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Program builds cultural awareness and foreign language skills in future leaders

By Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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U.S. Army Cadets pose with their mission commander, cadre leader and first-year African officer cadets at the Georges Namoano Military Academy in Burkina Faso in June 2014 after the African cadets completed an English language course. The American cadets were participating in the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program, which is designed to strengthen cultural awareness and foreign language proficiency skills among the Army’s future leaders. (Courtesy photo)

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.”

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Air Force Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing greets a Burkinabe boy while serving as a cadre leader for U.S. Army Cadets participating in the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program in Burkina Faso in June 2014. The program strengthens cultural awareness and foreign language skills among the Army’s future leaders. (Courtesy photo)

Click here to see more photos from this story.

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.”

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Air Force Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing meets with Burkinabe businesswomen while serving as a cadre leader for U.S. Army Cadets participating in the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency Program in Burkina Faso in June 2014. The program strengthens cultural awareness and foreign language skills among the Army’s future leaders. (Courtesy photo)

Besides Taylor, two 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

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The Kentucky National Guard’s Staff Judge Advocate General, Lt. Col. Natalie Lewellen (seated), (L-R) Capt. Spencer Robinson, Staff Sgt. Paulette Terry and Lt. Col. Jason Shepherd. The team works to provide legal counsel to the Kentucky Guard. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

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.”

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Lt. Col. Jason Shepherd and Capt. Spencer Robinson discuss a legal case file in Frankfort, Ky., Aug. 19, 2014. The members of the Kentucky Guard’s Staff Judge Advocate General’s office assist in handling a wide variety of legal cases on a daily basis. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

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.”

 

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by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce, 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs

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Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Lafronza (left), with the 123rd Maintenance Group, Kentucky Air National Guard, and Senior Airman Steven Maniscalco (right), with the 103rd Maintenance Squadron, Connecticut Air National Guard, fasten cam locks after closing an access panel on the C-130H aircraft at the Combat Readiness Training center, Gulfport, Miss., June 24, 2014. Inspecting access panels is part of the basic post flight inspection in which Kentucky and Connecticut maintenance Airmen are receiving training. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce)

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.

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Airmen from both the 103rd Maintenance Squadron and 123rd Maintenance Group go over the auxiliary power unit checklist in the cockpit of the C-130H aircraft at the Combat Readiness Training Center, Gulfport, Miss., June 25, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce)

“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.”

(You can see the original article and all the photos from this event, by clicking HERE.)

Photo essay by Warrant Officer Candidate Orbin Rudd, Forward Support Co., 201st Engineer Battalion

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Warrant Officer Candidates Lawrence Webb and Duncan Lewis tackle the pull up bars during their Warrant Officer Candidate training at the Kentucky National Guard’s Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center. (Photo by Warrant Officer Candidate Orbin Rudd, Forward Support Co., 201st Engineer Battalion)

The man who spends more sleepless nights with his army and who works harder in drilling his troops runs the fewer risks in fighting his foe.

– The Emperor Maurice, c. AD 600

WENDELL H. FORD REGIONAL TRAINING CENTER, GREENVILLE, Ky. — Military training is hard enough the first time you go through it.  The second or third time you’d think it would get easier, that’s not necessarily true.  There’s always that unexpected challenge, that one stubborn obstacle to overcome, no matter how experienced or educated you think you are.

Click here for more photos of this event.

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Warrant Officer Candidate Jeffrey Valentine shows off his “war face” while in the front lean and rest position. (Photo by Warrant Officer Candidate Orbin Rudd, Forward Support Co., 201st Engineer Battalion)

Following are some photos from the 238th Regimental Training Institute’s Warrant Officer Candidate training weekend.  In addition to extensive physical training and testing there are classes in leadership, tactics and military history and protocol.

For more information on the Kentucky National Guard’s warrant officer program contact Chief Warrant Officer Ryan Turner at (502) 607-6200, Cell: (502) 320-3653 or email him at Ryan.turner2@usarec.army.mil.

