Story and photos by Capt. Andi Hahn, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office 

FRANKFORT, Ky.—Approximately 40 Kentucky National Guard Soldiers from the 149th Signal Co. and Joint Forces Headquarters participated in a communications exercise testing tactical networks with civilian networks at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., Feb. 15-17.

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1st Lt. Paige Young, 149th Signal Co., Kentucky National Guard, observes a 106-ft mobile radio tower during a communications exercise in Frankfort, Ky., Feb. 15. The tower would be used during emergencies in Kentucky where it could be placed atop a mountain in remote areas to expand mobile and portable communication capabilities.

“For the first time ever, we are testing our tactical communications systems with civilian systems to see if we can get them to talk,” said Chief Warrant Officer Dave Barker, Wireless Communications Manager for the Kentucky National Guard.

Barker said this is important because when there is a natural disaster in Kentucky, the state has limited deployable communication assets.

“If everything goes down, say during an earthquake, all we have is satellite,” said Barker. “We end up using primarily civilian communication networks, but we have all this tactical communications not being utilized at all.”

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Soldiers from the 149th Signal Company, Kentucky National Guard, set up a satellite dish during a joint communications exercise in Frankfort, Ky., Feb. 15-17.

The communication specialists spent the entire weekend testing both networks, civilian and tactical, to be able to intercommunicate with each other by making phone calls, doing video teleconferences, sending emails and ultimately, sharing all data with each other.

“We have a tactical command post set up, a civilian satellite truck, the emergency management truck and we are seeing how well we can send data between all three systems,” said Barker.

One of the biggest systems the Soldiers were testing over the weekend was a 106-ft mobile radio tower that can be set up on a mountaintop in remote locations that would extend the range of portable and low power radios, a huge capability in certain areas of Kentucky.

“This is such a unique exercise, expanding our capabilities and testing civilian and military networks,” said Sgt. Caleb Riggs, a communications specialist with Joint Forces Headquarters and full-time Visual Information Manager at Boone Center. “I love this kind of work and for our state it’s new territory,” he said.

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Sgt. Caleb Riggs, Visual Information Manager and communications specialist, participates in a joint exercise testing civilian and tactical communication systems at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., Feb 15.

“Not only are we (full-time staff) training with the signal company, but they are training with us,” said Barker.  “We are short personnel on the full-time staff so the signal company can help us out come any emergency.”

“It was excellent training; a lot of high-tech equipment went into this and we were able to troubleshoot issues or detect a lot of problems during this exercise,” said Barker. “That’s why we do this, so during a real-world disaster, we will know exactly what to do.”

Story by Capt. Stephen Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

149th VCC Departure Ceremony Feb 2, 2013

Capt Adam Evans, 149th Vertical Construction Company Commander addresses friends and family at the unit’s departure ceremony in Cynthiana, Ky., Feb 2. The Soldiers will be deploying to Afghanistan for the year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Stephen Martin)

 

CYNTHIANA, Ky. – The Kentucky National Guard held two departure ceremonies for the Soldiers of the 149th Vertical Construction Company over the weekend, one in Cynthiana and one in Olive Hill, Ky., as they prepare for a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

To see all the photos from this event, please click HERE.

“We are very fortunate to have our non-commissioned officers that have the experience of multiple deployments and truly uphold the values of the NCO Creed,” said Capt. Adam Evans, 149th VCC Commander. “I can truly say that the NCO’s of the 149th are the hard and tough backbone of this company, and will make this deployment a success.”

The 149th Vertical Construction Company is comprised of Soldiers trained in the necessary skills — masonry, carpentry, electrical etc. — to construct barracks, offices and other buildings. The unit is expected to return home sometime in late December of this year.

“I want to recognize the families, the parents, the husbands and wives and the children of these great Soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Mike Richie, Kentucky National Guard Joint Force, Land Component Commander. “They will face the unknown for the next several months, and right now they are doing it with the kind of dignity and strength usually found in what we think of as heroes.

149th VCC Departure Ceremony Feb 2, 2013

The Kentucky National Guard held a departure ceremony for the Soldiers of the 149th Vertical Construction Company on Saturday Feb. 2, in Cynthiana, Ky. The Soldiers will be deploying to Afghanistan for the year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Stephen Martin)

The unit deployed previously in 2008-2009 as part of the 201st Engineer Battalion mission to Afghanistan. Soldiers also supported last year’s tornado recovery effort in Salyersville and Menifee County.”Friends and family, you came today to honor these Soldiers and you’ve done that.” commented Kentucky State Representative Tom McKee. “Soldiers, Godspeed.”

By SrA Vicky Spesard
123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Brig. Gen. Michael Dornbush (left), the outgoing director of Joint Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters-Kentucky, receives the Distinguished Service Medal from Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general, during a retirement ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Jan. 12, 2013. Dornbush served in the Air Force and Kentucky Air National Guard for more than 40 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maxwell Rechel)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — More than 300 family, friends and co-wrokers packed into the Annex at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base Jan. 13 to pay tribute to Brig. Gen. Michael Dornbush as he completed his last official act — a formal retirement ceremony.

