CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah — As heavy snow fell on Camp Williams, Soldiers and Airmen lumbered across the finish line of the ruck march, soaked in both sweat and melted snow. Though tired and wet, they were happy, having completed their two-day quest to earn the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, or GAFPB, Jan. 24-25.
The event, hosted by the Utah Guard's 300th Military Intelligence Brigade, drew Soldiers and Airmen from all Utah Guard's major commands, as well as Reserve Soldiers from nearby units. German Army Sgt. Maj. Mattias Wendorff, currently stationed at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., as the U.S. Intelligence Center of Excellence German liaison sergeant major, oversaw the event.
"I'm happy to be here to support you guys," Wendorff said, adding that he was delighted to assist Utah service members in earning the GAFPB given that it's "one of the badges which is allowed for you guys to wear on your uniform."
To earn the GAFPB, participants have to complete tasks in two main categories: Military Training and the Basic Fitness Test. The military-training portion consists of five events: 100-meter in-uniform swim; first-aid test; reaction to nuclear, biological, chemical attack; pistol qualification and timed road march. The BFT is made up of three events: a shuttle sprint, flexed-arm hang, and a 1000-meter run. Based on how well they do in each event, participants earn a gold, silver or bronze badge.
"We've got three different badges or colors—bronze, silver and gold—and to achieve the gold one, you have to be an all-around Soldier," Wendorff said, "not specifically a runner or a shooter, but an all-around Soldier. And at the end of the day, it's difficult to get the gold badge," he said.
At the award ceremony following the ruck march, Wendorff pinned 27 gold, 29 silver, and 8 bronze medals onto the collars of Utah Soldiers and Airmen. Out of the 77 participants who started the event, 64 completed all required events and walked away with badges.
"I thought the swimming would be easy because I swim quite often, and that event really kicked my trash," said Staff Sgt. James Bybee, an intelligence sergeant with 19th Special Forces Group, who earned a gold badge. "I did fairly well, but still, swimming with your clothes on is a drag."
Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Cook, 151st Logistics Readiness Squadron, 151st Air Refueling Wing, who earned the gold GAFPB, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to compete and represent the Air Force and the Utah Air Guard.
"Being able to compete and represent the United States Air Force and the Air National Guard here in Utah is something that hasn't been done in the past," said Cook, who was the noncommissioned officer of the year for the Utah Air National Guard in 2016. "It's something that we're really excited to be able to be invited to and to compete in and showcase the strengths we have as Airmen," he said. "It's something you can take with you throughout your career."
Sgt. Christy Layne, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, said she was honored to be able to compete for a GAFPB for both personal and professional reasons.
"It helps me in my military career because I'm a new NCO, and it gives me the chance to develop my leadership qualities and physical attributes so I can motivate and lead other Soldiers as well," said Lane, who earned the silver badge. "I'm honored to be able to be here and to compete, and I look forward to doing it again so I can get gold in all events."
Wendorff expressed pleasure in being able to help Utah Soldiers and Airmen earn the GAFPB.
"What I love, at the end of the day, are the smiles of all these guys. They all appreciate the chance to get this badge," said Wendorff. "I heard some stories about how they have been trying to get this badge for the last six or seven years and now, finally, they did it. It's a pleasure to be here to support you guys."
For those competitors who didn't earn the badge they hoped for, and for Soldiers and Airmen who would like an opportunity to earn the GAFPB, the Utah Guard is likely to host future opportunities to earn the badge. According to 1st Lt. Matthew McPhee, officer in charge of this year's event, they hope to make the event a yearly occurrence.
DRAPER, Utah – Command Sgt. Maj. Eric W. Anderson was officially named the Utah National Guard senior enlisted leader during a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Guard’s Draper headquarters, April 13.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael M. Miller passed responsibility as the senior enlisted leader of the Utah Guard to Anderson during a ceremony symbolizing the passing of responsibility from one command sergeant major to another.
Anderson has served in various leadership positions in the Utah Guard, most recently as the command sergeant major of the Land Component Command. Prior to his time at LCC he served as the command sergeant major of the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, the 640th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) and the UTNG Operations and Training Directorate, otherwise known as the G-3.
“I want you to know that I love the Utah National Guard, I love the state of Utah, and I love the United States of America,” he said. “I believe in what we stand for, and I am ready to do what needs to be done to defend and protect this way of life.”
Anderson took a moment during his comments to address directly the UTNG noncommissioned officer corps regarding the NCO’s role of being a leader of Soldiers.
