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Pennsylvania National Guard achieved excellence in 2019

Photo By Staff Sgt. Zane Craig | 1st Lt. Ronald Wetherson, executive officer and acting commander of A Company, 103rd Engineer Battalion, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, calls for infantry Soldiers to funnel through the breach just cleared by combat engineers using a Bangalore June 29 in North Macedonia as part of Decisive Strike 19.
January 23, 2020

This report originally published at dvidshub.net (DVIDS) and is reprinted in accordance with DVIDS guidelines and copyright guidance.

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – Throughout 2019, the Pennsylvania National Guard strengthened its warfighting skills, responded to natural disasters in our homeland, and deepened partnerships with Commonwealth agencies, communities and with international allies.

In 2019, 1,545 Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers and airmen deployed in readiness and training missions to locations throughout the world. Another 802 Pa. Guard members deployed in support of ongoing contingency and force protection operations in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, Poland, Germany and Kosovo.

The PNG also supported domestic operations, deploying more than 650 personnel in Pennsylvania and nationally to assist local authorities during natural disasters, saving lives and protecting property. During the 2019 primary and general elections, the PNG supported local and state agencies with protection and monitoring of cyber networks.

Fort Indiantown Gap continued to play a major role supporting National Guard activities as the PNG’s headquarters. The busiest National Guard training center in the nation for the fourth straight year, FTIG played host to more than 145,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard service members in 2019. Included in that training were two Army Division Warfighters exercises as well as multiple brigade level Command Post Exercises preparing forces for operations in peace, crisis and conflict.

While FTIG is well known for its training activities, the installation continues to be good stewards of the environment through energy conservation, including finalizing the installation of a 19-acre solar panel farm that generates approximately 5,700 megawatt hours of solar energy annually, the equivalent of powering nearly 600 homes. Conservation efforts also resulted in earning the 2019 State Conservation Commission Award for facilitating the training of county conservation district employees.

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Domestic Operations

Compared to 2018, there were far fewer severe weather events requiring a response from the PNG, allowing us to focus on training and preparation for future responses. However, as part of our core function to protect the Homeland, approximately 650 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard participated in a variety of domestic operations, including responding to winter storms and providing election security measures for the 2019 General Election.

Pennsylvania National Guard members throughout the commonwealth were placed on state active duty orders in response to Winter Storm Harper beginning Jan. 19.

“This response illustrates the dynamic dual-status role of the Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general. “At the direction of the governor, we are able to provide assistance to our communities during critical weather incidents like this one.”

Approximately 30 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard joined other state agencies at three locations Nov. 5 to ensure the security of the commonwealth’s general election. A team at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) focused on network monitoring, while teams at Fort Indiantown Gap and Horsham Air Guard Station focused on social media reporting.

As part of the Pennsylvania Inter-Agency Election Preparedness and Security Workgroup, several Pennsylvania National Guard members provided various election security measures, including the monitoring of polling systems for issues before and during polling, for the general elections. They worked alongside partners such as the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and PA Department of State.

Pennsylvania National Guard members are always on duty at the Pennsylvania National Guard’s joint emergency operations center. The center maintains continuous communications with the National Guard Bureau and PEMA in order to anticipate future requirements that could be assigned to Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers and Airmen.

Warfight

As part of its federal mission, approximately 800 Pennsylvania National Guard personnel deployed throughout the world in 2019 in support of multiple operations, including Operation Spartan Shield, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and missions in support of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Air Force Special Operations Command and NATO.

Approximately 160 Soldiers assigned to the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 28th Military Police Company returned from deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield July 10, 2019. The company, which deployed in early October 2018, is part of the 165th Military Police Battalion, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 28th Infantry Division.

The 28th Military Police Company provided security and customs support in nearly a dozen locations in Southwest Asia. Operating in one of the most dynamic regions of the world, their presence enhanced security cooperation and provided vital reassurance to our partners and allies in the region.

Pennsylvania National Guard members with Bravo Company and Delta Company, 2nd General Support Battalion, 104th Aviation Regiment, 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, participated in a deployment ceremony Sept. 5 as they prepare for mobilization in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Family, friends, fellow Soldiers and distinguished guests, including Governor Tom Wolf and other elected officials, gathered in the 28th ECAB headquarters here to say goodbye and wish the 53 deploying Soldiers well.

