FRANKFORT, Ky. – Brigade training officers in the Kentucky National Guard have been very influential in the ways Soldiers get equipped to fight and accomplish their missions.
As the Kentucky Guard celebrates Women’s History Month and continue recognizing the contributions of our female Soldiers across the commonwealth, our female brigade training officers are showing what strong leadership looks like.
It is critical that brigade training officers plan, resource and coordinate for challenging, relevant and effective training that meets the commander’s intent. It is important that they have appropriate training and exercises so that Soldiers not only get to train in their occupational specialty but feel valued in the National Guard organization. They exist to ensure that the Soldiers are taken care of.
“I am constantly in awe of the Soldiers I serve with and their ability to maintain two very full careers in both the military and civilian world,” said Maj. Jennifer S. Watson, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade training officer.
Serving in their civilian capacity as well as doing their job as military training officers has its challenges but these three have overcome obstacles every time.
“The Kentucky Army Guard has afforded me so many unique and challenging opportunities, from company command of the 2123rd Transportation Company, with rotations to the National Training Center and JRTC, to being the FIRO (Force Integration Readiness Officer), Mobilization Planner, numerous battalion and brigade positions, and now most recently, the 149th MEB brigade training officer,” said Watson.
Watson has been in the National Guard for almost eight years with five years of prior service in the active duty Army. She joined the military as a recipient of a ROTC scholarship but has stayed in the military for the camaraderie, teamwork, and her Guard family.
“I was introduced to the Guard by my daughter’s principal at the time, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Ron Ballard, and I was excited about the idea of directly serving my community through the military,” said Watson.
Watson believes the National Guard is family to many who serve in its ranks, some following in the footsteps of their own family members who also have served.
“My family has a long lineage of service in the military, most recently being my grandfather in the Army Air Corps in WWII, my father in the Navy in Vietnam and my brother serving overseas with both the Marines and Army,” said Maj. Shannon Maloney, brigade training officer with the 138th Field Artillery. “I decided to serve partly as a way to pay for college but also because service to the country is an important part of my lineage and something I feel strongly about; I feel that every citizen should serve their country in some capacity.”
Maloney has been in the Kentucky Guard for 10 years now. She moved to Kentucky in 2010 from Washington where she went to Gonzaga University and was born and raised in Casper, Wy.
Serving the country is a selfless act that these Soldiers embody and they lead by example. This is important as they face the many challenges in their dual National Guard missions serving the country and the commonwealth.
“I think the biggest challenge for our organization currently are competing requirements,” said Capt. Jessica Miller, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade training officer. “We have several different missions, in the 63rd TAB alone we have our federal mission where our units must train to achieve mission essential task proficiency to prepare for overseas deployments. Then we have our state-side mission where we support the Commonwealth of Kentucky during disaster relief such as the forest fires in Eastern Kentucky in November of 2016 or the Ice Storm of 2009.”
Miller just passed her 20-year mark in the military; she joined as a junior in high school at 17.
“I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to give back to my community. I wanted a challenge physically, mentally, and emotionally,” said Miller. “I wanted to honor my grandfather who served as a Marine during WWII.”
In addition to providing aid during the recent corona virus pandemic, the importance is greater then ever that the Soldiers are prepared to fight whatever mission is put before them.
“The current uncertainty in the national and international arena and the possibility of facing a near-peer threat requires our force to be highly trained and flexible,” said Maloney. “We continue to ask more and more of our Soldiers and leaders inside the organization at the same time that civilian organizations are also asking more of their employees. We as full time leaders inside the Kentucky Guard need to be willing to go above and beyond for our traditional Soldiers by ensuring that their time is valued, training is worth while and challenging, and their benefits are in place.”
Handling the dual nature of dealing with civilian and military struggles is something that the Guard as a whole deals with on a daily basis.
“What we do well is the balancing act of creating training that can accomplish multiple tasks that support more than one mission or requirement. We only have a limited amount of time with our Soldiers, so how we as leaders choose to train within that limited time is what matters the most and will have the biggest impact to our organization and the individual Soldier,” added Miller.
Another challenge that these officers face, is keeping the highly trained Soldiers in the Guard.
“The recruiting pool continues to get smaller so retaining the Soldiers we have is of utmost importance,” said Maloney. “I believe that the 138th works hard to make our Soldiers believe they are valued, train in their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) and ensure their time and efforts are rewarded. Our training efforts are focused on the mission at hand and we challenge their leaders to do better everyday.”
With their only being four brigade training officers in the Kentucky Army National Guard, the female Soldiers make up 75 percent of that training force.
“The leadership of this organization holds training in the highest regard,” said Lt. Col. Robert Andersen, Kentucky National Guard’s state training officer. “Majors Maloney, Watson, and Capt. Miller were the obvious choice for their positions; they are steadfast professionals and well-regarded team players.