“It’s our sacred duty and responsibility to provide our Soldiers and Airmen with the absolute best training available. I expect the NCO corps to stand up to that task. Major General Burton has made his combat readiness priorities very clear to us; I am here to help him achieve those goals and it will take all of us working together to make this happen.”
Miller, the 9th UTNG senior enlisted leader, has served in the position since 2012. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve in all the capacities with which he’s been entrusted over the course of a career spanning 30 years.
“It has been a distinct honor and privilege to belong to the profession of arms the last 30 years,” said Miller. “I have also been fortunate to serve as the senior enlisted leader the last five years, which allowed me to be a part of a phenomenal team of enlisted warriors from both the Utah Air and Army National Guard.”
During his remarks, Miller recognized the sacrifice of his wife, Heidi, and their children.
“Any success I’ve enjoyed has been due to the commitment, sacrifices and support of my family. Heidi, you are my rock…and my giant.”
Prior to assuming the role of senior enlisted leader, Miller served as the state Operations and Training Directorate sergeant major and the command sergeant major of 97th Troop Command and the Homeland Response Force. He will officially retire from the Utah Guard later this year.
“What our Warriors, families, and employers sacrifice on a daily basis is amazing and I treasure and am humbled by their commitment, competence, and character,” said Miller. “The Utah National Guard is a first-class organization because of its members who serve in the defense of our state and nation. As I embark on a new mission, at home with my family, I will never forget the awesome opportunity I had to serve on the Utah team.”
CASPER, Wyoming — Utah National Guard biathletes braved frigid temperatures, high altitude, and a course that was often described by participants as “brutal,” to bring home medals in every event at the Chief, National Guard Bureau Western Region Biathlon Championships, held in Casper, Wyo., Jan. 9-15, 2017.
Often confused with triathlon (swim, bike, run), biathlon is an Olympic sport that combines Nordic ski racing with precision marksmanship. Biathletes are required to use freestyle, skate-ski techniques to navigate courses that typically require long, uphill climbs followed by fast, technical descents, all while carrying a rifle on their backs. Then, depending on the race format, they must hit very small targets from either a prone or standing position with penalty laps required for each miss. Due to the challenges inherent in the sport, many athletes consider Nordic ski racing and biathlon as two of the most difficult sports in the world.
The Utah National Guard maintains a robust and very active biathlon program led by three-time Olympian and coach, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Teela. Teela has created a diverse and aggressive training program that often includes team workouts one to two times a week at locations ranging from Camp Williams to the Soldier Hollow Olympic venue. This increased focus on training and development attracted talented Soldier-athletes from units both inside and outside of Utah and prepared the Utah team particularly well for the severe challenges faced in Casper.
Taking advantage of a full year of focused training, the Utah Women’s Biathlon Team produced best-ever results in the Western Regional races, dominating the podium in both the Sprint and Pursuit Races. Capt. Barbara Blanke, Utah Medical Command, won gold in both races followed closely by first-year biathlete, Sgt. Samantha Miller, also of the Utah Medical Command. Miller, in her first National-Guard-sponsored event, won silver medals in both races with solid shooting and aggressive hill climbing. Utah Air Guard’s ‘All-Guard’ biathlete, Staff Sgt. Trish Rich from the 191st Air Refueling Squadron, also turned in strong performances in both races to capture bronze medals for Utah. Predictably, Blanke, Miller, and Rich also won the overall awards for their combined-medal performances in the individual races.
In the Men’s Pursuit race, Teela stepped away from the coach’s box for one race to join the fray, and posted Utah’s best performance in the men’s field. Teela won the silver medal among a particularly difficult Western Regional field; a field that included Army Spc. Travis Cooper, who was on his way to Europe to join the International Biathlon Union (a European professional Biathlon organization) race series, and Capt. Robert Killian, best known for winning the Army Best Ranger Competition last year.
“I jumped into this race to motivate and push [Spc.] Cooper,” remarked Teela, commenting on his participation in the race. “My only disappointment is that there are not more young athletes in the National Guard biathlon program that are racing faster; we need to find a way to fix that.” Teela was referring to the National Guard biathlon program’s stated mission to identify and prepare talented athletes to represent the United States in international and Olympic competition.
In the 10-kilometer Sprint race, Maj. Dan Morken, Joint Force Headquarters, posted the best shooting of any athlete at the competition and earned a bronze medal in the process. Morken squared off against Killian, a seasoned competitor he has faced several times in the past. Morken used outstanding marksmanship and skilled course management to finish ahead of Killian, but it was a battle.
