SALT LAKE CITY — Large waves of people streamed into the hanger at the Roland R. Wright Air Base to send off the 130 Soldiers from the 65th Field Artillery Brigade (FAB), Americas Thunder, to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield, to partner with host nations, working together to strengthen relationships and security, March 26.
“We have spent the past year in preparation for this mission, and our Soldiers are ready to answer our country’s call,” said Col. Adam L. Robinson, brigade commander of the 65th FAB. “We look forward to working with our partner nations, thereby widening our perspectives which allows us to integrate equipment, tactics, techniques and procedures which will strengthen our defensive relationships.”
The Soldiers will support Coalition Forces in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf as they strengthen the U.S. military defensive relationships and build partner capacity by working together and strengthening relationships with host nations throughout the region.
“I look forward to seeing our Soldiers excel in that arena and bring security to the countries we are working with,” said Robinson. “As we help them and partner with them, they will be able to secure themselves better.”
This unit has a wealth of knowledge and experience in these deploying Soldiers. Robinson and his Soldiers have been working hard to prepare for this deployment over the past year.
“We’ve been able to build one of the best teams I’ve ever been associated with,” said Robinson. “From the time we started to where we are today seems huge--Soldiers have grown in leaps and bounds in knowledge and experience. I look forward to the great things we are going to do in country.”
This will be Robinson's third deployment, previously deploying in 2003 for Operation Noble Eagle and 2006 for Enduring Freedom. This will be his culminating event, for upon his return he will prepare to retire from the military after his 33-year military career.
“I feel like this is something I need to do. The Army has been really good to me so this is an opportunity for me to serve one last time,” said Robinson. “It’s going to be a great mission; and I look forward to serving one last time and maybe have some influence on some of these Soldiers that are going to take my place.”
As Robinson’s career nears completion other careers are just beginning. Pfc. Preston Smith, a resident of Lehi, Utah joined the National Guard in April of 2017 and has only been a member of the 65th FAB for about three months. Smith joined the Guard to help others.
“I like to work with people and help others. Joining the Utah National Guard was my way of giving back to my country and giving aid to those who are less fortunate than us,” said Smith. “After this deployment I want to reclass as a combat medic and apply for Special Forces.”
The Soldiers with the 65th FAB have a wide range of skills and ages among them. Many leave behind young families, the majority being fathers, only nine female Soldiers are deploying.
“A lot of people say it's tough on the Soldiers but in reality its really the families, the employers, the people back home that have the hardest time,” said Capt. Taylor Knight a Spanish Fork resident pointing out his four young daughters. “It's easy for me, but its these little ones here that are going to miss out. I joined the military when I was 17 so these little girls can have a better life, and a safe and secure life, so keeping that in mind keeps me going.”
“Last time I was a lot more nervous. This time I'm a little more prepared,” said Emily Knight, wife of Capt. Taylor Knight. “Knowing what to expect, knowing that I will be able to talk to him helps. I know that I will be taken care of, I have great neighbors and family.”
After serving for 28 years in the National Guard, Chaplain (Capt.) Tim Clayson is leaving on his third deployment and says it never gets easy leaving his wife and five children.
“We try to make this our whole family serving, they have a part to play in this as well, they are sacrificing having dad away,” said Clayson. “It gives them a shared ownership in sacrificing for people they don't know.
“It gets harder each time. You know what's coming and you know how difficult it's going to be,” said Clayson. “It is an honor to serve and we would do it again and again because we love our country.”
With only nine females on this deployment they have been able to bond during training as they have prepared to deploy.
“This will be my first deployment,” said Ty'Lene Puro “I'm ready to go and serve and do what I joined to do.”
Puro competed in and won the State Best Warrior Competition and just recently place with the first place female team at the Chief, National Guard Biathlon Competition.
“Best Warrior helps you strengthen and further develop your Soldier skills and biathlon is physically and mentally tough so it helps build your resilience,” said Puro.
“I'm going to be a proud dad. We have five daughters and they all serve, two of them to Iraq, so this is our third rodeo,” said Steve Puro, Ty'Lene's father. “The world is an uncertain place and not everybody loves the American flag.”
The more experienced Soldiers have made it a priority over the past year of training to mentor others for this deployment. It is important to pass their knowledge and experience to help the younger Soldiers and those going on their first deployment to be both mentally and physically prepared.