“I recognize that balancing the demands of school and work while keeping yourself ready to deploy is not an easy thing, but you do it with courage, you do it with courage and determination,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

Approximately 30 Soldiers from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 213th Personnel Company, 728th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, 213th Regional Support Group were honored in a deployment ceremony Dec. 7 at Fort Indiantown Gap.

The unit will divide into three detachments in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Freedom Sentinel, and Inherent Resolve.

Training

The Pennsylvania National Guard is constantly training to be always ready, always there in support of our Warfight abroad, domestic operations at home, and our partnerships with allies and government agencies at all levels.

Thirteen enlisted Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers competed in the 2019 state-level Best Warrior Competition here March 25-28. The Soldiers competed in ten events designed to test the limits of their physical and mental endurance and assess the “Whole Soldier Concept.”

The events were: a written exam, the Army Physical Fitness Test, M4 carbine zero and qualification, M9 pistol qualification, obstacle course, eight mile road march, a night/day land navigation challenge, a mystery event, a warrior tasks evaluation, the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) and the current Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and finally, a leadership/appearance board.

Members of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard conducted initial Honor Guard training at Fort Indiantown Gap Feb. 26 as part of a five day training session. All trainees participated on a volunteer basis. Initial Honor Guard training introduces Soldiers to the fundamentals of conducting an Honor Guard detail. Training consists of instruction for two Soldier details and covers topics including the team flag folding sequence, bugle sequence, casket sequence, urn sequence and more.

More than 100 Pennsylvania Army National Guard medical personnel, including Army Medical Department (AMEDD) officers and medical readiness noncommissioned officers, attended the third annual medical training symposium at Fort Indiantown Gap March 29-31. The event consisted of many breakout sessions covering a wide variety of topics pertaining to the medical field, everything from nursing to behavioral health.

The Pennsylvania Army National Guard G-6 (signal staff) sent 11 signal leaders, representing each brigade in the 28th Infantry Division, the division headquarters, the Mission Training Complex (MTC) and the Joint Force Headquarters G-6 to the 10th annual Mission Command Workshop May 5-10 at the Professional Education Center (PEC) on Camp Robinson, Arkansas. AaaDS is a relatively new transport system that serves two functions. It allows units to connect their tactical systems (ex: battalions to brigade) over the SIPRnet in their home armory and it facilitates easier updating and patching of their tactical systems.

Approximately thirty Soldiers, Airmen and civilian employees with the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Joint Operations Center (JOC) conducted a Continuity of Operations (COOP) exercise June 3-5 at Fort Indiantown Gap and at a 193rd Special Operations Wing facility. A COOP exercise involves moving to an alternate location while continuing to perform a unit’s mission-essential tasks.

“The reason we practice COOP is so the Pennsylvania National Guard Joint Task Force (JTFPA) is able to exercise command and control over Pennsylvania National Guard units if our Joint Operations Center is compromised,” said Maj. Paolo Sica, future operations planner with the Joint Operations Center, Pennsylvania National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.

Soldiers with the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, and other PNG units played a key role in Decisive Strike 19, a multinational exercise held in the Republic of North Macedonia during June and July 2019, featuring the U.S. working closely with six European partners.

Forty Soldiers and Airmen assigned to various units in the Pennsylvania National Guard participated in the Delaware National Guard’s Operation Highball, a domestic disaster preparedness drill in July. The Pennsylvania Guard members assisted with the coordinated response to the simulated event, a train wreck caused by a cyber-attack.

Pennsylvania National Guard members joined with partners in the Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (PA-HART) and other civilian first responders in a full-scale exercise at Fort Hunter Park and the Susquehanna River Aug. 15. The exercise, named Operation Hurricane, simulated the response to a hurricane with severe flooding affecting Central Pennsylvania.

PA-HART, a partnership among the Pennsylvania National Guard, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and certified civilian rescue technicians, is an aerial search and rescue team, able to assist citizens during disasters.

The Pennsylvania National Guard’s 3rd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team was evaluated by U.S. Army North on its ability to identify nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological contaminants, advise on response measures and assist with requests for support during notional training scenarios set at Clark Summit State Hospital and Steam Town National Historic Park the week of Oct. 25.

At Clark Summit State Hospital the notional scenario involved a biological threat. The team had to respond to an attack that used the cholera organism. At the Steam Town National Historic Park location, a suspicious box truck was notionally making individuals ill and was found to contain radiological contaminants. The team was expected to respond quickly and identity the causes and also to take precautions to not spread the contaminants.