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They call it “oh dark early” for a reason.  Warrant Officer Candidate Matthew Vincent joins his class for a little early morning PT. (Photo by Warrant Officer Candidate Orbin Rudd, Forward Support Co., 201st Engineer Battalion)

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Hauling that rucksack on a leisurely march through the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center. (Photo by Warrant Officer Candidate Orbin Rudd, Forward Support Co., 201st Engineer Battalion)

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TAC Officer Ricky Skelton shows his warrant officer cadets how it’s done. (Photo by Warrant Officer Candidate Orbin Rudd, Forward Support Co., 201st Engineer Battalion)

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Warrant Officer Jessica Peel takes her turn at the pull up bar. Peel is the only female in her WOCS class.  At present there are only eight female warrant officers in out of a total of 148 in the Kentucky National Guard.  (Photo by Warrant Officer Candidate Orbin Rudd, Forward Support Co., 201st Engineer Battalion)

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It’s not all fun and games in the field. Warrant Officer Jess Willard hits the books before heading out for more training with his fellow cadets. (Photo by Warrant Officer Candidate Orbin Rudd, Forward Support Co., 201st Engineer Battalion)

Story by Spc. Lerone Simmons, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Soldiers assigned to Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion,138th Field Artillery Brigade, move as a fire team and conduct a Military Operation in Urban Terrain as part of their annual training at Wendell. H. Ford Regional Training Center, July 30, 2014. The 138th focused on Soldier training that helps with individual communication and movement during their reset year after completing a deployment to the Horn of Africa last year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Lerone Simmons)

GREENVILLE, Ky. — Soldiers assigned to the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 138th Field Artillery Brigade carried out their annual two-week training at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, during the last two weeks of July.

For a large number of the brigade’s Soldiers, it was their  first annual training since  deploying to the Horn of Africa in 2012-2013. The unit served as security forces for Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti and assisted in multi-national military training in the region.

“This is a reset year for us, so this AT was focused heavily on individual Soldier training, and has been quite successful,” said Sgt. Maj. Rob Hughes, brigade operations sergeant major.

Hughes mentioned how much time went into planning for an event of this large scale, ushering approximately 800 Soldiers through training.

“From first plans to execution, it took about three years to see this become a reality,” he said. “I’m impressed with the way our leadership kept track and carried out the training as well as our Soldiers who are meeting every task placed in front of them to standard.”

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Spc. Tyler Douglas, a fire direction controller assigned to Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion,138th Field Artillery Brigade, interviews Spc. Christopher Plummer, a petroleum and resupply specialist, assigned to 2/138 Forward Support Company, during a mock “Interacting with Media” exercise during their annual training at Wendell. H. Ford Regional Training Center, July 30, 2014. The 138th focused on individual Soldier training during their reset year after completing a deployment to the Horn of Africa last year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Lerone Simmons)

One of the main priorities of individual Soldier training was completing the Army’s Self Structured Development training, which is a requirement for specialists to master sergeant for promotion.

“The training is designed to be continuous throughout a Soldier’s career, geared to expand the individual Soldier’s knowledge base, self-awareness, and situational awareness,” he said. “So far we have almost 100 percent of those who required the training, completed.”

Soldiers also learned the very important role they play as ambassadors for the Kentucky National Guard and the Army during media engagement training.

“We were briefed on how to properly interact with media,” said Spc. Christopher Plummer, a petroleum & resupply specialist assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 138th Forward Support Company.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if an interview popped up at any time, but now I’m more confident knowing that I have this training to fall back on,” he said.

Aside from theu classroom and computer-based instruction, Soldiers also conducted military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) training. According to 1st Lt. Sean C. Jones, fire direction officer for Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 138th FA, the MOUT training was productive and a good reminder that the unit must work as a team.

“The MOUT training served as a valuable communication tool for our Soldiers, and also gave our junior non commissioned officers more opportunities to lead,” he said.

The training allowed unit leaders to rate the Soldier’s proficiency with the Army warrior tasks also refreshed the teams on important security procedures they may face again in future operations.