“Our unit has been training for a year getting ready for this. As Soldiers this is what we do,” said Ty'Lene Puro. “Our mentors said to keep occupied, keep physically and mentally tough and make sure to come back better then you left.”
Once the Soldiers were all safely on board the chartered flight Robinson and Command Sgt. Maj. Troy Josie turned at the top of the stairs, raised their fists in the air and for America's Thunder shouted to the cheering crowd "Freedom!"
Story by Ileen Kennedy
Photos by Ileen Kennedy and Sgt. Nathaniel Free
DRAPER, Utah — Nineteen Special Forces Soldiers with the Utah Army National Guard were awarded on Sunday, March 18, for their acts of valor during their 2017 deployments to Afghanistan.
Several of these Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group teams, returned home wounded, and one—Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler—was killed in combat.
Four of the Soldiers from Bravo Company received Silver Stars, the nation’s third highest award for valor in combat. Three were awarded the Purple Heart, an award given to those wounded or killed in action. Five received the Bronze Star with “V” device and seven were awarded the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device, for other acts of heroism.
During the ceremony one by one these Soldiers were called to the stage at the Utah National Guard Headquarters, as Gov. Gary Herbert pinned the awards to each Soldier’s chest.
Capt. Nelson, Sgt. 1st Class Madsen, Staff Sgt. Walrath and Staff Sgt. Caldwell were awarded the Silver Star for their actions in May and August 2017.
On May 21, 2017 Nelson was commanding a clearance operation in Afghanistan to drive enemy fighters out of village homes they were occupying, according to Nelson’s Silver Star narrative. The goal was to secure a new position to disrupt enemy operations in the area. Nelson had led his troops through ISIS-Khorasan, an offshoot of the Islamic State group stronghold of Maktaab Bazaar when they were hit with machine gun and sniper fire, the narrative said.
The trail vehicle’s gunner was shot in the head by a sniper, and Nelson ran to the wounded Soldier amid the continued enemy fire. He pulled the gunner from the vehicle, called for a medic and requested a medevac and directed close-air support and artillery fire missions. The captain exposed himself to fire to encourage the Afghan forces traveling with his team to suppress the enemy and shield the Soldiers’ movement.
“His actions inspired many to fight back in the face of overwhelming and unrelenting enemy fire ensuring the safe evacuation of a critically wounded U.S. casualty,” said Lt. Col. Steven Fairbourn, Utah National Guard Public Affairs Officer.
On Aug 16, 2017 Soldiers with the Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan conducted a dismounted mission alongside the Afghan National Army’s 8th Special Operations Kandak Commandos. The goal was to clear the area in the highly contested Mohammed Valley in Southern Nangarhar, Afghanistan, to dislodge entrenched ISIS-K fighters. The element had taken heavy fire for eight hours, and as darkness fell, an explosive weapon detonated inside the building the team had been preparing to occupy, according to the Silver Star narratives. The enemy fighters launched a coordinated attack, using the explosion that injured more than 30 troops, to their advantage.
After the explosion, three Special Forces Soldiers stood out for their actions.
Despite his wounds, Sgt 1st Class Madsen crawled into an armored vehicle and pulled his way to the turret while directing the U.S. Soldiers around him to return fire on the enemy. Madsen took control of the vehicle’s MK19 automatic grenade launcher and began delivering “punishing suppressive fire upon the emboldened ISIS-K fighters,” his Silver Star narrative said.
“Sergeant First Class Madsen’s courageous and determined example inspired the limited number of troops who were not already wounded or rendering aid, to violently strike back at their attackers, ultimately suppressing the threat long enough for the medical evacuation helicopters to load the most critical patients,” according to his Silver Star narrative.
Staff Sgt. Walrath was serving as a medical sergeant and was one of the Soldiers injured from the explosion, with hundreds of fragments of shrapnel and concrete lodged in his body. But that didn’t stop him, ignoring his own injuries and turning his attention to his teammates.
“Though Staff Sergeant Walrath was bleeding freely from his own wounds, he completely disregarded his own suffering to immerse himself in the care of his wounded comrade,” his Silver Star narrative said.
Staff Sgt. Caldwell also began to collect and assess the wounded after the explosion went off. He began directing the organization and management of patients, stopping only to deliver critical, life-saving interventions.
