Shield, Provide Promise, Restore Hope, Joint Endeavor, Joint Forge, Southern Watch, Bright Star, Coronet Oak, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

In his current role as chief of staff for Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard, he is responsible to the assistant adjutant general for Air and to the adjutant general for coordination of policy, guidance and the direction of more than 8,500 Kentucky Army and Air National Guardsmen.

Reflecting on his career and mentors during the ceremony, Bullard said, “Today we are blessed with more talented officers and enlisted leaders in the Kentucky Air National Guard than we have ever had before — and to be one of you is a tremendous honor.”

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Brig. Gen. Steven P. Bullard, chief of staff for Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard, addresses the audience during his promotion ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 7, 2015. Bullard is responsible to the assistant adjutant general for Air and to the adjutant general for coordination of policy guidance and the direction of more than 8,500 Kentucky Army and Air National Guardsmen. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Bullard spoke of his affection for the Kentucky Air National Guard and his path within the organization, referencing a book written by Paul Tough called “How Children Succeed.” He described the “grit” he believes all Kentuckians have — and that makes the Kentucky Air National Guard successful in its many missions.

“Your commitment to each other and your passion for excellence is truly exceptional,” he said. “You take care of each other no matter what you are doing, wherever you go, and you make your leaders look good. You are truly special, and we have proven this all over the world.”

Story by John Trowbridge, Kentucky National Guard Historian/Archivist

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The 369th in action during “The War to End All Wars.” Note the French helmets worn by the men. (Archive photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Last year marked the beginning of the Centennial Commemoration of the First World War, the Great War, the War to End All Wars, which started in Europe on July 28, 1914. It was not until April 6, 1917, that the United States would enter into the war. America quickly moved to raise, equip, and ship the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) to join the war in Europe. An estimated 95,575 Kentuckians served during the war and 2,418 Kentuckians would become casualties of the Great War.

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Private John Ray Carter served with the 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters.” The 368th was as “The Regiment That Never Lost a Man Captured, a Trench, or a Foot of Ground.” (Archive photo)

One of those Kentuckians who would serve and later become the only black Soldier from Anderson County to die in the First World War was John Ray Carter.  John Ray was the son of John and Laura Carter, born in Frankfort in 1894. At an early age his family moved to Anderson County. John Ray’s two brothers, Sam and Ira would also serve in the war. Sam with the 167th and Ira with the 801st Pioneer Infantry Regiment.

On June 20, 1918, John Ray was inducted into the Army at Anderson County. He was sent to Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville, where he received his initial military training with the 64th Company, 16th Battalion, of the 159th Depot Brigade. On July 16, 1918, he was transferred to Company A, 801st Pioneer Infantry, and ready to be sent overseas. By mid-August he was in France and immediately transferred to the 369th Infantry.

The 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters,” was becoming known as “The Regiment That Never Lost a Man Captured, a Trench, or a Foot of Ground.” The “Hellfighters” were among the first U. S. regiments to arrive in France, formerly the Old 15th Regiment, New York National Guard. It would become one of the most highly decorated American regiments of the war. The 369th was an all-black regiment commanded by mostly white officers, commanded by Col. William Hayward.

On May 8, 1918, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing relieved the regiment from assignment to the American 185th Infantry Brigade, becoming part of the 16th (French) Division. The men were issued French weapons, French helmets, brown leather belts and pouches, although they continued to wear their U. S. uniforms. The exception was when they went on raids; then, they wore French uniforms.

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“Hell Fighters! Let’s Go!” Meuse-Argonne, September 26-October 1, 1918. The 369th Infantry fought valiantly in the Allied (Champagne) Offensive as part of the French 161st Division. Attacking behind a fiery barrage, the 369th Infantry assaulted successive German trenchlines and captured the town of Ripont. Against determined resistance, the 369th advanced up the heights north of the Dormoise River and spearheaded the attack toward the town of Sechault. On 29 September, the Regiment “. . . stormed powerful enemy positions, . . . took, after heavy fighting, the town of Sechault; captured prisoners and brought back six cannons and a great number of machine guns.” Despite heavy casualties, the 369th, called “Hell Fighters” by the French and Germans, relentlessly continued the attack at dawn. Raked by enemy machine guns, they assaulted into the woods northeast of Sechault, flanking and overwhelming enemy machine gun positions. The “Le’s Go!” elan and indomitable fighting spirit of the 369th Infantry was illustrated throughout the battle action. Their initiative, leadership and gallantry won for their entire Regiment the French Croix de Guerre.