“MOUT training requires Soldiers to work as a fire team under small arms fire while moving through an urban environment,” Jones said. “We also train on how to properly conduct a search on an individual to ensure safety and security.”

“Completing individual Soldier training was our mission for this AT and I’m proud of leadership and the Soldiers who carried it out,” said Jones. But the unit is also excited, he said, to “shooting our cannons.”

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A joint-service Color Guard Team comprised of Kentucky Air and Army National Guard members presents the colors at Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Ky., on Aug. 5, 2014, while being videotaped by CBS Sports for a television spot. The spot was broadcast during the network’s national coverage of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 4-10. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

By Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Airmen and Soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard were featured in a national television spot last week, presenting the state colors during CBS Sports’ coverage of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 4-10.

Click here for more photos from this story.

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Maj. Josh Elwell, officer-in-charge of the 123rd Airlift Wing Honor Guard Team, carries the Kentucky state flag while drilling with a joint-service Color Guard Team comprised of Kentucky Air and Army National Guard members at Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Ky., on Aug. 5, 2014, while being videotaped by CBS Sports for a television spot. The spot was broadcast during the network’s national coverage of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 4-10. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

The spot, which was pre-recorded in Frankfort Aug. 5, shows a joint Kentucky Army and Air National Guard team performing the posting the colors with a Kentucky state flag.

Paul Kramer, a videographer for CBS Sports, said the network wanted to brand the PGA Championship with something that “captured the spirit of Kentucky.” They considered using horses but finally decided on highlighting the state flag.

The idea got started when CBS called Gov. Steve Beshear, who in turn called Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, the adjutant general of Kentucky.

“It was great, and everyone was incredibly helpful,” Kramer said. “We got way more than we thought we were going to get. It was really neat to see the guys in full dress, and what makes it more special was the reverence paid to the flag and what it means to those guys.”

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A CBS Sports videographer shoots footage of a joint-service Color Guard Team comprised of Kentucky Air and Army National Guard members at Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Ky., on Aug. 5, 2014. The television spot was broadcast during the network’s national coverage of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 4-10. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Hamilton, the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge of the Kentucky Air Guard component of the joint team, said the squad performed the ceremony several times in order for the videographer to get the shots he needed.

“They get a redo, we don’t,” Hamilton said, smiling. “We have to get it right the first time.

“The team and I enjoyed this event, and we genuinely got a taste of what life would be like in Hollywood,” Hamilton added. “It was great to experience what takes place behind the scenes in order to produce an awesome product on television.”

The Kentucky Army and Air National Guard Color Guard Teams perform at hundreds of civic functions every year, presenting the state and national colors with honor and respect. The teams also perform hundreds of Honor Guard ceremonies annually, providing funeral honors for the families of fallen veterans.

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Story by Sgt. 1st Class Steve Baker, 202nd Army Band Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

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Members of the 202nd Army Band perform for spectators in Georgetown, Ky., July 9, 2014. The unit performed for more than 35,000 fans on 17 missions for the unit’s annual training. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Steve Baker)

NEWPORT, Ky. — The 202nd Army Band of the Kentucky National Guard, “The Army Band of the Bluegrass” toured Northern Kentucky for their annual training, June 28 – July 12.

The unit’s “home station” for the period was Northern Kentucky University which provided a wonderful auditorium for concert band rehearsals along with separate areas for Musical Performance Team (MPT) rehearsals. Along with polishing the musical proficiency of the MPTs, the band performed for an estimated 35,000 people on 17 missions at locations from the banks of the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky to the streets of Lexington during the two weeks.

On June 29th the Woodwind Quintet performed a pre-concert followed by the concert band performed for a very appreciative audience at Behringer-Crawford Museum in Covington, Kentucky. The patriotic concert presentation was very well received by those in attendance and many compliments were relayed to band members.

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Chief Warrant Officer Gregory Stepp, commander of the 202nd Army Band leads musicians during a performance in Covington, Ky., June 29, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Steve Baker)

The next day the band traveled to Lexington for the first rehearsal with the University of Kentucky Singers. The UK Singers consisted of approximately 28 student-voices. The band and singers combined to participate in the Lexington Fourth of July Celebration “Salute to Heroes” event July 3. Transylvania University was kind enough to host the event on the grounds of Old Morrison and Gratz Park area. The rehearsal was exciting “under the big top” and all the performers spontaneously cheered when soloists as well as other special musical moments happened.