Dornbush, the outgoing director of Joint Staff for Joint Forces Headquarters—Kentucky, served in the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Kentucky Air National Guard for more than 40 years, rising from the rank of Airman Basic to Brigadier General.

Along the way, he helped shape the future of the 123rd Airlift Wing, said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general.

“I have watched Mike, and I believe that he has been a leading mentor of both officers and enlisted members throughout his career,” Tonini said. “He has made a tremendous difference in their careers and personal lives.”

Tonini presented Dornbush, a former vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing and past Kentucky Air National Guard chief of staff, with the Distinguished Service Medal and a Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster) in recognition of his outstanding leadership from Dec. 1, 2006 to Dec. 1, 2012.

During that time, Dornbush molded separate Air and Army staffs into a cohesive joint team, according to the award citations. In 2009, for example, he directed the formation of a Joint Task Force that successfully responded to an unprecedented ice storm that paralyzed much of the state for several days, leading to the largest call-up of National Guard forces in state history.

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Brig. Gen. Michael Dornbush, the outgoing director of Joint Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters-Kentucky, renders a final salute to his Kentucky Air National Guard family during a retirement ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Jan. 12, 2013. Dornbush served in the Air Force and Kentucky Air National Guard for more than 40 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maxwell Rechel)

Dornbush also served on the director of the Air National Guard’s Strategic Planning System Steering Committee, where he was instrumental in revamping the Air Guard’s strategic planning process. His work in developing a Future Missions Database, Air National Guard Roadmap and Air National Guard Flight Plan allowed the Air Force and Air National Guard to integrate planning efforts, and attain balance, alignment and proportionality between the two forces.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus, Kentucky’s assistant adjutant general for Air, offered congratulations to his long-time friend and colleague, whom he called a superb leader.

“For many years, we have walked this road together, sometimes at a distance, and sometimes close, but always in step with a shared horizon,” an emotional Kraus said. “You have finished well my friend, exceedingly well. I wish you continued good health and good fortune in wherever life takes you next. If you hear footsteps behind you, those will be mine, as it always has been.”

After presenting Dornbush with a few mementos, Kraus invited him to offer his own remarks.

“I’d like to share a quote,” the retiring general said. “‘Being a warrior is not an (Air Force Specialty Code). It’s a condition of the heart.’ Throughout my career I have seen those traits developed and practiced by the men and women in this wing.

“How do you put 40 years of service into a few words?” he asked. “There are so many events that are important to me, and so many people that I would like to acknowledge today that I don’t know where to start. So I’d just like to say, ‘Thanks for the memories.’  The 123rd is a wonderful place to make a career.”

He also expressed gratitude to his family and close friends for their support throughout his career, but he singled out his wife for special recognition.

“I would like to give my wife, Linda, the biggest thank you for her total support,” he said. “You are simply superb. My career would not have been this successful without you.”

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Brig. Gen. Michael Dornbush (right), the outgoing director of Joint Staff at Joint Forces Headquarters-Kentucky, receives a plaque in recognition of 40 years of service from Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus, Kentucky’s assistant adjutant general for Air, during a retirement ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Jan. 12, 2013. Dornbush has served as a flight and squadron commander, a vice wing commander and a deployed group commander in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Maxwell Rechel)

With a final wave to family members, friends and co-workers, Dornbush took his seat only to be called back to center stage for one more gift: a rousing audience performance of “The U.S. Air Force,” the official song of the United States Air Force and a personal favorite of Dornbush’s.

The Southern Indiana native joined the Kentucky Air National Guard as an enlisted communications specialist in 1976 after serving more than three years in the active-duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve. He was commissioned in 1984 upon completing the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science and has served as a flight and squadron commander.

Dornbush is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, having served a tour in 2003 and 2004 as the deployed expeditionary commander of the 438th Air Expeditionary Group in Jacobabad, Pakistan.

In addition to the Defense Service Medal, his decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.

Story by Sgt. Brandon Tagarook, 202nd Army Band Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

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Staff Sgt. Alexander Vinogradov, 75th Troop Command, prepares to throw a simulated grenade on the Individual Maneuver and Tactics Course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., Nov. 17, 2012. Vinogradov was the winner in the NCO category for the 2012 Soldier of the Year competition. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Spc. Brian Ewalt)

GREENVILLE, Ky –Kentucky’s Best. That is what the State Soldier of the Year represents. It epitomizes what all Kentucky Army National Guard enlisted Soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and senior non-commissioned officers strive to be. This includes leadership abilities, general knowledge of Army Warrior Tasks, weapons training, land navigation, personal appearance, and physical fitness. These tasks are designed to stress the individual not only physically but mentally.

“A lot of studying, a lot of preparation, a lot of time went into it,” said Sgt. Nicholas Anglin from 138th Fires Brigade Signal Co., when asked about how he prepared for the event. “Preparation is a year round training. You never stop learning, never put the books down.”

Annually, the best of the best gather to test and push themselves in a variety of Army training tasks. They met at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., Nov. 16-18.