“While inescapably exposed at the staging area, he displayed exemplary clinical judgment matched with devoted care as he prioritized patients for medevac and helped coordinate the load-out of the arriving aircraft himself,” his Silver Star narrative said.
“When the chips were down, when the bullets were flying and people were dying all around them, they did the right thing,” said Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, while attending the valor ceremony. “They exhibited tremendous bravery to protect their own and to take the initiative from the enemy, so I couldn’t be more proud today.”
Story by Maj. Kimberly Lawson
Photos by Sgt. Joshua Cox and Sgt. 1st Class Shana Hutchins
BLUFFDALE, Utah — Seven Soldiers from the Utah National Guard were recognized March 10, at Camp Williams for their heroic actions to save the lives of two young children.
On June 2, 2012, Soldiers from Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery Regiment, rescued Laura and Rebeckah Bishop from the burning wreckage after the tractor they were driving flipped over and burst into flames.
Without hesitation, Maj. Shane Day, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Fowles and Sgt. Maj. Eric Shepherd quickly worked together to remove sisters, then 12-year-old Laura and five-year-old Rebeckah Bishop from underneath the burning tractor, while Avery, Branch and Christiansen began putting out the fire with fire extinguishers they had grabbed from the armory. Once Laura and Rebeckah were removed from the tractor, 1st Lt. John Hunt quickly worked to treat and stabilize the girls before local emergency personnel arrived on scene.
Laura and Rebeckah fully recovered from their injuries and were present during the awards ceremony to personally thank each of the Soldiers again for their selfless service.
Addressing the family, friends and Soldiers, Laura emotionally recalled the unforgettable events from that day, thanking each of the Soldiers.
“Heroes come in all shapes and sizes…one of the most important heroes I remember from my childhood was you guys.”
Beaming with pride, Lt. Col. Steven Fairbourn, commander 1-145th FA pointed out the dedication, patriotism and selflessness exhibited by his Soldiers, were traits not exclusive to just times of overseas deployment, but rather resided in all.
“For the citizen-Solder, readiness is not just learning their military duties; readiness for the citizen-Soldier is a lifestyle, it’s part of our culture,” Brig. Gen. Dallen Atack, assistant adjutant general, Army, told the crowd.
Avery, Day, Fowles, and Shepherd were all presented with a Utah Cross by Atack. Atack also presented Branch, Christiansen, and Hunt with the Utah Commendation Medal for their actions.
In addition to the Utah awards, each Soldier was presented with a certificate of bravery from Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
Story and photos by Maj. Choli Ence
SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah — As the sun set on the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the sun was just beginning to rise on yet another Olympic sport, half a world away in Soldier Hollow, Utah—the very same location of the Winter Olympics 16 years before.
The staccato of gunshots echoed across powder-covered mountains as National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from 23 states pour through a winding, cross-country course, armed with custom rifles and Nordic skis. They climb mountains at an elevation equal to that of the notorious Hindu Kush in northern Afghanistan, and then fly down unforgiving slopes into a live-fire range.
It’s the 2018 Chief of the National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships, hosted for the first time ever in Utah, home of the state’s trademarked “Greatest Snow on Earth.” “Biathlon is a really strange sport,” said Capt. Barbara Blanke, a member of the Utah National Guard Team, and first place winner of the Women’s Master Class Sprint and Pursuit races.
"It combines the rigors of cross-country skiing—a very demanding athletic event—with rifle-precision marksmanship.”
Biathletes ski between 7.5 and 12 kilometers during any given event, while periodically stopping to shoot at targets ranging from the size of a quarter to the size of a grapefruit, at a distance of 50 meters.
Like many Olympic sports, the origins of biathlon are rooted in warfare. From the snow-blanketed orchards of Lier, Norway, during the Napoleonic Wars, to our modern Army Mountain Warfare School in the Green Mountains of Jericho, Vt., skis and rifles have gone hand-in-hand.
“Every building block of resiliency is found in a biathlon race,” said Brig. Gen. Dallen Atack, assistant adjutant general of the Utah Army National Guard, during the opening ceremony of the competition. “No amount of PowerPoint presentations, no amount of guest speakers will teach our Soldiers resiliency like going out and doing hard things—and that’s exactly what biathlon is.”
