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Staff Report

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Capt. Curtis Persinger in Iraq, 2011.  Persinger is a 2012 recipient of the MacArthur Leadership Award.  (Photo by 1st. Sgt. Jeremy Serdenis, 940th Military Police Company)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade has continued its long history of combat service into the twentieth century and the War on Terrorism.  Elements of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) have fought in Baghdad, Ramadi, Balad, Tikrit, Q-West, and a host of other places in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Still other units served in Bosnia, Germany, Belgium, and protected key facilities here in the United States immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001.  The brigade accomplished every mission with distinction.

Much of what has made the brigade successful is the exceptional quality of its junior leaders.  This fact was recently brought to light once again with the announcement that Capt. Curtis Persinger, 198th Military Police Battalion, was awarded the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, which  in recognition of his outstanding leadership and embodiment of the values for which Gen. MacArthur stood – duty, honor, and country.  Only 27 other company grade officers throughout the United States Army were selected to receive the MacArthur Leadership Award (MLA) this year.

Click here for more photos on this story.

This incredible honor brings credit to Persinger, his battalion, and the 149th MEB.  What is perhaps even more remarkable is that Persinger is the most recent of three national MLA winners to come from the 149th MEB since 2004, all of whom commanded units in combat.  In fact, five of the six MLA winners from the Commonwealth of Kentucky since 1987 have come from the 149th MEB:  Maj. (Ret.) Todd Linder won in 2005 and led the 617th Military Police Company in Iraq; Major Jeff Cole won the MLA in 2004 and went on to command Company D, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry in Iraq; and Persinger commanded the 940th MP Company in Iraq during Operation New Dawn in 2011.

The 149th MEB boasts of two more national winners in the 1980s:  Lt. Col. (Retired) Jim Foster, 1988, and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Bill Hill, 1987.

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“On a weekly basis I harped about working harder than the Soldier on the left and right of you, to never forget about the Soldiers behind you, and finally, to lead by example and ‘make a way’ for the organization.” Capt. Curtis Persinger, 2012 Douglas MacArthur Award recipient supervising his troops during live fire training in Iraq. (Photo by 1st. Sgt. Jeremy Serdenis, 940th Military Police Company)

In addition to these national winners, numerous state winners have come from the ranks of the 149th MEB.  Cpt. Jason Mendez was the state nominee in 2009 and later commanded Company C, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry in Iraq during Operation New Dawn.  Capt. Martin Schafer was the 2008 state winner and went on to command 1149th Forward Support Company during Operation New Dawn.  Other state winners from 149th MEB include Maj. Adrian Wheeler in 2003, Lt. Col. Fred Bates in 2001, Col. Chuck Schneider in 1995, and the current brigade commander, Col. Mike Abell, in 1998.

What is it about the 149th MEB that produces so many exceptional leaders?  Brigade Commander Col. Mike Abell provided the following explanation:

“Years ago, this brigade was a separate armored brigade with one infantry battalion, three armor battalions, and one cavalry troop assigned.  Those units produced warrior leaders whose mission, as a combined arms team, was to ‘close with and destroy enemy forces using fire, maneuver, and shock effect.”

The Separate Armored Brigade went away, said Abell, but the leaders remained in the 149th Brigade and never lost that edge.  They have since mentored the younger generation of company grade officers, who are now field grade officers, and the tradition continues, that tradition is carried on today by the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry and 198th MP Battalion.

“And it really is in our blood, our DNA, and is readily apparent in everything we do and has been for over a generation.  It spills over and infects our support units and our adjacent units.  When you live, eat, and breath the discipline associated with being a professional warrior you separate yourself from the pack, not for recognition or accolades, but because you necessarily have to be that good to ‘close with and destroy’.”

Click here to read about Capt. Persinger’s other passion.

Persinger’s perspective on his award is typical of today’s breed of warrior leaders.  “I know it’s an individual award but there is no way I would have accomplished this without having excellent leaders around me along the way and without my enlisted Soldiers, NCO’s, and Junior Officers I wouldn’t have had a successful deployment.”

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Capt. Curtis Persinger pondering his future at Al-Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq, 2011. (Photo by 1st. Sgt. Jeremy Serdenis, 940th Military Police Company)

Make that “deployments.”  Persinger served a total of three tours in Iraq, always as a military police officer.  His attitude toward his troops reflects a professional “been there, done that” discipline.