The Soldier of the Year is not only a competition but a tool to learn about what it takes to be successful. Spc. Christopher Deleon with the 2123rd in Richmond, Ky., plans on going to Officer Candidate School and possibly switching to active duty. When asked how this experience will train him to be a good officer he replied, “It’s very knowledge based. It’s got me to study all the Army Regulations, Field Manuals, and Army Warrior Tasks, so when I become an officer I can teach my Soldiers how to peform and how to better navigate through situations as such.”

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Non-commissioned officers participating in the 2012 Soldier of the Year competition speak with members of the board at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., Nov. 17, 2012. Soldiers said going in front of the board was the most stressful part of the event.(Kentucky National Guard photo by Spc. Brian Ewalt)

One of the most stressful events of the weekend definitely seemed to be going in front of the board. The board is made up some of the Kentucky Guard’s senior leaders. Not only were competitors asked certain questions about basic Soldier knowledge, but they were also judged based on how well their uniform appeared. Several Soldiers said the questions asked were among the most important in doing well.

“It really comes down to the questions,” said Deleon. “You can know your battle drills, you can know land navigation, but if you go to the board and you just don’t know the questions…it’s pretty much the biggest thing. Make sure your uniform looks clean and pretty and study the book.”

Soldiers said the whole event felt like everyone wasn’t there to compete but to help each other out. Fellow competitors cheered others during the Army Physical Fitness Test. If there were any questions on how to use a map and compass everyone was more than willing to help out.

“I am awe-inspired, I’m humbled, and I am proud of everyone who participated,” said State Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Armstrong about this year’s group.  “What a great group of Soldiers. If you’d all been down and witnessed what I saw on the PT track, a lot of heart and soul. A lot of heart and soul out on the compass course, and it hasn’t stopped all through the competition. I am very humbled to be one of the senior leaders of the Kentucky Guard.”

The event was broken up into three different categories. Enlisted, NCO, and Senior Enlisted.  Here are the results for each category.

SOYC2012 237Enlisted : Winner – Spc. Nicholas Ray, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

1st Runner up – Spc. Christopher Deleon, 75th Troop Command

SOYC2012 240NCO: Winner – Sgt. Alexander Vinogradov, 75th Troop Command

1st Runner up – Sgt. Cody Ashcraft, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

SOYC2012 244Senior Enlisted: Winner – Master Sgt. John Hazlett, 238th Regiment

1st Runner up: 1st Sgt. Mathew Roberge, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, KY ADT 4 Unit Public Affairs and Historian Representative

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Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4’s Sgt. Nikko Moreno of Bowling Green, Ky. smiles in southern Afghanistan on March 14, 2012. The Danville, Calif. native now serves with ADT 4’s Security Platoon, helping provide protection for the mission of educating local farmers. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan—“When I lost my job, that was really hard for me,” recalled Sgt. Nikko Moreno, a 39-year-old Danville, Calif. native now residing in Bowling Green, Ky. “I’d worked so hard for so many years and built up to have nothing.”

Moreno has come a long way in the past few years since his journey began in California. There, he suddenly found himself unemployed from his job in Construction Management by the recession. To fully understand Moreno’s journey and how he ended up in Afghanistan, however, the story gets a little longer.

Before rejoining the military in the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 3123rd Engineer Detachment, 206th Engineer Battalion in Madisonville, Moreno spent about seven years on Active Duty as a combat engineer. While there, he served in Korea, Germany, Bosnia, Ft. Lewis, Wash. and even attended the prestigious Sapper school at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.

“When I initially joined (the Army), I joined the Reserves, and I was at the reserves for a very short time,” Moreno recalled. “They said that the unit was being deactivated, so I had a choice to either go Active Duty or to get out.”

“So I decided to go Active, and the first place they sent me was Korea. After that…I was shipped up to Ft. Lewis, Wash., and I was there for a couple years,” he continued.

“Then I was deployed to Bosnia with 1st Armored Division, and was there for all of ’96, and then came back, was home in Germany,” Moreno noted. “We went back in ’98, then I was home in ’99, and when my time came up for reenlistment, they were going to Kosovo. I just, I had a lot on my plate, a lot of directions I wanted to go. I chose to get out.”

After leaving Active Duty Army life behind, Moreno returned to California.

“After I got out, I went home and started dating my now wife, Shannon, and started working,” he recalled. “I finished college, but while I was in college, I started working in construction, and what I did, I was doing a Network Engineering degree–and I just didn’t really find that it was what I liked to do, and I ended up going back to construction.”

“I liked the way it was hands on and detail-oriented, outside,” Moreno noted. “You know, we did the whole thing for like the first nine years of our marriage. We bought a house, she (Shannon) got established in her career, I got established in mine, and then when the recession kind of hit California, it hit construction really hard.”

“I was laid off from my first job, I was able to pick up a second job as a Superintendent with another company that I’d worked with, and after three months, I got laid off from that one just because there was no work,” he said.

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Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4’s Sgt. Nikko Moreno of Bowling Green, Ky. conducts security checks during a mission in southern Afghanistan on May 8, 2012. The Danville, Calif. native now serves with ADT 4’s Security Platoon, helping provide protection for the mission of educating local farmers. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

“We’re the type of couple, that on weekends, we like to get out and explore. My father-in-law owned a house in Kentucky,” Moreno continued. “He came up to us and said, well why don’t you go check out Kentucky. I kind of laughed it off as a joke.”