“Killian is a ferocious competitor, and [although] he was able to ski faster up some of the steeper hills on the course, I skied fewer penalty loops on the range,” said Morken, commenting about his race strategy. “It was a close race; I lost count of how many times we traded the lead and, by the end, we were only separated by seconds.”
Utah had other notable performances during the week of competition. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Kreitzer, 211th Aviation Regiment and Sgt. Maj. Shawn Blanke, 640th Regiment both had top-ten finishes in the men’s races. Additionally, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Evan Ahlborn and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nicholai Wedekind, both from the 211th Aviation, and Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Robison, Utah Training Center, consistently placed in the top twenty-five in a very large field.
In March, the Utah Biathlon Team will travel to Jericho, Vt., to compete in the Chief, National Guard Bureau Biathlon National Championships. Utah will send very strong teams to Jericho with the goal of bringing home medals and team titles back to Utah.
TREMONTON, Utah — For two chilly days in February, more than 20 Utah National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Homeland Response Force, 97th Troop Command and the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade, filled sand bags at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds in Tremonton, Feb. 22-23, in an effort to assist residents battling flood waters in northern Utah.
At the request of the State of Utah Emergency Operations Center, the Soldiers traveled to Tremonton armed with shovels and a sand-bag machine to fill sand bags for use by county residents as needed.
“For this particular operation, we’ve been asked by state and county officials to come up here primarily for sandbagging assistance,” said Capt. Lance Curzon, officer in charge of the sand-bagging operation. “We’re filling sand bags right now at the fairgrounds, allowing people to come pick up sand bags as they need them.”
In two days, Utah Soldiers and Airmen filled nearly 3,000 sand bags even given the challenges that Soldiers often encounter during operations like this.
“We have about 12 personnel right now, but we do have a sand bag machine that we’ve been using off and on,” said Curzon on the first day of operations. “We’ve had some challenges with the wet sand, but we’re going to continue to try and use that and get as many sand bags filled as we possibly can for the community.”
Stan Summers, Box Elder County Commissioner chair, admitted that it’s been a long month for residents and community leaders in Box Elder County.
“This just didn’t start a couple days ago; we’ve had flooding problems out west for some time,” said Summers. “We’ve really been working on this since January. As a county in the last 10 days, we’ve filled over 30,000 sand bags with 700 tons of sand.”
Flooding has been a problem in northern Utah this year due to quickly-melting snow and excessive rain.
“I want to give my heartfelt thanks… to everyone here for the incredible work that they’ve done to keep people safe and make sure the damage is restricted to as little area as possible,” said Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox during a press conference in Tremonton. “We’re grateful for all of the help, the volunteers, the tens of thousands of man hours filling sand bags, people working around the clock, people volunteering. Everybody’s working together and we just want them to know that the state of Utah is behind them 100 percent. Our resources are here at their disposal. We had a National Guard unit up here filling sand bags and they’ll continue to help through that. We’re in very good hands here in Box Elder County.”
Many of the Utah Guard Soldiers assigned to fill sand bags expressed gratitude at the opportunity to help their fellow Utahns.
“The Utah National Guard is comprised of members from across the state,” said 2nd Lt. Scott Kramer, a member of the Homeland Response Force who served as liaison officer during the operation, “and we are honored to be here to be able to help our communities.”
“Operation Gunsmoke is a concept that we started a few years ago with the brigade commander desiring to bring all of the units together to create a large-scale, field artillery training event, which has never been done before,” said Maj. Jeremy Williams, operations officer, 65th FAB. “This was a very unique opportunity of this scale, one that I have not seen, nor will I likely see again in my career, where we were able to exercise our ability to command-and-control firing battalions.”
The 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery shipped its 12 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) via railcar from North Carolina and flew in its troops with commercial airliners. The 340th Brigade Support Battalion arrived via military airlift and fell in on equipment from Wyoming’s BSB. Utah’s 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery and 2nd Battalion, 222nd Field Artillery commercial-hauled its howitzers, while other Utah-based units convoyed their service members and equipment across the 464-mile journey to Guernsey.
In these years of challenged budgets, it was an astounding accomplishment for the brigade to coordinate for all of its units, from California to North Carolina, to participate in the multi-echelon, scenario-based exercise. The operation involved 10 units in either a participation or support role, including support from Utah National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters and Camp Guernsey itself.
“We’ve really never done anything of this size or magnitude, so it was essential to have a solid plan as we came out here and went live with all of these different units,” said Maj. Brett Anderson, headquarters commander, 65th FAB. “I am thrilled to have been a part of such a historic operation where we trained with 1,300 troops from six states in one location training together, learning together and doing something that none of us have ever done.”