“I think it shows the type of climate and work ethic that we are promoting not only at the 940th MP Company but at the 198th MP Battalion.  On a weekly basis I harped about working harder than the Soldier on the left and right of you, to never forget about the Soldiers behind you, and finally, to lead by example and ‘make a way’ for the organization.”

A decade of continuous conflict has yielded quality company-grade officers who will be the strategic leaders of tomorrow.  Today’s young leaders like Capt. Curtis Persinger are resourceful, adaptive, and empowered to make decisions like never before.  They have maintained the Warrior Ethos from previous generations.  These qualities combine to create capable leaders who are the future of the 149th MEB and the Kentucky National Guard.

Persinger will travel to Washington, D. C. at the end of May to accept his award.

Story by: Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, 77th Sustainment Brigade

Kentucky Guardsmen 2nd Lt. Andre Geertseema of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment (photo by U.S. Army)

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – One could say 2nd Lt. Andre Geertseema of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command is a minority within a minority.

Geertseema was born and raised for 10 years in South Africa before living in Australia for another three and coming to Lexington, Ky., at the age of 13. He is part of a small percentage of foreign-born U.S. citizens serving in the military, which is a small contingent within the U.S. in its own right.

After his father took a job at the University of Kentucky directing an energy research project, Geertseema chose to join the Army.

Since joining the Army as an enlisted infantry soldier in 2006, Geertseema assisted with logistics at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center during the 2009 ice storm and recently graduated from Officer Candidate School in 2010. As the 149th Inf. Regt.’s battalion signal officer, Geertseema ensures, with the help of his enlisted personnel, that the unit’s computers and radios work in the present and continue to do so in the future.

Regarding Geertseema’s job skills, Sgt. Maj. Phillip Pack, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of 149th Inf. Regt.’s operations, offers high praise for Geertseema, calling him “one of the most technically proficient junior officers I’ve ever worked with.”

In civilian life, Geertseema is studying for a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Kentucky. Being in the Army, Geertseema said he enjoys the “high-speed training we get paid to do” and getting to serve with people who are genuinely interested in helping others.

“Having the honor of deploying with the battalion where I first enlisted is great,” he said.

In the end, it would seem honor should be what lies at the heart all the 149th Inf. Regt. Soldiers serving here in Iraq.

VHV

By Capt. Andi Hahn, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs Officer

Michael J. Stevens, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, is pinned the rank of major by 149th MEB Commander Col. Scott Campbell and parents Rev. Dr. David and Bonnie Stevens at a promotion ceremony held at the Frazier International History Museum in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 14.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky National Guardsman Michael J. Stevens was promoted to the rank of major during a ceremony held at the Frazier International History Museum in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 14. He is assigned to the Louisville-based 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

Friends, Family members and fellow Soldiers were in attendance as Stevens was pinned by 149th MEB Commander, Col. Scott Campbell and his parents Rev. Dr. David and Bonnie Stevens.

Michael, a native of Sidney, Neb., is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in history.  He received his commission as a second lieutenant from UNL’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps and entered active duty as an armor officer.  He was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, with the 1st Cavalry Division where he deployed to Iraq.  Stevens participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a scout platoon leader, tank platoon leader and company executive officer before leaving active duty in 2005.

Kentucky National Guardsman Michael J. Stevens was promoted to the rank of major during a ceremony held at the Frazier International History Museum in Louisville, Ky., Jan. 14. He was honored in front of his friends, family members and fellow Soldiers.

Stevens joined the Kentucky Army National Guard in 2006, where he transferred from the armor branch to become a military police officer.  He served as the 149th MEB’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander for two years before being assigned as the MP Operations Officer in Charge.

“As a junior officer I hadn’t expected or thought of major as a goal, but here I am” said Stevens.  “Now that I’ve pinned it on, I realize that lieutenant colonel, colonel and brigadier general are realistic goals.  For right now, though, I want to focus on being the best major I can be and completing this deployment.”

Next up for the new major will be a third deployment overseas; back to Iraq with the brigade as part of Operation New Dawn and the largest mobilization in the Kentucky National Guard since World War II.

“I’m excited to take part in Operation New Dawn,” Stevens said.  “I was there twice for OIF and now have the opportunity to take part in the final days of our involvement in the country.