“But given my experience on going a lot of different places with the military, a lot of the places I thought I wouldn’t like I ended up liking,” Moreno reflected. “So I went to my wife and said ‘well, why don’t we give it a try.’ We flew out in August (2009), stayed for a week, and we fell in love.”

“We loved the people, we loved the area,” he described. “It was beautiful, it was green, there was a lot of things to do, and it really was the people. They were very courteous and very welcoming.”

“It’s such a contrast to California, where people can be so rude and so focused on their job or time or money, and it wore us out,” Moreno noted. “We left California Halloween and arrived at the house in November (2009).”

“I ended up joining the Guard because I always–I guess, at that point in my life, the military was the only thing that made sense to me,” Moreno said. “I really believed in what it stood for, I believed in how I felt wearing the uniform, and I just kind of wanted to get just kind of control of my life again.”

After joining, Moreno took advantage of an opportunity to deploy southern Afghanistan as part of the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4, where he now serves.

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Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4’s Sgt. Nikko Moreno of Bowling Green, Ky. coaches a Soldier during weapons training in southern Afghanistan on April 2, 2012. The Danville, Calif. native now serves with ADT 4’s Security Platoon, helping provide protection for the mission of educating local farmers. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

“It was kind of nice to have the chance to be a part of the humanitarian side of a military mission…to kind of go out and help somebody that wants to make something of their lives,” Moreno described. “I am accomplishing my goals for coming on this mission. You know, I will have participated in something that makes a difference for people.”

“I think we’re making a difference to the right people,” Moreno noted. “There are people that are taking what we’re giving them and doing positive things. Of course there’s corruption, there’s that stuff too–but someone told me one time that even if you make a difference in one person’s life, it’s making a difference. So I do think we’re making a difference.”

Moreno offered some insights to the surprises of coming to Afghanistan.

“There’s actually a lot of green,” he noticed. “It’s actually a fertile place. I was completely ignorant about Afghanistan…but coming here I expected desert and I’m finding kind of fertile areas that congregate around a river valley.”

“Ignorance breeds hate, and I was ignorant about it. And now I see that not everybody is bad, some people are just like you and I. They just want to get on with their lives peacefully, and it’s enjoyable to watch these people and how resourceful they are to just kind of like work what they have.”

“They don’t have trellises for grapes or high-speed areas to process their stuff—they make everything they have,” he observed. “A bridge across the water isn’t some concrete pillars and planks. It’s roots and mud, it’s sticks and stuff. They’re very ingenious, and they’re very resourceful.”

“To be honest, my previous military experience was a lot different from this,” Moreno observed. “When we rolled into Bosnia, there was nothing established. We rolled into a muddy field, set up concertina wire, filled sandbags, built bunkers, built towers, we were really self-sufficient. We did everything pretty much on our own. It prepared me in that I was prepared for how bad it could be.”

“Here, it was kind of like coming to a catered party,” Moreno described. “There’s no mud, we have air conditioned and heated tents, there isn’t really a lot of suffering involved in the day-to-day stuff that we’re doing here.”

Family and friends back home have been supportive, according to Moreno.

“My family has been exceptionally supportive,” he noted. “For my wife, it’s new. We weren’t married when I was in the military before, so she’s learning. She’s really smart, my wife. She is able to adapt really quickly to what a situation requires—she kind of knows what to and what not to listen to.”

“My mom, you know, a mom’s a mom. She’s definitely worried for her son and the rest of us, and sees any war as negative, and wants us all home,” Moreno continued.

“Oh my gosh, they send me packages,” Moreno added with an excited smile. “That’s another new thing…the difference between my active experience and this is the technology, and care packages and things like that.”

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Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 4’s Sgt. Nikko Moreno (left) of Bowling Green, Ky. spends quality time with Lawrenceburg, Ky.’s Sgt. Bobby Sizemore (right) before a mission in southern Afghanistan on April 1, 2012. The Danville, Calif. native now serves with ADT 4’s Security Platoon, helping provide protection for the mission of educating local farmers. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans)

“Before, I didn’t really get care packages. I’d get letters and stuff, and it was nice to get letters,” he recalled. “Now I get care packages, and I don’t get letters very much. They have Skype, phones, and they have Facebook, and all these internet media that we really didn’t back then.”

Moreno reflected on how his peers have helped him get through the deployment so far.

“That’s one thing I love about the military is that you always have brothers no matter what,” he said. “And it’s always diverse. If I’m feeling vulnerable, there’s a person I’ll go talk to that I know won’t put me down or take advantage of the fact that I’m like ‘hey man, I’m feeling weak.’ Or if there’s someone I want to joke around with, he’s there. There’s always a multitude of people and personalities you can go and talk to.”

“Being with this hodge-podge group, there’s a lot of stories that you can get to know people and find out where they came from and who they are. I really like that, too–just learning about people and what they’ve come up through,” Moreno continued.

“I met him (Moreno) at our very first drill,” said Lawrenceburg, Ky.’s Sgt. Bobby Sizemore. “My first impression of him was that he was a little different.”