By the time Private Carter joined his new unit, Company I, 369th Infantry Regiment, the regiment had been pulled off the front line to rest and train replacements. Soon however, the regiment found itself back in the fight participating in the Meuse – Argonne Campaign. On September 25, 1918 the 4th French Army went on the offensive in conjunction with the American drive in the Meuse-Argonne. The 369th turned in a good account of itself in heavy fighting, sustaining severe losses. They captured the important village of Sechault. At one point the regiment advanced faster than French troops on their flanks. There was a danger of its being cut off. By the time the regiment pulled back for reorganization, it had advanced fourteen kilometers through severe German resistance.

By mid-October the regiment was moved to a quiet sector in the Vosges Mountains. On October 17, 1918, Private Carter was transferred to Company B, of the 369th. The 369th would remain in the Vosges Mountains sector until November 11, the day of the Armistice. Private John Ray Carter was not part of the victory celebration of the men.

It is difficult to say when or how Private Carter died; officially his cause of death is listed as accidental/not shown. His date of death is listed as on or about October 16, 1918, however his service record indicates that he was transferred to Company B, on October 17, 1918, and there is a letter, written by Private Carter to his father which has the date of October 22, 1918.

Following is John Ray’s final letter home to his father. It arrived in the mail the day after the family had been notified of his death.

Somewhere in France, Oct. 22, 1918.

Mr. John Carter,

            My Dear Father,

            I thought that I would drop you a few lines this leaves me well and hope when this letter come to you it will find you all the same. I wrote to Mamma the other day I don’t know whether she got it or not. When did your hear from Sam, where is he, give my love to all. Where is Ira? Now I want you all to send me some Chocolate candy in my box and tell Mr. Dawrson I have not forgot him, I am looking for something from him. Tell Black Howdy, and my Partner. Did Mamma get my letter, don’t worry about me for I am getting a long all rite I have not seen Sam yet I don’t know where he is. When did you all hear from Georgie, tell Son that I said don’t let them get away.

            Well Papa you all can send me some candy that is all that [I] want. Is Raymond Pleasant still at home and Clide Pleasant. Well news is dull with me now love to all much love to you all and all answer soon –

                                                John R. Carter

 

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Wartime poster of the 396th fighting German soldiers, with the figure of Abraham Lincoln looking down from above.

Within twenty days of writing this letter home, the War to End All Wars was over.

Initially the body of Private Carter was buried in a small church yard in France. In the 1920’s during the efforts by the Allied Governments to recover the remains of their soldiers, Carter’s body was located and his family was notified. The family requested that John Ray be returned home. On December 20, 1921, the body of John Ray Carter was buried in Woodlawn Hills Cemetery in Anderson County, Kentucky. He was buried beneath a persimmon tree growing in the cemetery.

 

Over time John Ray Carter’s sacrifice in the world to end all wars was forgotten. Eventually the local American Legion Post had a monument constructed on the courthouse lawn honoring the county’s war casualties, the bronze table on which John Ray’s name is cast appears as John Roy Carter.

DSC04038In 1997, it was learned by a group of local citizens that John Ray Carter, a soldier of the Great War was buried in an unmarked grave. The old persimmon tree that had once marked his grave had long since died and rotted away, leaving no trace or indication that an American soldier was buried there. Additionally it was determined that the medals he had earned had not been awarded. Efforts were immediately begun to correct these oversights and by June 1998, the grave of Private Carter was marked with a veteran’s headstone and the medals he had earned were formally presented to his family.