More than twenty members of the Pennsylvania National Guard Joint Staff along with partners from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency attended training Nov. 15-17, with trainers from North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command. The course is designed to ensure comprehensive training and education for joint staff-members staff so that they may better respond to domestic disasters like floods and snow emergencies.

Strengthening Partnerships

While the Pa. Guard’s 26-year partnership continued to grow and mature, 2019 saw the PNG cyber program expand its work internally and with partners in state and local governments as well as educational institutions.

The Pennsylvania National Guard was proud to host the President of the Republic of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė and other Lithuanian senior officials during a presidential visit to Fort Indiantown Gap March 13.

Fort Indiantown Gap welcomed nearly 300 Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets ages 12 to 16 this week as part of the CAP’s annual summer Cadet Training Schools (CTS). The intensive weeklong program is a premier training program for the CAP, and is modeled after Air Force Basic Military Training, where new airman are introduced to the military and challenged both mentally and physically.

Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and various commonwealth agencies received college credit Aug. 9 for the Lean Six Sigma class offered by the Guard in a partnership with Penn State Schuylkill. Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a synergized managerial concept of Lean and Six Sigma. Lean traditionally focuses on the elimination of the eight kinds of waste, classified as: defects, over-production, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and extra-processing. Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in processes.

“The development of military leaders is a key part of our land-grant mission,” said Penn State Schuylkill Chancellor Patrick Jones, who is a retired Pennsylvania Air National Guard officer. “We are honored to partner with the National Guard to offer this program. Its graduates will be prepared to better lead our citizen-Airmen and Soldiers.”

Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assisted residents of U.S. Army Carlisle Barracks by supplying potable water Aug. 5 during the installation’s water ban. The Soldiers and Airmen sanitized, filled, and delivered several M149 water trailers to the post. The trailers have 400-gallon stainless steel tanks and are used to supply water to Soldiers in the field or while in conditions where running water is limited or unavailable. They are also known as ‘water buffaloes’.

“We’re always here to help our partners and vice versa,” said Brig. Gen. David Wood, director of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s joint staff. “They are our brothers and sisters in arms and we were happy to assist them-just like they support us.”

Members of Pennsylvania National Guard’s Cyber Defense Team met with Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar to discuss current mutual projects, including election security, in early August during a Pennsylvania State Department orientation of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s capabilities and assets which included a tour of Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

“This visit covered a variety of topics,” explained Maj. Christine Pierce, defensive cyber operations team chief. “We have been working with multiple Pennsylvania state agencies to provide a variety of services and we were excited to assist the Pennsylvania Department of State with the 2018 midterms as well as other cyber requirements.”

Approximately 30 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard joined other state agencies at three locations Nov. 5 to ensure the security of the commonwealth’s general election. A team at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) focused on network monitoring, while teams at Fort Indiantown Gap and Horsham Air Guard Station focused on social media reporting.

Soldiers with the Pennsylvania National Guard Cyber Branch and Recruiting and Retention Battalion engaged a group of 18 high school students in the second event in the new Wi-Fighter cyber challenge program Dec. 12 at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa. The students were divided into four teams to compete using their cyber skills to hack into a series of networks with the objective of launching a foam “missile” to win.

Working with state, local, non-profit and private sector partners, the cyber operations element developed the Wi-Fighter cyber challenge which can be taken anywhere in the state to get high school and college students interested in cyber security and the role the Pa. Guard plays in securing our elections and infrastructure.

In addition to the State Partnership program and the events listed above, the Pa. National Guard continues to cooperate with our state agency partners, local governments and organizations. In 2018 we participated in more than 200 community events, cementing our relationship to the people of Pennsylvania.

Achievements and Milestones

The Pennsylvania National Guard earned recognition for its many successes and achievements in 2019.

Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers are playing a major role in the development and testing of a new personnel and pay system that will transform the Army’s human resources and pay environment. The Pennsylvania Army National Guard was selected to be the beta test state for the Army’s new Integrated Personnel and Pay System Army (IPPS-A) in 2016, and has since been heavily involved with testing of the system. Field testing on the new system began Jan. 7 and ran through Feb. 13.

The Pennsylvania National Guard has introduced two new state awards that may now be awarded to Pennsylvania National Guard members and other qualifying individuals. The Pennsylvania Achievement Medal and the Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award join an array of 16 other Pennsylvania state-specific awards, bringing the new total to 18.

The Pennsylvania National Guard’s senior inspector general civilian won the Department of the Army Inspector General (DAIG) of the year competition for 2018. David Kauffman, who has been with the office since 2003 as an advisor to the uniformed command IG, was also awarded the new Pennsylvania Meritorious Service Medal April 15 by the adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli.