“He wasn’t exactly the type of guy that I’m used to because I know he’s got a lot of vast experience,” Sizemore described. “Since then, we just started to click, so we’ve become good friends.”

“Before we left, me and my wife, Moreno and his wife—we also had Sergeant Randy Sewell and his wife, we all went out to dinner together,” Sizemore continued. “We were actually able to bond, our wives were able to meet, and that has created that support back home. Our wives stayed in touch, so it was just a good thing. They all get along really good.”

“Moreno’s very, very, very goal oriented,” Sizemore observed. “Once he sets his mind to something, he goes after it, and that’s inspiring. There’s so many people today that give up so easy when they don’t get what they want. I admire him for never giving up.”

“He’s got a big heart, and he cares for people,” Sizemore added. “That’s another inspiring feature about Sergeant Moreno, is just that he’s a good person overall.”

“Me and him, we’ve shared so much that he’s like a brother to me now,” Sizemore said. “He’s one of those guys that when you’re having a bad day, you can go to and talk to, and more times than most, he’s going to put a smile on your face.”

“He’ll be a lifelong friend. We’ve shared a lot of good things, a lot of bad times,” Sizemore added.

From California to Kentucky and Afghanistan, one could say the complicated journey continues for Sgt. Moreno and his many trades.

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Maszor, 1204th Aviation Support Battalion

NOTE:  Each week kentuckyguard.com publishes stories by or about Kentucky National Guard unit public affairs historian representatives, also known as UPAHRs.  This is an additional duty taken on by a Soldier or Airmen with the intent of telling their unit’s story.  This is one such story ….

1204th Ammo Team

Spc. Glenn Dunn (left), Spc. Brandin Smith (center) and Spc. Duston Logan, all of the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion, were awarded the Army Achievement Medal in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, June 28, 2012. The Soldiers assisted in the drawdown of ammunition out of Iraq following the reposturing of U.S. Forces in 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Maszor)

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait — On June 28, 2012 the six-man Ammunition Section of Alpha Company, 1204th Aviation Support Battalion, was formally recognized for their hard work and dedication in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom.  Since the middle of November the Ammunition Section has been working with the 261st Ordnance Company, an Army Reserve Unit based out of West Virginia.  Together they were able to contribute to the success of one of the most dynamic strategic sustainment operations in the history of the United States Army.

“You all should be extremely proud of yourselves, for you have accomplished the largest single logistical operation since World War II,” said Col. David L. Jones of the 113th Sustainment Brigade.

Jones was referring to the ammunition turn-in and repositioning of equipment from the drawdown in Iraq.

In just three months a five man team consisting of Staff Sgt. Jason Maszor, Sgt. Kyle Clifton, and three Soldiers from the 261st received, processed, repackaged, and condition coded 26 million rounds of ammunition valued over $45 million, according to the 261st Ordnance Co.   The remaining members of the Ammunition Section; Spc.  Glenn Dunn, Spc. Duston Logan, Spc. Lee Millar, and Spc. Brandin Smith worked alongside other Soldiers of the 261st and conducted over 7,000 inter depot transfers, issues, receipts, and shipments that amassed to over 150 million rounds valued at over $475 million.

For their hard work and dedication, the “Ammo Dawgs” of Alpha Co. were awarded achievement medals from the 261st Ordnance Company.  Clifton from Crestview Hills, Ky., was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Maszor, a native of California, Ky., Dunn of Dry Ridge, Ky., Logan from Alexandria Ky., Millar of Grant’s Lick, Ky., and Smith from Crittenden, Ky., were awarded the Army Achievement Medal.

Dunn, Logan, and Smith were also recognized for their hard work in preparing detonations for demilitarization with the 788th EOD Company.

“It was an honor to work with both Active Duty EOD Soldiers and fellow ammunition Soldiers from the Army Reserves,” said Logan.  “It made me feel distinguished that another unit would take the time to acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments that we completed”.

Capt. Todd Allen, Alpha Co. commander said of the Soldiers, “It is great to see that their work did not go unrecognized. They are a great section of Soldiers and I am proud to have them in Alpha Company.”

Story and Photos by Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

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Sgt. Joseph Mattingly of Charlie Co., 1st Battalion, 376th Aviation walks between barrack buildings at the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky., June 7, 2012. Solar panels installed on the buildings at the center are responsible for producing all the energy needed to power the buildings for use by units training at the site. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond/Released)

ARTEMUS, Ky. — Nestled in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, an array of blue, glass-like panel covered buildings sparkle in the afternoon sun.  And the more the sun shines, the greater the benefit to the area.  The panels harness the power of the sun and produce electricity for the Kentucky National Guard’s Harold L. Disney Training Center.

Located near Barbourville, Ky., the buildings at the site are unique and may even be considered an oddity as they sit in the middle of Kentucky’s coal country.  But the 851 solar panels at the training center represent a positive impact the Guard is making for the Commonwealth and the environment.

The 550-plus acre training center is the first of its kind in the Kentucky National Guard to become a net-zero site.  The term “net-zero” means that more energy is produced at a site than the site uses to sustain itself.   Daily electrical operation of the Disney Training Center now comes from the skyward facing panels.