Story by John Trowbridge, Kentucky National Guard

In recognition of February as Black History Month kentuckyguard.com is publishing a series of articles honoring African-American men and women who are significant figures in Kentucky’s military history. The following is one such story ….

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Corporal Andrew Jackson Smith posthumously received the Medal of Honor 137 years after his actions at the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina,

FRANKFORT, Ky. — On January 16, 2001, two Medal of Honor presentations were made by President Bill Clinton at the White House. The first, to the descendants of Corporal Andrew Jackson Smith, 137 years after his actions at the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina, and former President Theodore Roosevelt was also posthumously awarded the medal at the same ceremony, for his actions during the Spanish-American War.

Andrew Jackson Smith was born into slavery on September 3, 1843 at Grand Rivers, Ky., the son of Susan, a slave, and Elijah Smith, a slave owner. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, Elijah Smith joined the Confederate military, with the intention of taking 19-year-old Andrew along with him. When Andrew Smith learned of this, he and another slave ran away, walking 25 miles through the rain before presenting themselves to a Union Army regiment, the 41st Illinois Infantry, in Smithland.

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A historical marker honoring Corporal Andrew Jackson Smith. Smith died in 1932 and was buried in the Mount Pleasant African American Cemetery in Lyon County, Kentucky. The cemetery is located in the Land Between the Lakes National Park that straddles both Kentucky and Tennessee.

Smith was taken in by the 41st Illinois and became a servant to Maj. John Warner at the regiment’s post in nearby Paducah. Among Smith’s duties were, in the event of Warner’s death, to return his belongings to his home in Clinton, Il.. On March 10, 1862, the regiment moved out to Pittsburg Landing, Tn., where it took part in the Battle of Shiloh a month later. During the fighting, Smith supplied Warner with fresh horses after the officer had two mounts shot out from under him. Smith was then struck by a spent minie ball that entered his left temple, rolled just under the skin, and stopped in the middle of his forehead. The bullet was removed by the regimental surgeon, leaving Smith with only a scar.

By November 30, 1864, Smith was serving as a corporal in the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. On that day, both the 55th and its sister regiment, the 54th Massachusetts, participated in the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina. The two units came under heavy fire while crossing a swamp in front of an elevated Confederate position. When the 55th’s color bearer was killed, Smith took up the Regimental Colors and carried them through the remainder of the fight. It was for this action that Smith was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

It’s interesting to note that Smith’s regimental commander had recommended him for the Medal of Honor shortly after the battle, but it never came to fruition. It was only after family members brought it to the attention of state officials just a few years ago that the process was completed.

Smith was promoted to color sergeant before leaving the Army. After the war, he returned to Kentucky, where he bought and sold land. He died at age 88, on March 4, 1932, and was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Grand Rivers, Ky.

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The Civil War Medal of Honor.

Smith’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:

Corporal Andrew Jackson Smith, of Clinton, Illinois, a member of the 55th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, distinguished himself on 30 November 1864 by saving his regimental colors, after the color bearer was killed during a bloody charge called the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina. In the late afternoon, as the 55th Regiment pursued enemy skirmishers and conducted a running fight, they ran into a swampy area backed by a rise where the Confederate Army awaited. The surrounding woods and thick underbrush impeded infantry movement and artillery support. The 55th and 54th regiments formed columns to advance on the enemy position in a flanking movement. As the Confederates repelled other units, the 55th and 54th regiments continued to move into flanking positions. Forced into a narrow gorge crossing a swamp in the face of the enemy position, the 55th’s Color-Sergeant was killed by an exploding shell, and Corporal Smith took the Regimental Colors from his hand and carried them through heavy grape and canister fire. Although half of the officers and a third of the enlisted men engaged in the fight were killed or wounded, Corporal Smith continued to expose himself to enemy fire by carrying the colors throughout the battle. Through his actions, the Regimental Colors of the 55th Infantry Regiment were not lost to the enemy. Corporal Andrew Jackson Smith’s extraordinary valor in the face of deadly enemy fire is in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon him, the 55th Regiment, and the United States Army.