I want to take a moment to highlight the significant progress we’ve made during the first quarter of FY19, a training year that will have far-reaching implications for the New Hampshire National Guard and our state.
Daily I’m reminded of the professionalism of our soldiers and airmen, and their commitment to the Mission Triad of fighting and winning our nation’s wars, defending the homeland and building enduring partnerships. Earlier this month, I had the honor of presenting Spc. Jonathan Chaisson, a supply specialist with Headquarters Battery, 197th Field Artillery Brigade, the NH Commendation Medal for helping to save the life of a motorist who suffered a heroin overdose last year in Concord. He administered first aid and directed traffic until emergency personnel arrived to secure the patient and scene.
FIGHT AND WIN OUR NATION’S WARS
Eight NHARNG soldiers who deployed last year to the Middle East continue to support Operation Inherent Resolve while the 136th Cyber Security Team began its 400-day mobilization supporting a global cyber mission at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Staff from the 197th Field Artillery Brigade and 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS) are planning for two, large-scale multi-national exercises designed to promote interoperability with our NATO allies in Eastern Europe. In the spring, the brigade will provide a command and control cell to Dynamic Front in Grafenwoehr, Germany while in June, 3rd Battalion will deploy 250 artillerymen to Hungary for Saber Guardian, a regional live-fire exercise.
Coming off a record year of deployments, the NH Air National Guard has maintained a solid presence in the CENTCOM area of operations with more than 20 airmen currently deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger, Qatar, and Spain. At Pease, the 157th Air Refueling Wing is preparing for the fall arrival of the new KC-46 Pegasus. The remaining KC-135 refuelers are departing Pease for good, with the last tanker and oldest airframe in the entire Air Force fleet scheduled for a ceremonial sendoff March 24.
We took another step toward growing force structure. The 603rd Public Affairs Detachment was federally recognized in late 2018 giving the NHARNG a second eight-person public affairs team to compliment the 114th PAD. Additionally, the NHARNG was authorized to establish the 941st Military Police Battalion Headquarters. With 60 additional personnel, the battalion will be fully operational by Sept. 30, 2020. The added units will increase NHARNG’s force structure to 1,628.
The NHANG formally submitted its request to be considered for two new mission sets – space control and aeromedical evacuation. Both are perfect mission sets for the 157th ARW. In the era of great power competition and as a contested domain, there are opportunities for growth in space. The Wing is well postured due to its ability to recruit and retain quality candidates. The new KC-46 fuselage trainer and ease at which the Wing was able to recruit and fill its medical CERFP unit make it a great candidate for a future aeromedical mission.
DEFEND THE HOMELAND
Last month, a NHARNG soldier volunteered to support Southwest Border operations through September 2019. The communications specialist is currently providing operations support to the Arizona National Guard after being reassigned from New Mexico.
On Jan. 7, three state-employee firefighters from the Pease Fire Department provided mutual aid assistance to the Somersworth Fire Department by responding to a mill fire. It took nearly 10 hours to suppress the fire during which the Pease crew manned an exterior fire hose.
Earlier this month, the 12th Civil Support Team sent a four-person contingent to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta to provide security support to law enforcement agencies. This quarter our eight analysts from the Counter Drug Task Force have assisted state law enforcement agencies in more than 130 cases resulting in the seizure of $1.5 million worth of illegal drugs.
BUILD ENDURING PARTNERSHIPS
As in years past, Veterans Day through the holiday season was our busiest time of the year for supporting community events. From color guards to guest speakers, we had many soldiers and airmen participate in ceremonies and parades at town commons, schools and city main streets.
For the 36th consecutive year, we hosted the Capital Region Food Program’s holiday food basket project at the Concord armory while more than 50 NH guardsmen volunteered for Operation Santa Claus. They assembled bikes and delivered thousands of Christmas gifts across the state to children in need.
Under the auspices of the NHNG-El Salvador State Partnership Program, now in its 19th year, the 39th Army Band and a KC-135 refueler crew traveled to El Salvador in late January to perform at the Ilopango Air Show. In addition to the 157th ARW flyover, the highlight of the weekend was Ambassador Jean Manes joining the band on stage for a duet of “Brown Eyed Girl” in front of 30,000 people. It was the band’s first performance in our state partner country.
Recently, the Joint Staff submitted an application to expand the NHNG’s state partnership program to include a second country, Nepal. If approved, the NHNG would partner with the Rhode Island National Guard to establish this new relationship.
The Office of the Adjutant General continues to make great strides in realizing Gov. Sununu’s vision of consolidating veteran services from across the state. Legislation currently slated for deliberation in the Senate would formalize the governor’s executive order and change the name of the office to the Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Services.
Since the 157th ARW hosted a listening session in December to address health concerns of former and current employees of Pease, the NH Office of Veterans Services has registered more than 200 people into its database. Just last month a phone call led to a veteran finding temporary housing after suddenly losing his job and home.
The Bureau of Community Based Military Programs, under the direction of Amy Cook, has set the conditions for the state’s successful participation in the Governor’s “Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their Families.” Twenty-seven participants from 20 agencies attended the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) site visit in December. A group of 15 will travel to Washington D.C. this month to attend SAMSHA’s policy academy.
At the State Veterans Cemetery, work on the 4.6 acre expansion project began in November. It will provide 1,410 preplaced, double-depth vaults and 1,862 plots for in-ground interments. In 2018, the cemetery performed more than 900 burials for veterans and family members.
THE WAY AHEAD
I’m excited to announce the NHNG plans to reestablish a biathlon team. The year-round program will develop skiing and marksmanship skills. The team is open to any soldier or airman of the NHNG. If you are interested, please reach out to NHARNG State Command Sgt. Maj. Lore Ford for additional details.
Recruitment and retention remains critical to our readiness, operational success and future growth. Both Army and Air recruitment for this quarter fell slightly below target. We are actively recruiting for the new PAD and MP battalion. I encourage everyone to support the organization’s recruiting efforts by capitalizing on your experiences and sharing the benefits of serving in the NHNG. Remember, if you like what you’re doing – tell a friend. If you don’t like what you’re doing – tell a leader.
In closing, I want to personally thank our soldiers, airmen, civilian employees and families for their tireless dedication to the NHNG, our state, and nation. To grow our force and remain relevant for decades to come requires perseverance and commitment from all of us. I am confident we are up to the challenge.
David J. Mikolaities
Major General, NHNG
The Adjutant General