Along with the reduction of energy used, there is also a financial advantage for Kentucky.  Capt. Joseph Sloan, Designs and Programs Manager for the Kentucky National Guard said the energy production could produce a surplus of energy, giving the Guard a credit toward their monthly energy costs.

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Aerial view of solar panels installed on the buildings of the Harold L. Disney Training Center in Artemus, Ky, June 7, 2012. The solar panel installation has effectively reduced the site’s energy usage to net-zero, meaning the site produces more energy than it uses. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond/Released)

“We’re managing the budget, so this helps supplement the utility bill,” said Sloan. “But it’s also the right thing to do for the environment.  It’s the responsible thing to do.”

According to the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., Kentucky currently ranks first in the entire National Guard in energy reduction, and third in energy production.

Sloan said this achievement is not only because of the solar panel installation, but also in conjunction with an ongoing “energy audit”.  Sloan and his office conduct this review in all armories and training sites in Kentucky.

“Everywhere, we’re checking windows, lighting, insulation and improving what we can, based on balancing the need and getting the greatest bang for the buck,” he said.

The usage of Disney Training Center dictated more buildings, and an opportunity for solar energy installation presented itself according to Sloan.  Last year, for example, site officials said they accommodated more than 15,000 Soldiers, police officers, boy scouts and athletic teams for training.

Soldiers with Kentucky’s 201st Engineer Battalion constructed the buildings and the Guard partnered with Third Sun Solar, an Athens, Ohio based clean energy company, to install the panels.

Sloan said plans for more of the energy-absorbing panels are in the works, spreading the benefits through different regions of Kentucky.  Installation is currently scheduled for the newest readiness centers, one recently completed in Owensboro, and the future site in Burlington, in Northern Kentucky. Work to add more panels also continues at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville.

The solar panel additions will continue the Kentucky Guard’s effort to shrink its environmental footprint across the Commonwealth.

The Kentucky National Guard’s progress in solar energy recently attracted the attention of the international publication, Photon Magazine, who sent representatives to visit the state in June.  Matthew Hirsch, associate editor with the San Francisco based magazine said the visit was part of a monthly series called PV (photovoltaic) Coast to Coast.  Hirsch said the visit to the Bluegrass was enjoyable and a nice entry to their documentation of the solar market.

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Sgt. 1st Class Chaz Martin, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Harold L. Disney Training Center discusses solar panel installation at the site in Artemus, Ky., with a representative of Photon Magazine, June 7, 2012. Photon Magazine visited areas in Kentucky to collect information on solar energy efforts in the Commonwealth. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond/Released)

“Our trip has been great,” he said.  “We have met a lot of people here that are passionate, knowledgeable and interacting in growing solar energy.”

The fact that the Disney Center was the first net-zero site comes with some bragging rights in the Guard, but also the beginning of a consistency of clean energy used by Kentucky’s Citizen-Soldiers.

“This showcases us here in Artemus,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chaz Martin, non-commissioned officer in charge of training at the center. “National media even get to see that we are part of the Guard team here in Kentucky. We’re going green, saving energy and not costing the government as much.”

“This is a beautiful location, a place Soldiers have been coming to get their training since 1979,” said Martin. “And now that we are net-zero, we’re making that much bigger of an impact on the Kentucky Guard.”

Story and photos by Sgt. Tasha Fields, 1204th ASB Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

NOTE:  Each week kentuckyguard.com publishes stories by or about Kentucky National Guard unit public affairs historian representatives, also known as UPAHRs.  This is an additional duty taken on by a Soldier or Airmen with the intent of telling their unit’s story.  This is one such story ….

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Spc. Dale Salsman of the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion cuts the outline of a guidon stand in Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tasha Fields)

CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT — What starts as pieces of rubble from scrap yards turns into pieces of artwork when Sgt. Chad Ward and Spc. Dale Salsman are finished.  Ward, non-commissioned officer in charge of the weld shop, has been welding for a little over eight years and gained his knowledge through military school.  His first projects included minor repairs on vehicles and farm equipment.  Salsman however, has been welding for 20 plus years.  The assistant team leader started making things like chessboards with a gradual progression to bed frames and larger items.

When asked what makes welding so interesting, Salsman said he uses it to relax and it helps him deal with stress.  Ward said his excitement comes from the reactions on other’s faces when they see the completed project.

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Detail of the 1204th ASB guidon stand. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tasha Fields)

The creative side of Ward came out when he met Salsman.  The two of them complement each other.  One has the talent, which allows the other to start thinking of the next project.  They have no issues taking constructive criticism from one another.

Their teamwork is used to put the completely freehand projects together.  Salsman cuts while Ward paints.

“It feels good to be able to work with someone like Specialist Salsman,” said Ward.  “He should be doing this for a living, he’s just that good.  He’s like a tattoo artist with a torch.”

They use a variety of materials for finished projects such as steel, stick welder, oxy fuel (torch), grinders file, paint, and nuts and bolts.  One project can take up to four days, depending on the number of parts and the detailing of the paint job.