Considering the multitude of moving pieces and increased communications complexity, Col. Todd Thursby, commander of the 65th FAB, determined his two priorities for the event to be communications and logistics. This set a high bar for the brigade’s recently activated 190th Network Support Company, who only received its Joint Network Node ( JNN) and corresponding Satellite Transportable Terminal (STT) systems months prior, and additionally had just completed a software upgrade for the critical communications equipment. The JNN and STT serve as the backbone of the brigade’s digital communications network, so going without was not an option.
The next hurdle in accomplishing the brigade commander’s communications priority was to fulfill shortfalls of the battalion-level Command Post Node (CPN) equipment. Only two of the required four CPNs needed had been fielded to the respective battalion headquarters, and all of the CPNs required software updates. While this may not seem like a big challenge to those outside of the military, this shortfall was a significant problem as these highly technical pieces of gear are very difficult to acquire. Planners, leaving no stone unturned, worked tirelessly to coordinate for two CPNs to augment Gunsmoke from Colorado and Wyoming.
Now, with the critical communications enablers finally in hand, Capt. Jeff George, commander of the 190th, just had to get them all to talk! No other National Guard brigade had achieved this feat in a field-training environment, but America’s Thunder doesn’t let failures of others limit its achievements. After much trouble-shooting, technical expertise, and late nights, the brigade headquarters and its four subordinate battalions established that which had never been done before by a National Guard unit during a stateside training event—all brigade elements squawking digital.
All modes of communications, digital, high-frequency, SINCGARS, and the logistician’s Very Small Aperture Satellite Terminal (VSAT) were online in a milestone achievement.
“Preparation was the key, getting here with all of the right equipment and having a plan are all essential,” said Anderson.
Col. Thursby’s next priority was logistics, and the 340th BSB from California came through in spades. The 340th had the challenge of integrating the forward-support companies of each battalion into a Forward Logistics Element which was to be located, as the name would suggest, forward of the main headquarters to facilitate logistics operations. The FSCs are typically controlled by their respective battalion, so this change in paradigm was resisted in the early stages. While unfamiliar, this command relationship of the FSCs to the BSB is doctrinally correct. Pressing through initial resistance, the 340th successfully coordinated and executed support for the event, driving more than 4,900 miles, delivering 38,000 gallons of water, 45,000 gallons of fuel, and preparing an astounding 39,000 delicious meals throughout Gunsmoke.
The 65th FAB took Gunsmoke one step further, stretching to acquire target acquisition radars and unmanned aerial systems to enhance the battle-focused training. While radar units have always been in the structure of the brigade, radar equipment demands for war efforts had kept the brigade without these critical sensors since the brigade’s inception in 2008. Again, planners hit the grindstone to source a Q37 Firefinder Radar and two Q-50 Lightweight Counterfire Radar Systems from Colorado and Idaho. These sensors provided invaluable hands-on training and visibility of live acquisitions during the annual training. Additionally, the 19th Special Forces (Airborne) Tactical Unmanned Aerial System Platoon flew Shadow UAS systems to enhance the training having conducted aerial reconnaissance, call for fire, and even fire-mission adjustments, utilizing the advanced camera systems onboard the UAS.
Another great addition to the massive-training event was the 144th Area Support Medical Company from Utah, which provided medical support and training, integrating into the 340th BSB as its operation’s medical element.
“For us, Operation Gunsmoke was great, “said Maj. Trish Brown, 144th ASMC commander. “We frequently conduct a lot of training on our own, but we don’t get to interact at a brigade level which is how our unit would actually function if we were to deploy. We were working with the brigade surgeon and battalion physician assistants and medics to integrate our medical operation to ensure that execution is seamless from the gun line, or point of injury, to the medical support area in the rear.”
External evaluations are an important element of any training; Col. Thursby would not let a collective-training event such as this go without feedback. Coordination was made so the brigade headquarters, the firing battalions, and even the BSB were provided evaluation teams. This detailed feedback provided unbiased, objective feedback to brigade leaders to build upon successes and appropriately address any shortcomings.
The ground shook in the small town of Guernsey from May 9-23, as 57-tracked and 432-wheeled vehicles of the 65th FAB executed Operation Gunsmoke, where 2,400 155mm howitzer rounds were fired, 42 HIMARS rockets were launched, more than 140,000 rounds of .50 caliber, 7.62mm, and 5.56mm were shot in total.