In 2013, the Army introduced the “Ready and Resilient” campaign, focusing on helping Soldiers develop physical and mental toughness.
“Today’s U.S. military is all about maintaining and building readiness,” said Maj. Gen. Steven A. Cray, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard. “The biathlon program fits just perfectly into that. Shoot, move and communicate is what these athletes work on every day.”
The timeless infantry maxim of “shoot, move, and communicate” encompasses not just the essential skills for achieving battlefield supremacy, but also for competing in a biathlon race. Both Cray and Atack encouraged competitors to take these skills back to their home states and assist other Soldiers and Airmen in becoming ready and resilient.
“The small investment that we make to be able to put on events like this pays off across the force,” Cray said.
“The first time you hit the target and hear that sound, you’re addicted,” said Army Staff Sgt. Ty’Lene Puro, from the Utah Guard team. She will rely on her biathlon training during her upcoming deployment with the 65th Field Artillery Brigade in the coming months. “It’s helped my shooting and it’s helped by PT scores. The whole sport is about resilience.”
Puro has been competing in National Guard biathlon races since she returned home from her initial active-duty training. Like many others, the first time she put on Nordic skis was at her first competition.
“I’ve been at this a long time,” said 1st Sgt. Dan Westover, from the Vermont Guard team. “But there’s a big misconception among Guard units that biathlon is only for elite athletes or Olympians. We want every person we can get. The door isn’t closed. We’re willing to teach people how to do it.”
Not only is the door open to current National Guard members to join a biathlon team, but it’s also the reason why many decide to serve. Spc. Travis Cooper, a member of the All-Guard Team and first-place winner in the Men’s open Class Sprint and Pursuit races, joined the Guard to be a biathlete.
“The biathlon has energized my career and motivated me to continue to work hard and learn new skills,” said Sgt. 1st Class Adam Schwartz, from the Alaska Guard team. “From a recruiting perspective, Alaska has high school, cross-country ski teams. It’s important to show our community the biathlon program.”
“This sport embodies everything that we look for in our Soldiers,” said Maj. Gen. Jefferson S. Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, at the closing awards ceremony. “It’s endurance, it’s commitment, it’s leadership, and it’s marksmanship under pressure. Why would we not want to continue this program?”
The first Chief of the National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships was held in 1975, with only seven states participating. This year there were 24 states in attendance. Burton said he hopes to see the day when all 54 states and territories are participating in this event.
Story by Sgt. Nathaniel Free
Photos by Sgt. Nathaniel Free, Tech. Sgt. Amber Monio and Lt. Col. Steven Fairbourn
SALT LAKE CITY — “What we all have in common here today is that we know somebody who served. And that we lost somebody who served—that unites us,” began Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, speaking to those in the crowded Gold Room Feb. 16, 2018. Utah’s leadership honors Utah’s fallen service members who pass away, regardless of the cause, while in the service of our state and nation. This year 16 families gathered at the State Capitol for the Fallen Service Member Memorial ceremony to be acknowledged for their patriotism and ultimate sacrifice.
“Nobody signs up with the idea that they’re not going to return home.
It leaves a hole in all our hearts when that happens,” said Gov. Gary Herbert, governor of Utah, addressing the families of the fallen. “So we’re here to help hopefully make a patch over that hole in your hearts and to pay tribute and recognize their sacrifice and service.”
Prior to being addressed by Utah’s leadership, the families were honored in both chambers of the Utah Legislature. The mundane, procedural tempo of the chambers turned instantly somber and reverent as the families quietly flowed into the room, encircling the legislators sitting at their stations, with grieving families holding photographs of their lost loved ones tight.
The silence of the room was broken as the significance of their presence was announced by leaders within each chamber. Visible tears swelled in the families as the 16 names were read, announcing their rank and respective military service. Seven of the 16 were members of the Utah Guard, one of which was Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, member of the 19th Special Forces Group, who was killed in action in Afghanistan last August.
“Attending the Fallen Service Member Ceremony at the State Capitol was a moving event,” said Col. Larry Henry, commander of Utah Guard’s 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “The Butlers have taken the loss of their son with grace and elegance and are a tribute to the strength of our SOF (Special Operations Forces) brotherhood. I am honored to be able to serve with Soldiers of the caliber of Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler and all of his fellow Green Berets who sacrificed on that fateful day.”