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Sgt. Chad Ward (left) and Spc. Dale Salsman of the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion, stand with a newly created guidon stand in Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tasha Fields)

Since being in Kuwait, the two have created four guidon stands.  The first one was for the incoming commander for the 1204th in February 2012.  When describing this project, the two agreed that getting the color right was challenging due to rain and sand storms.  When other units saw this artwork, they wanted one as well.

Salsman said, “It’s great to be able to take a bunch of trash and make something out of it.”

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, KY ADT 4 Unit Public Affairs and Historian Representative

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Sgt. Bobby Sizemore (left), a resident of Lawrenceburg, Ky. measures a building’s foundation with Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathon Stribling (right), a resident of Louisville, Ky. on May 3, 2012 in southern Afghanistan. The two members of the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 were helping build hardened structures to make life more comfortable for ADT 4, and eventually ADT 5 as well. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans/Released)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan—Amidst their efforts to help improve the lives of local farmers through education, a few Soldiers with Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 have taken up a secondary project: improving their own environment. In the process, ADT 4 is also building a foundation to help ADT 5 function more effectively when they arrive at the end of 2012.

“They’re (ADT 5) going to have it made. With the three buildings that we have in mind right now, it’s going to be a huge boost for them because they’re not going to be so spread out,” said Master Sgt. John Black, a 45-year-old Frankfort, Ky., native, residing in Lawrenceburg, Ky. “Everything’s going to be in close proximity and everybody’ll be working pretty much side-by-side… not like us, all spread out everywhere.”

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Black, who is leading ADT 4’s construction crew, has served in the Kentucky Army National Guard for nearly 28 years. He spent 27 of those years working as a technician in Frankfort while working as a general contractor on the side, building houses and rental properties. Before coming to Afghanistan, Black served as the 1st Sgt. in Frankfort’s B Co., 103rd Brigade Support Battalion, 138th Fires Brigade.

Black recalled his early years building things.

“Well, I started probably about 15 years ago remodeling a house with my dad in Frankfort. Everything was self-taught,” he said. “After a couple years, I just started doing contract work on my own. I built my own house. Then once I built my first house, I just got the bug and started building (more often).”

Balancing construction and military life wasn’t always easy, as Black described it.

“Long days and very short nights,” he said.

“Working with wood, it’s pretty relaxing to me. You just kind of take all that other stuff, put it off to the side,” Black said. “It just gives me something to do and reminds me of home.”

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Pictured left to right: Spc. Russell Woosley of Smithfield, Ky.; Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathon Stribling of Louisville, Ky.; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin McDonald of Louisville, Ky. hold a foundation’s boards in place for nailing in southern Afghanistan on May 3, 2012. The three were helping build hardened structures to make life more comfortable for ADT 4, and eventually ADT 5 as well. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans/Released)

According to Black, there have been a few challenges so far with ADT 4’s building project gathering materials.

“The Seabees have helped us out a bunch. A few other guys here have helped us out with (other materials),” Black said.

“The colonel (Col. Tom Barrier) has been pretty good about going out and finding stuff. He’s built a pretty good relationship here with people on the base, and can get just about anything he’s wanted, additional tools, all that,” Black added. “We’re pretty fortunate.”

“I don’t have a crew that knows how to do everything.  I have to stop and teach people what to do. It’s kind of a challenge sometimes,” he said.

“I have never done construction before in my life, so it’s a pretty awesome experience,” said Spc. Courtney Stewart, a 21-year-old Taylorsville, Ky. native who comes from Shelbyville, Ky.’s 1163rd Medical Company.

“I learned how to build a roof. I’ve never done that before in my life,” said Stewart. “I learned how to frame in doors and how to read a tape measure… I’ve never been able to do that before,” she added with a big smile.

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Sgt. 1st Class Jackie Pogue, a resident of Winchester, Ky. measures wood cuts on May 11, 2012 in southern Afghanistan. The member of the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4was helping build hardened structures to make life more comfortable for ADT 4, and eventually ADT 5 as well. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans/Released)

“The guys that are involved with it, my team, they love it,” Black said. “They’re staying busy, time’s going by quick for them, they’re loving every minute of it.”

“My favorite part is probably everybody joking on one another. It’s pretty fun,” Stewart said. “I’m in a guy’s world here, so it’s fun to crack up once in a while.”

Black said he plans on building multiple offices to help ADT 4 and ADT 5 function more effectively, as well as some solid buildings for housing to replace tents.

“It’ll be pretty nice from what the colonel’s wanting,” Black said. “He wants it all laid out for the Ag Team. When it’s completed and it looks good, you can walk away from it knowing it isn’t going to blow down.”

“We’re doing the best with what we’ve got,” Black added.

“I think it’ll definitely be good for ADT 5 whenever they get over here because they’ll be able to use it however they need to and it’ll already be here,” Stewart said.

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Paul Evans, KY ADT 4 Unit Public Affairs and Historian Representative

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Master Sgt. Chris Campbell (right) of Nicholasville, Ky. and Maj. Ben Singleton (left) of Lakeside Park, Ky. attend a meeting during a site visit in southern Afghanistan on May 8, 2012. Campbell, a member of Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4, has spent 23 years serving in the military between the National Guard, Navy, and Navy Reserves. This is his second deployment overseas. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans/Released)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan—“I learn every day that we’ve got a lot to be thankful for back home,” said Master Sgt. Chris Campbell, a 41-year-old native and resident of Nicholasville, Ky.  “We have a lot to be thankful for as a nation, actually.”

