The Wyoming Army National Guard was on full display to Gov. Matt Mead and a crowd of spectators Saturday afternoon at the Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, as more than 800 soldiers gathered on the camp’s parade field for a review ceremony.
The ceremony is a long-held tradition for the Army, but has not been performed for at over 25 years in Wyoming. Mead, who also is the commander in chief of the Wyoming National Guard, told the crowd he understood what a huge undertaking the day’s events were.
“I know it’s taken many hours of preparation and many hours of work,” he said. “I want you to know, while it has been a long time since a governor has done this, I wish I could give you the gift that I now have, which is to look out upon each and every one of you, and to say I couldn’t be more proud.”
During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Tammy Maas, assistant adjutant general for the Wyoming Army National Guard, led the governor around the parade field and inspected the troops. Afterward Mead addressed the formation, thanking the soldiers and families for their dedication and sacrifice.
“While we and this country face some challenges, I know in my heart that as long as we have great men and women like you standing before me, that whatever challenges this country may have, whatever turmoil we may being going through, our country will remain the greatest country on the planet.”
However, review was just the beginning of the day’s events. The ceremony also included a change of responsibility that introduced Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Pafford as the incoming Wyoming Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, and bid farewell to the outgoing State Command Sgt. Major Tom Allan. Pafford told his troops he had sat through many of these ceremonies and listened to the speakers give their histories in the military, but he said he would not follow in those footsteps.
“I’m not going to give you my bio,” he said. “For those soldiers in formation, look to your left and right and you will see it. We have all taken the oath to stand the line of honor, for the Constitution of the United States and the Wyoming Army National Guard. Enough to set you apart from all others. You should carry it with great pride, as it is time honored.”
Following Pafford’s comments, four Wyoming soldiers were presented with medals for their bravery and courage in combat operations in 2010 while deployed with Company C, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment. Sgt. Kevin Thomas was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for his performance as a flight medic during medical evacuation operations. Chief Warrant Officer Richard Burger, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Butler and Sgt. Benjamin Postma, were awarded the Air Medal with “V” device.
Finally, the ceremony concluded with the de-activation and casing of the colors for the 1041st Multi-Role Bridge Company, and activation of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry. The 1041st holds the distinction of being the most decorated unit in the Wyoming Army National Guard since the Korean War, and was most recently awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation after their 2007 deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraq Freedom.
“For those of you who are in that company or who deployed with that company, your service was absolutely critical,” said Wyoming’s Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner. “The tenacity, bravery and determination that you showed over the years and during your deployment will remain part of our heritage forever and will be traits that you take with you as you fill new roles in our organization.”
During the presentation, master of ceremonies Lt. Col. Matt Greene, shared the history of the 1041st and narrated the traditional sequence of events during the casing of the colors for the audience. Once the casing was complete, the guide-on of the newly activated Charlie Company was presented to guide-on bearer Sgt. Shelby Atkins, who made history as the first female in the United States to be qualified as an infantry soldier.