A team of Airmen assigned to the 171st Air Refueling Wing placed first in the two-day, six event Pennsylvania National Guard Adjutant General’s Combined Arms Match held at Fort Indiantown Gap May 31-June 3, with an Airmen from the team placing first in the individual shooter category.

The team members were: Chief Master Sgt. Edward Altmyer, Tech. Sgt. Shawn McCreary, Staff Sgt. Robert Lydic and Senior Airman Nicholas Yakovich. Lydic won first place in the individual shooting category. The competition is held annually by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s G3 Individual Training Branch to improve marksmanship skills and enhance camaraderie. Participants competed in events using rifles, pistols and shotguns.

Twelve Army National Guard Soldiers from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia competed in the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition at Camp Dawson, West Virginia May 16-19. Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein assigned to 1st Battalion, 166th Regiment, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, was declared the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year at the conclusion of the competition.

Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein advanced to the 2019 Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. and the Pentagon from Oct. 6 to Oct. 11. Friedlein competed against 10 other noncommissioned officers from the major commands for the title of the Army’s noncommissioned officer of the year.

“The state has been very supportive, there’s been a five to six week train-up,” said Friedlein, which includes; running, lifting, ruck marches, obstacle courses, land navigation, medical lanes, shooting, the Squad Advanced Marksmanship Trainer, and more.

The National Guard Bureau awarded the Pennsylvania National Guard its “Excellence in Diversity Award” for outstanding work in diversity and inclusion Sept. 24 at the Lavern E. Weber Professional Education Center (PEC), Camp Robinson, Ark.

Under the leadership of the Joint Diversity Executive Council, the Pa. National Guard rated first among the 54 state and territorial National Guards in our efforts and activities to highlight the importance of a diverse workforce. Some of the events recognized included; the annual Unity Day celebration, Women’s Leadership Luncheon, and the Octavius V. Catto Award.

The National Guard Bureau has awarded the Headquarters of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard (HQ PAANG) the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award (AFOEA) for performance in 2017 and 2018. Pennsylvania’s headquarters is one of only five units to be selected across the United States for the designation.

“The members of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard headquarters staff have made truly significant contributions to enhance both Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force operations, as well as serving their local communities,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Regan, Pa. Air National Guard commander.

At the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s Fall Leadership Forum in September, several airmen were recognized for exceptional performance or for valor. Recognition included the recipients of 2018 Pennsylvania Airmen of the Year Awards: Airman of the Year Senior Airman Christopher M. Ryan, 111th Attack Wing, Horsham; Non-commissioned Officer of the Year Staff Sergeant Lucas C. Hollenbach, 111th Attack Wing, Horsham; First Sergeant of the Year Master Sergeant Jason T. Stehly, 111th Attack Wing, Horsham; and Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the Year Master Sergeant Keith P. Gregory, 171st Air Refueling Wing, Coraopolis.

Gregory was also one of five airmen to be presented the Bronze Star Medal, awarded for meritorious service in a combat zone. Gregory received the recognition for actions during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2017 and 2018. Four other recipients included Technical Sergeant Erich Shaner, Staff Sergeant Anthony Mazzone, Staff Sergeant Equeno Ogle, and Staff Sergeant Joseph Rooney. All four are members of the 148th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS), 193rd Special Operations Wing, and earned the recognition for service in combat while assigned as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers in Syria earlier in 2019. A sixth Bronze Star recipient, Staff Sergeant Zachary Holder, also from the 148th ASOS, was unable to be present for the ceremony.

Pennsylvania established the first-in-nation Military Family Education Program (MFEP). Pennsylvania’s Governor, Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General and the Pennsylvania General Assembly partnered to recognize and support the families of Pennsylvania National Guard (PANG) service members and to increase retention in the PANG. On 1 July 2019, Pennsylvania’s Governor signed into law House Bill 1324, authorizing the MFEP and expanded our current Education Assistance Program (EAP).

In 2019, the Pennsylvania National Guard served the Commonwealth and the United States with pride and distinction. Every Guard member can be sure their efforts during the past year have set this organization up for continued success in 2020.

Dvidshub.net (DVIDS) reports are created independently of American Military News and are distributed by American Military News in accordance with DVIDS guidelines and copyright guidance. Use of DVIDS reports does not imply DVIDS endorsement of American Military News. American Military News is a privately owned media company and has no affiliation with the U.S. Department of Defense.