The gathered audience of approximately 12,000 was treated to a fantastic patriotic concert which consisted of a variety of American fanfare. Many compliments were conveyed to members of the band and the overwhelming message was “please come back next year”.

On to July 4 the band found themselves back in Lexington for the Fourth of July Parade. For city block after block there was little more than standing room for those in attendance. Band members said they really enjoyed themselves and created memories during this past week working with great people and performing for enthusiastic patrons will remain lasting impressions.

“The commitment to excellence in mission performance from all members of the 202nd was evident during Annual Training 2014,” said Chief Warrant Officer Gregory Stepp, commander of the 202nd. “Performing patriotic music on our nations birthday for 12,000 Kentuckians was a tremendous experience.”

“Serving our country through patriotic music performances and acknowledging those men and women who have served before us is a great honor for us”.

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Musicians with the 202nd Army Band perform at Newport on the Levy in Newport, Ky., July 9, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Steve Baker)

The band in its entirety consists of 40 members but is not limited to just the concert band ensemble but also has several MPTs. Current MPTs consist of the Jazz Combo, Rock Band “Fallout”, Brass Quartet, Marching Band, Dixieland Band, Woodwind Quintet and the newest addition, “Swamp Brass.” The Woodwind Quintet had several performances in the Covington area. These locations were the Ft. Thomas and Covington branches of the Campbell and Kenton County Libraries, the Lexington Public Library and Ft. Thomas Veterans Administration. Several of these performances were during the “children’s’ hour” and were themed to include puppet making and dancing.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to allow our community to experience talented musicians of the 202nd,” said Beth Eifler,  Adult and Teen Services Librarian at Ft. Thomas Public Library. “They did a wonderful job tailoring the musical presentation to the children in attendance.”

One unplanned mission during the annual training was the opportunity to provide a vital and humbling service to our Veterans. Sgt. 1st Class Mike Embury recalls the story.

“Upon returning to the hotel from our first Woodwind Quintet performance I was approached by a hotel worker who had been speaking with a gentleman. The gentleman was introduced to me and he stated that he was a retired master sergeant. He then told me that he was here to bury his father the next day.”

The man stated “My Father was a World War II veteran and they couldn’t find a bugler to play Taps. We are going to have to use a tape if we don’t find someone, and that just isn’t the same”, he said as his eyes began to tear. “Is there any way at all your could play Taps?”

“I took his contact information and relayed to the unit’s leadership who then made arrangements for Pvt. Michael May to attend the ceremony and provide the honor of performing Taps.”

“When you consider our mission of providing musical support for our troop, there is no greater function of those missions than providing Taps. As part of the final ceremony for so many Veterans, it is followed by the presentation of the flag to the family of the deceased.” Embury adds, “As military musicians, being a part of this service is truly an honor because there is no substitute for the final call to rest that only can be provided by military musicians.”

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Members of the 202nd Army Band perform in Fort Thomas, Ky., June 30, 2014 as part of the unit’s annual training. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Steve Baker)

The band traveled to Newport, Kentucky July 9, where three MPTs performed at Newport on the Levy. This lunchtime performance of the concert band was preceded by a warm-up “mini” concert by the Woodwind Quintet. The day also included the debut of the newest MPT, “Swamp Brass” which is a street stomping style group. This group used the concept of a “flash mob” which started with the bass drum and snare drum. Slowly other members who had been “hiding” in stores and alley ways joined to form a very entertaining performance.

Included on this day was an evening concert by Rock Band MPT, “Fallout” in Georgetown, Kentucky. This street dance venue was well attended, and the Soldiers performed a very entertaining and spirited show. Those in attendance danced and sang with the popular group and were treated to a great enthusiastic night of music and fun.