Another of Utah Guard’s fallen was Capt. Nicholas Thomas from Utah’s 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment. The “Air Pirates” Apache helicopter pilot died in a civilian airplane crash last July.
“It was an honor and privilege to be present as the names of the fallen were read in the House and Senate--emotions were on the surface of all those present,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Badell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment. “It was especially impactful to see the respect given to the surviving families and friends by the governor, lieutenant governor, and adjutant general as we all paid homage to our heroes.”
Burton reflected on a memory when he was a 13-year-old boy. He witnessed two men in Army uniforms who came to his neighborhood to tell a neighbor that their son wasn’t coming home from Vietnam. He, and his entire neighborhood, were forever changed by that event.
“You are never going to stop missing that person you lost,” said Burton. “But focus on the good. Focus on the happy feelings that united you as a family.”
The names of the fallen were read a third time by Gov. Herbert in the Gold Room as the audience of civilians and uniformed military from all branches listened intently as the leadership of Utah attempted to provide solace.
“America is a wonderful country. I think that too many Americans today take our freedoms, liberties, and opportunities for granted. We sometimes forget the sacrifice of those who defend our constitution, our way of life, in far-away places,” said Herbert as he culminated his comments to the families. “They, for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, who have represented Utah and this country so well, we pay them tribute. God bless you and your memory of your lost fallen Soldier.
"May God bless us all that we may never forget what we need to do to ensure we are a strong nation, with freedom and liberty abound, and individual responsibilities of courage. For those who have taken on that responsibility, let us never forget.”
Story and photos by Lt. Col. Steven Fairbourn
WEST JORDAN, Utah — The Jake Garn Readiness Center, in West Jordan, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 15, officially opening its doors after an 18-month remodeling project.
At a cost of more than $4 million, the extensive renovation of the 25-year-old facility includes solar panels, upgraded LED lighting, parking-lot extension, energy efficient HVAC system, atrium with gazebos, medical clinic with four exam rooms and a blood-draw room.
The updated readiness center is home to the 97th Aviation Troop Command, 1-211th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion, and the 23rd Army Band. Upgrades to the center will make it easier for these units to achieve unit readiness for deployments and state-support missions.
“As 97th Aviation Troop commander, I’m responsible for the training of 845 aviation Soldiers to get them ready for war and for support missions here in the state of Utah,” said Lt. Col. Ricky Smith. “Updating the armory is key to that piece and without that, it makes it very hard to train Soldiers.”
The armory’s namesake, Sen. Jake Garn, retired brigadier general, was present for the ceremony. Garn served in the 151st Air Refueling Group as a KC-135 pilot. He retired from the Utah Air National Guard and went on to serve as a Senator. In November 1984, Sen. Garn was invited by NASA to fly as a payload specialist on flight 51-D of the space shuttle Discovery. During the seven-day mission, he performed various medical tests. Discovery Flight 51-D landed at Cape Canaveral on April 19, 1985 after orbiting the earth 109 times. Garn has graciously loaned his astronaut flight suit, along with other memorabilia, that will be displayed in the entry of the readiness center.
"General Garn, we are honored to name this building after you, and more importantly recognize your contributions to the United States of America and Utah,” said Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard. “Thanks for all that you have done. Whenever we come into this building we will think of you and strive to never disappoint you and to perform at the level that you would expect.”
Story and photo by Sgt. James Dansie
SALT LAKE CITY — Four Airmen from the Utah Air National Guard’s public health and environmental sections, had the opportunity to train with the Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement District, a community partner organization, on Feb. 13 at its North Salt Lake facility.
The training focused on different methods used to study and control the mosquito population in the Salt Lake City area including the Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base.
In addition to being a nuisance to those working and exercising outdoors on base, mosquitoes can also carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans and pose a health risk.
“We presented information to [the Guardsmen] about how we conduct mosquito control in the Salt Lake area and what threats they may present to people, and what we’ve done in the past to help the National Guard with controlling the mosquitoes in their area as well,” said Dr. Greg White, assistant director of the Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement District.
Following the classroom training about the different types of mosquitoes found in the area, as well as potential diseases they may spread, the Airmen toured the facilities and got a first-hand look at the agency’s mosquito-control methods.
“As public health, we are looking out for the best interest of our members,” said Airman 1st Class Nicole Ligeza, a public-health technician with the 151st Medical Group.