“In this exercise we had nearly 1,300 Soldiers executing their individual jobs as artillery-crew members, fire-directioncontrol personnel, administrative personnel, medics, logisticians, supply personnel, signal and communications and many more, and each one functioning at their individual level for the success of the mission,” said Williams. “This opportunity tests their training, their understanding and everything they learned at their military schools.”
More important than the impressive statistics accomplished during Gunsmoke was the safe, battle-focused, collective training that was conducted which improved unit readiness, forged life-long relationships with leaders and members alike, and provided a training milestone that all will reference for many years to come. America’s Thunder!
SALT LAKE CITY — Soldiers from the Utah Army National Guard’s 115th Engineer Facilities Detachment (EFD), returned home from a 12-month deployment to Afghanistan, Aug. 21.
The mission of the 115th EFD was to function as a training advisory group, transitioning operations and maintenance responsibilities to the Afghan National Army’s Directorate of Public Works.
The group of 13 Soldiers was met in the terminal with an enthusiastic reception by family, friends, and colleagues.
Lt. Col. Michael Turley, Brigade AO for 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and Battalion Commander for the 1457th Engineers, was amongst the crowd in attendance.
“The 115th EFD did an outstanding job in a very challenging environment,” said Turley. “As they went into
Story by Capt. Ryan SutherlandAfghanistan, their job was to help close down bases and FOBs, and either turn them over to the Afghani National Army, or to close them down altogether. You’ve got to give those people credit for functioning in that type of environment. I’m just glad that they’re home.”
There are a lot of moving parts involved in the drawdown in Afghanistan, a mission in which the 115th EFD played a key role.
“It’s such a broad experience, my unit was spread out across the entire country, so everyone’s got their own different story to tell,” said Capt. Patrick Carucci, commander of the 115th EFD.
“It’s an amazing experience to see how far the Afghans have come in the 13 years that we’ve been there, and to be a part of the closing down and basically letting them go on their own is an amazing experience.”
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah National Guard hosted its 53rd Annual Bronze Minuteman AwardsDinner at Salt Lake’s Little America Hotel June 11.
The Honorary Colonels Corps of Utah is sponsor of the event. The Corps is an organization that promotes goodwill and positive relations between the National Guard and local Utah communities. Members provide annual support for Utah Army and Air National Guard activities such as the Freedom Academy and Veterans Day concert.
At the event Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard; retired Brig. Gen. E.J. “Jake” Garn, Honorary Colonels Corps commander; and Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox presented Bronze Minuteman awards to Mrs. Nell Bright, Mr. Dennis Farnsworth Jr., retired Maj. Gen. John Hafen, Mr. Paul Hitzelberger, Dr. David Pershing, Honorary Col. L. Richard Raybould, Mr. Adam Sklute, and Rabbi Benny Zippel for their individual devoted service to and leadership among the citizens of Utah.
2014 Bronze Minuteman Award Recipients
Mrs. Nell Bright received her private pilot’s license in 1942. She joined the Women’s Air Force Service Pilot Program, earned her wings, and helped train male pilots for combat. She also was a successful stockbroker and financial advisor.
Mr. Dennis Farnsworth served for 35 years in the Army’s Active and Reserve components as a Chinese linguist and intelligence officer. He is also an educator, having taught at Utah Valley University for 40 years.
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) John Hafen served nearly 40 years in uniform with the U.S. Air Force and Utah Air National Guard. He was qualified to fly 10 different aircraft and he served honorably in Vietnam and as a senior advisor to the Air Force.
Mr. Paul Hitzelberger is the owner of dozens of Del Taco restaurants in Utah. A tremendous supporter of the Utah military community, he and his company have given very generously to the Utah Guard Charitable Trust.
Dr. David Pershing is President of the University of Utah, having taught on the faculty since 1977. He has made great strides in improving the undergraduate experience on campus and has opened a satellite campus in Korea.
Hon. Col. Richard Raybould served 21 years as an Army officer, seeing intense combat in Korea. He was Chief of Programming at the Pentagon and in civilian life was Director of Planning and Computing for the State of Utah.
Mr. Adam Sklute is a distinguished performer, choreographer, and director for Ballet West. He teaches and mentors there, at local universities, and continues to encourage and develop young dancers and choreographers.
Rabbi Benny Zippel leads Chabad Lubavitch, an orthodox synagogue in Salt Lake City. Born in Italy, he is fluent in seven languages. He started the H.E.A.R.T outreach program, a resource to help troubled Jewish teens in Utah.