July 11 brought the final concert of the summer tour. The Maysville Community and Technical College located in Maysville, Kentucky hosted the band members. The audience was enthusiastic and expressed their appreciating for all that the Soldiers in the unit do.

“My first annual training exceeded every expectation I could have had, it was very rewarding” said Spc. Cody Williams.  “The days were incredibly long but we made sure we filled each hour with useful and meaningful rehearsals. I would like to thank every member of our unit for being so helpful and welcoming. From day one I always felt like I had been in the unit for years. I look forward to making some incredible music for years to come.”

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

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Spc. Aaron Elliott with the 149th Vertical Construction Company smoothes the edge of a freshly poured concrete slab at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., July 22, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

GREENVILLE, Ky. — A year ago, Soldiers of the 149th Vertical Construction Company called Bagram, Afghanistan home. The engineers spent nearly a year deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom helping to teach Afghans how to rebuild their country.

Since their arrival back in the commonwealth this past December, the 149th has taken the methodical steps to reintegrate back into typical Guard life. With that in mind, leadership of the unit decided they would offer the first annual training period as a volunteer only option. They didn’t have to, but 70 Soldiers said yes and donned their ACUs and travelled to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, July 12-26.

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Spc. Adam Bailey works to smooth freshly poured concrete with a screen board during a construction project at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., July 22, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“This sure beats Afghanistan,” said Spc. Adam Bailey. “We are doing some of the same things here we did over there, but it sure feels good to be in Kentucky.”

Bailey and other Soldiers were back in familiar territory at the training site as well. The 149th has been primarily responsible for the construction of the training site’s new Contingency Operation Location (COL). Over the years, the unit has constructed buildings, ran plumbing and wired electric to the training area. According to the project officer in charge, Chief Warrant Officer Jacob Lewis, the goal for the annual training was for the Soldiers to make several enhancements to the COL including the pouring of new concrete tent pads.

“This mission was certainly an overall success,” said Lewis. “These Soldiers exceeded the expectations by far. They were given a construction task of eight pads, they completed 12, pouring more than 144 cubic yards of concrete.”

“For an all volunteer AT after coming back from a deployment, the turnout was extraordinary,” said Lewis. “Doing a mission like this after the variety of different ones we had over there is very relevant for us. The pace was fairly steady and at times very demanding both here and abroad, but as Citizen-Soldiers, that is our duty.”

The Guardsmen are scheduled to return to Greenville on several occasions this year for more improvements to the COL as well as to assist in other construction projects for the Kentucky Guard.

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Pvt. Evan Bump is supervised using a bull float to smooth concrete during a construction project at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., July 22, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Lewis said the unit worked extremely hard during the annual training and should be proud of the work they have continued. Moving forward, it seems to be the mutual agreement amongst the 149th that they are ready to transition back into a valuable and constant resource for the Guard and the commonwealth.

“This AT can be viewed as the newest chapter for us,” Lewsi said. “We are engineers, we rise to the occasion and lead from the front.”

 

 

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

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Spc. Anthony Bucaro with the 2138th Forward Support Company mans his security checkpoint along the fairway of the 2nd hole at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 7, 2014. More than 40 Guardsmen assisted Louisville Metro Police Department with security details at the club for the PGA Championship. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky hasn’t seen a golf outing this big since the Ryder Cup back in 2008. In a return to the prestigious Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, the Pro Golf Association brought it’s 96th Championship event to the commonwealth, Aug 4-10.

An estimated 55,000 spectators per day lined the course and filled makeshift parking lots with their vehicles for the week-long event. In order to secure the club property and the surrounding streets, Louisville Metro Police Department requested the assistance of the Kentucky National Guard.

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Spc. Harley Lyons with the 203rd Forward Support Company works alongside Officer Cameron Leek with Louisville Metro Police Department in directing traffic outside Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 7, 2014. Kentucky Guardsmen augmented local law enforcement in and out of the club to ensure player and spectator safety during the PGA Championship. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Approximately 45 Soldiers augmented police officers and Valhalla’s security to ensure the safety of the players, employees and fans. The majority of the Soldiers were from the 2138th Forward Support Company (FSC), with a few from the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery and the 203rd FSC. The officer-in-charge of security, 1st Lt. Michael Hallas said the Guard needed local units for the mission and the Louisville-based 2138th fit the bill.