Ligeza added that this training was very valuable to her because it will help her better serve the individuals of the Utah Air Guard.
“The more knowledge I can use to help other people is just a cool experience for me,” said Ligeza. “We can take away a lot of information and a lot of processes that they use and apply them in the Air Force.”
Because the Air National Guard Base occupies a large area within Salt Lake City, it is important for the Mosquito Abatement District to maintain a good working relationship and open lines of communication said White.
“[The Utah ANG] has a large area that could develop mosquitoes that could infect or bother people in Salt Lake City and our mosquitoes could also bother them,” said White. “We want to know what each other is doing so we can be aware of any mosquito problems.”
As temperatures increase, individuals from the Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement District will work with UTANG personnel to conduct mosquito control measures at the Air Guard base each month.
“We want to make sure that people are being well informed about any kind of diseases or any kind of preventative measures we can do to keep them safe and healthy, and that’s our primary goal,” said Ligeza.
Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Annie Edwards
SALT LAKE CITY — Five Utah Guard Soldiers said goodbyes to their families as they prepared to deploy to the Horn of Africa Jan. 2, 2018. The deploying Soldiers will support air transportation operations throughout the area of responsibility.
“We will be flying missions in Djibouti and surrounding countries,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Willard Gummersall of Charlie Company, Detachment 4. “Our missions will mainly include transportation of VIPs and some cargo. We are taking five Soldiers from Utah and joining up with four Soldiers from Puerto Rico.”
Gummersall will serve as the company commander during the nine-month deployment. This deployment is a little different than other units because of how small Charlie Company, Detachment 4 is. Five Soldiers will leave as a group and an additional Soldier will meet up with them in a few months.
“One of the main challenges is unity of the unit, people being able to get along,” he said. “When you go on these flights they’re four-plus hours and you need to be able to communicate effectively and get along with the unit members. If there’s a personality that doesn’t mix, it makes it very difficult to complete the mission,” said Gummersall.
Luckily all of Soldiers in the unit work well with each other and view each other more as a family than as a unit.
“I think it’ll be a good time,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Myles Gilbert. “We’re all pretty close and we get to know each other a lot better than being in a big group of people. We’re going to be relying on each other a lot since there are only five of us going, so it’ll be like a small little family I’m sure.”
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been on one or four deployments; each one has its own set of challenges.
“Each deployment has its own unique aspects as far as things that we deal with as a family,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joshua Payne.
Payne is a seasoned Soldier with three deployments under his belt. This deployment will be a little different for him because his wife is pregnant and because of the short length of the deployment. Because of the length of the deployment, there won’t be mid-deployment leave, so he will likely miss the birth of their fourth child.
“It doesn’t get easier no matter how many times you do it,” said Payne. “Leaving the family is always hard to do, but it’s something that we’ve signed up for and my wife has been with me for all four of my deployments, and we just know that this is part of the job.”
The Utah National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, spoke at the ceremony and gave the deploying Soldiers a challenge.
“Even though your numbers are few, the mission is important. Once you leave here you have to get your game-faces on and play ball and play hard for the nine months you’re gone,” said Burton.
All five of the Soldiers of Charlie Company, Detachment 4 plan on working hard to represent Utah as one of the best National Guard units in the country, with some of the best servicemen and women.
Story by Sgt. James Dansie
Photos by Sgt. James Dansie and Ileen Kennedy
DRAPER, Utah — While most families rejoiced together during the holidays, approximately 15 Utah Guard families said goodbye to their loved ones at a departure ceremony Dec. 28, at the Utah Guard headquarters.
| These Soldiers from Utah Guard’s 142nd Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion are set to deploy to Afghanistan with the mission to process and analyze country-wide information collected to enable U.S. forces to gain a better understanding of the battlefield and fight enemy insurgents.|
"We are flexible and we can adapt. That's what military intelligence does is shape the battlefield," said 2nd Lt. Yuliya Helfer, the officer in charge of the deploying group. "That's what our job is; we want to go to see the impact we can haveo. That's why we signed up. That's why we join the Army."
Family, friends and fellow Guardsmen gathered at the Draper headquarters building to hear a few words from Guard leadership before their planned, 12-month deployment in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel. “Anyone who wears that 300th MI patch knows loneliness; they know what it's like to deploy to faraway lands and be divided as a team and have to work independently,” said Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard.
