The Wyoming Military Department experienced an active 2016.
First, units from both the Army and Air National Guard deployed to support operations in the Global War on Terror. Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. Another battery, Bravo, deployed this year to assume their mission. The helicopter mechanic unit, Detachment 3, B Company, 777th Aviation Support Battalion deployed to Kuwait to support maintenance operations overseas.
The 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard had multiple deployments as well. Members deployed in support of several operations and contingencies throughout the year, both within the U.S. and internationally, in support of aeromedical evacuation and air transport, including United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Antarctica and Kuwait.
There were senior level command changes this year for both the Army and Air Guard. Assistant Adjutant General – Army, Brig. Gen. Steve Mount passed the guidon for the Army to Brig. Gen. Tammy Maas in May. Mount also retired, ending a career that started in 1974 with the active duty Army. In February, Col. Brad Swanson passed command of the 153rd Airlift Wing to Col. Paul Lyman.
In October 2015, it was announced that a new infantry company would be activated and assume the footprint in Afton and Evanston, Wyoming from the deactivated 1041st Multi-role Bridge Company. The new infantry company, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 297th Infantry Regiment, was officially activated in a ceremony at Camp Guernsey in July.
That activation coincided with the first Army National Guard review in Wyoming since the 1990s. Gov. Matthew Mead, along with the Wyoming Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner and Brig. Gen. Maas, conducted a review of all Army Guard troops at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center. A ceremony was held to activate the infantry company, and deactivate the 1041st MRBC, as well as a change of responsibility for the Army Guard between outgoing State Command Sgt. Major Tom Allan and incoming Army Command Sgt. Major Harold Pafford. Allan had held the highest senior Army NCO position in the state since September 2009.
Earlier in the year, Wyoming added more helicopter capabilities, as the former C Company “Charlie Med,” 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment added a command aviation company, which includes unmarked UH-60 Black Hawks. Previously, Charlie Med had only red cross medical evacuation aircraft. Also, the unit reflagged to G Company, 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment.
The Wyoming Veterans Commission, along with other groups, spearheaded and began the work of compiling a Wyoming National Guard history book. Mark Hufstetler, an experienced historian and writer from Montana, was contracted to research and write a 200-page manuscript on the life of the Guard. That manuscript will continue to be worked through the new year and will see a completion date in 2017.
Another completed effort by the commission was the presentation of more than 270 Republic of Korea Ambassador for Peace Medals to Wyoming Korean War veterans, with 188 pending distribution in 2017. This ended a yearlong effort in coordinating with the Republic of Korea Embassy in San Francisco.
The 153rd flew a historic 8-ship mission in May, using all of the wing’s aircraft. The formation was the result of months of planning by the 153rd operation and maintenance teams. Modernization of the C-130H aircraft also took place during the year, as the engines received an upgrade as part of a Rolls Royce 3.5 engine enhancement program. Further upgrades will involve propeller control systems and by early 2017 new propeller installation that will bring the total to 8 per engine.
In June, the 67th Army Band performed a concert at one of the U.S.’s National Parks, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. That team put on a show for the gathered visitors at the monument. The summer also included the Wyoming Air National Guard turning 70 years old in July. The unit celebrated with a reunion that saw more than 100 former members attended.
Every year, the Wyoming Military Department participates, in some fashion, in Cheyenne Frontier Days during the last week of July. This year was no different. Scores of volunteers from the agency, to include state and federal employees, put in hours of work to help the program. The Air National Guard hosted an open house show to the public and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performed a stunt show south of town.
The 153rd Airlift Wing was activated to provide Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System missions in the western part of the country in late summer. They did 73 sorties, 87 drops and released 200,317 gallons of slurry.
Army Guard units also participated in various training exercises in key partnerships with active duty units. The 148th Brigade Signal Company partook in a brigade-level training evaluation at the National Training Center, in Fort Irwin, California in August. They supported the deployment of their Joint Network Node and retrans capabilities to support hundreds of soldiers in a simulated war environment. The 197th Public Affairs Detachment, members of the Joint Force Headquarters, and other 115th Brigade soldiers, supported an annual joint-training exercise in South Korea.
In September, the 960th Brigade Support Battalion deactivated two of their companies, A and B Company. This was due to national organizational changes to the brigade support battalions in the Army. Earlier in the year, both 115th Field Artillery Brigade battalions, the 960th and 2-300th, switched headquarters locations, with the artillery battalion moving to Casper and the support battalion moving to Sheridan.
There were several state activations in the spring. Members of the Army and Air Guard responded to floods in Lander and Saratoga, Wyoming. The mission in Saratoga included a preemptive deployment of sandbags along the river banks to prevent future flooding. Then, after a hail storm damaged the town of Pine Bluffs, east of Cheyenne, guard forces were activated to assist with security and clean up.
Wyoming’s Counterdrug program was nationally recognized with multiple awards, including Outstanding Contributor to Local Law Enforcement from the Wyoming Peace Officers Association, as well as receiving the same award for the entire Rocky Mountain Region. The 84th Civil Support Team maintained its national leading response rate, by completing 14 real-world response missions. It is the third year in a row that the 84th CST has led the nation in responses, as well as the eighth consecutive year of being in the top 10 in the nation for responses.
These were some of the events, moments and milestones that the Wyoming Military Department had during 2016. The agency looks forward to more accomplishments in 2017.