Campbell, who spent four years apiece with the Navy and Navy Reserves before serving in the Kentucky Army National Guard for the past 15 years, is a Soldier assigned to the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4. As a member of ADT 4, he serves a Project Manager for the Kandahar Province’s Zharay and Maiwand District teams.

“At the same time, we have a lot of responsibility, not only as Americans, but also as Soldiers to be good stewards,” he said. “Our mission is really tied in with that focus of being good stewards. We need to make sure that we do the right thing, the right projects, and we don’t waste money.”

Back in Kentucky, Campbell is a combat engineer with Madisonville, Ky.’s 130th Engineer Support Co., 206th Engineer Battalion. He previously deployed to Kuwait from 2004 to 2005 with Headquarters and Headquarters Co., 206th Engineer Battalion, which was then based out of Harrodsburg, Ky. The 206th has since been relocated to Owensboro, Ky.

As a civilian, Campbell said he has worked as a lieutenant for the Nicholasville Fire Department since 1997.

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“I don’t have too much civilian experience I need to use here, because usually that means someone’s in trouble,” Campbell said. “But it has helped. I think that Guardsmen in general are kind of a different breed. That helps to facilitate the mission, because there’s folks on our team that have many skill sets, and we use those.”

“Patience is a big thing that I’ve learned through my military career. I’m not the most patient person, but I understand here, I’m not only dealing with the Army and contracting side of it, but also dealing with Afghans and how they perceive life,” Campbell said. “Patience has been key. That’s something the Army has kind of helped me learn.”

Campbell described what Afghanistan has been like so far.

“It’s kind of what I expected it to be. But it’s something that you can’t really appreciate till you get here or actually see it with your own eyes,” he said. “So it’s been interesting.”

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Master Sgt. Chris Campbell (right) of Nicholasville, Ky. passes a box of supplies for local farmers to Maj. Ben Singleton (left) of Lakeside Park, Ky. during a site visit in southern Afghanistan on May 26, 2012. Campbell, a member of Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4, has spent 23 years serving in the military between the National Guard, Navy, and Navy Reserves. This is his second deployment overseas. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans/Released)

“You know, I think it surprised me, just the attitude of the Afghans that we’ve dealt with so far,” Campbell said. “A lot of them are really good people. And I think I might have perceived them a little bit differently because of our training regimen. The fact that we’ve been working with them and had the opportunity to have a close relationship with some of these folks, I think it’s helped. And it surprised me a little bit, but it’s also been very rewarding,” he added.

There have been some challenges so far, both personally and as a unit, as Campbell described them.

We’re an enabler, not a battle-focused (unit), as far as we don’t go out there and shoot folks. That’s not our job,” he said. “We’re an enabler for the Army in order to reach out to the agricultural community and kind of help those folks.”

“I think the first challenge for everybody was the same, trying to get used to this new hodge-podge kind of unit thrown together, get used to everybody,” Campbell recalled. “Also, coming over here and working with a combat arms unit, I think that’s been a challenge for all of us. It’s been something that we’ve kind of had to get adjusted to.”

“The only difference I see that’s more sobering is the fact of being closer to the front line, I think,” Campbell said. “It’s more challenging. You go into some of these TOCs (tactical operations centers), these other units, and you see the pictures on the wall of Soldiers like our own that have died here doing their mission.”

“It’s sobering…I’m very humbled by that.”

For most of Campbell’s family, this is their second time dealing with him being gone.

“It’s been difficult. My wife kind of knew what to expect,” he said. “My youngest son, who’s six didn’t. So, it’s been troubling for him. My teenagers, they went through it as children, but it’s hard for them too. I think it causes more stress than what I know.”

“My oldest son, he actually joined up into the National Guard, joined while I was gone. I think it affected him to the point that I think he decided he wanted to try and serve too. I’m thankful for that,” Campbell added.

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Master Sgt. Chris Campbell of Nicholasville, Ky. explains the sandbag filling process to Soldiers and Airmen with the Kentucky National Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team 4 in southern Afghanistan on March 1, 2012. Back in Kentucky, Campbell is a Combat Engineer with Madisonville, Ky.’s 130th Engineer Support Co., 206th Engineer Battalion. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Paul Evans/Released)

Thinking about ADT 4’s ability to make a difference in southern Afghanistan, Campbell looked towards the future.

“I think we will, but I don’t think it’s something that’s going to be readily apparent in any of our lifetimes,” he observed. “I think the influence that we have here with these folks is going to stretch out over into the little kids that we see now.”

“When they become adults, and they’re running this country, that’s when we’re going to see that influence…it may not be that they are a democracy, but it may be that they are able to sustain their families better,” Campbell said.

“Maybe this country won’t be one of the poorest in the world, but it may be a developing economy where they can do something for their children,” he hoped.

As the old saying goes: only time will tell.