Burton charged the leaders of the unit to take care of each other during the deployment.
“This deployment is your superbowl. You're going out there in harm's way. You've got to focus on what it is you stand for and what it is you believe in. We know that you are going to go out and do great things. We will be praying for you every day while your gone.”
However, while trained and ready, the pain of separation from loved ones, especially during the holidays, is a reality for these service members.
"I couldn't be prouder of her," said Alex Helfer, husband of 2nd Lt. Yuliya Helfer. "We are so grateful to the National Guard for being there for the families. The boys are going to miss their mom, and I will miss her tremendously. But we know what she is doing is the right thing and providing us with the freedoms so that these kids can continue living in this great nation and being secure and safe here at home."
The atmosphere was a combination of pride and sorrow with those in attendance. Families showed pride in their citizen-Soldiers who were about to depart in defense of our nation, but they were also saddened as they held their loved one close prior to their long absence.
"I have a son that's graduating from high school this year and moving to college and I'm going to miss his graduation as well as moving him into his first apartment, so that's going to be difficult," said Staff Sgt. Kristilyn Webb. "But the mission is important and I feel a real sense of obligation, duty and pride to be able to do this. The sacrifices we make as a family bring us together and we are stronger."
Kaden Peterson, the 18-year-old son of Staff Sgt. Kristilyn Web, has grown up with both his mother and step father serving in the same unit, his grandfather serving in the 19th Special Forces for 34 years, his great-grandfather served for 37 years and his great-great grandfather served in the Army while his aunt served in the Marine Corps.
"You get used to the routine and the jargon and the language," said Peterson. "I'm going to miss her a lot but I know that she is going to be making a big difference. She will be safe there and she will be doing good work."
As the men and women of the 142nd wrapped up the departure ceremony, there was no doubt that they will succeed and make their families and the Utah Guard proud.
"If there is anybody that is going to be up to the task it would be her," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ron Webb as he hugged his daughter Staff Sgt. Kristilyn Webb.
Deploying Soldiers will travel to Fort Hood, Texas, and then Fort Bragg, N. C., for several weeks of deployment-specific training before heading overseas.
"For the last two months we have been training together, preparing for the mobilization, and the sense of commorodary that we've built with one another is just really amazing," said Webb. "We are friends with one another, we support one another and we are banking on this helping us keeping our morale really high while we are downrange."
The Utah National Guard family knows that the 142nd MI Soldiers will be successful on their deployment and looks forward to the day we can welcome them home after a job well done.
“I don't feel scared," said Webb. "We have been prepared for this. I have been in the service for over seven years. And everything we do brings us to this point.
Although we may be faced with danger from time to time, we are prepared for it. We know how to react to it. We've been trained for it, so we are ready to go.”
Story and photos by Ileen Kennedy
SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump visited Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base on Dec. 4, accompanied by Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee during a brief trip to Utah where he signed two Presidential Proclamations.
After arriving on Air Force One, Trump greeted Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, as well as Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, and Col. Ryan Ogan, commander of the 151st Air Refueling Wing.
Before heading to the State Capitol by motorcade, Trump approached a small crowd gathered near the flight line to shake hands and wave to individuals prior to departing the base. Ogan said that although the base had relatively short notice about the presidential visit, personnel worked with White House and Secret Service officials to ensure security requirements were met and any concerns were addressed.
Ogan said he received positive feedback from White House personnel about the visit and thanked everyone on base for their hard work and dedication in making the event so successful.
Master Sgt. Michael Buell, Operations Superintendent for the 151st Security Forces Squadron, worked closely with Secret Service personnel and Salt Lake Airport police to coordinate security on base during the visit.
To meet the increased security requirements for the presidential visit, the 151st Security Force Squadron asked for volunteers to cover extra shifts. Buell said they received an overwhelming response to the request and had more than enough personnel willing to put in additional time.
“We have a great traditional and full-time force here and they are always willing to help,” said Buell. “To be involved in something like this is very important to our Airmen.”
The presidential helicopter, Marine One, and the motorcade vehicles arrived at the base a few days prior to the visit. Airmen and their families had the opportunity to view both the helicopter and the vehicles the day before the president’s arrival.
Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Annie Edwards