“This is a great mission to be on,” said Hallas. “There’s thousands of people here and the 2138th becomes the face of the Kentucky National Guard.”

According to Hallas, the Guardsmen were organized into two groups, one for perimeter security for the course and one for traffic control outside the club grounds. As the mission required around-the-clock operations, two shifts were also set up to comply with the needs of Valhalla.

The task was one the 2138th would not normally be assigned to, but several of the Soldiers deployed to the Horn of Africa in 2012 where they performed similar security missions at Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti. Spc. DeMarcus Hopson was one of them and said that experience set them up for success in any assignment at home.

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Spc. Hunter Hood with the 203rd Forward Support Company secures the tee box of the 9th hole at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., Aug. 7, 2014. More than 55,000 spectators were expected to crowd the course each day during the PGA Championship. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“Being part of a support unit, this is a bit different from what we normally do, but we are all Soldiers first,” said Hopson. “And its a great opportunity to mingle with thousands of people and let them know the Kentucky National Guard is out here doing things to support the communities in different ways.”

In addition to the security and traffic, Guardsmen with the Kentucky Guard’s communications section were on hand to set up radio communications with all Soldiers on the ground.

As the large crowds that followed Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy converged on the 18th hole on Sunday, Soldiers of the Kentucky Guard were given another thumbs-up for a successful mission completed. Maj. Kelly Jones, Special Operations Commander for LMPD said the size of the event demanded a lot from the city and surrounding communities and that the assistance was needed and appreciated.

“We are truly blessed to have members of the Kentucky National Guard helping us out with this event,” he said. “Soldiers of the Kentucky National Guard should be thanked day in and day for all they do, not just this weekend, but we simply could not have pulled this off without them.”

Staff Report

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A record number of children attended the Kentucky National Guard Youth Camp in Nancy, Ky., July 21-25, 2014. More than 200 kids from across the commonwealth enjoyed a week of outdoor fun and education at the 4-H camp on Lake Cumberland. (Photo by Alli Burton)

NANCY, Ky. — More than 200 military children enjoyed a fun-filled week at the Kentucky National Guard’s annual Youth Camp on the banks of Lake Cumberland July 21-25. The camp in Southern Kentucky offered the kids a variety of unique experiences such as zip-lining and archery along with age-old summer favorites like swimming and fishing.

Children of Soldiers and Airmen came from across Kentucky to share in the camaraderie and education at the camp which has become a highlight event for the Kentucky Guard’s Family Programs.

Cindy Culver, Coordinator for Child and Youth Services said in the camp’s 12 years it has only grown and takes a lot of organization and volunteers to operate, but it is all worth it each year with so many thankful and enthusiastic children. She said more kids attended this year than ever before and it only goes to show that something must be going right.

I have seen how camp has changed since 2003 as far as the camp settings and how we run the youth camp and there has definitely been lots of improving, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the impact that camp makes on our military youth,” said Culver.

When you have a camper attend youth camp at the age of 9, continue until the age of 14, come back as a youth volunteer, then join the Kentucky National Guard and come back as a Platoon Sergeant this proves that this camp is making a positive impact on our youth by providing a lifelong learning experience as the campers transition into adulthood. All by having a fun filled week at youth camp.”

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Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini greets a platoon of military kids during his visit to the Kentucky National Guard Youth Camp in Nancy, Ky., July 21, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

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Archery at the Kentucky National Guard Youth Camp. (Photo by Alli Burton)

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Swimming and diving at the youth camp. (Photo by Alli Burton)

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Shooting sports at the youth camp. (Photo by Alli Burton)

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Each camper was given the opportunity to climb the rock wall and zip line back down. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

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Campers were organized into platoons and marched together to and from activities. (Photo by Alli Burton)

Check out the video from Alli Burton.

Visit the Kentucky National Guard Family Programs Facebook page for more photos.