Tag Archives: WyoGuard; #NGB; #NGYouthPrograms; #ChalleNGeAcademy; CampGuernseyJTC

WyARNG set for largest deployment in 10 years

About 300 soldiers from six Wyoming Army National Guard units are set to deploy throughout next year and efforts are already underway to ensure soldiers, their families and their employers have the support they need before, during and after mobilization.

It’s been almost a decade since Wyoming sent about 700 soldiers overseas. The brigade-sized element was augmented by guardsmen from five other states, most of whom performed non-routine jobs such as convoy support into Iraq, or mayor cell duties on the various military bases in Kuwait.

According to Lt. Col. Charles Thompson, the state’s mobilization readiness officer, the plan, so far, is for all the units to deploy to the Central Command area of responsibility.

“That could be Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan or United Arab Emirates,” said Thompson. “The units are set to perform their standard missions.”

The Wyoming Military Department’s Service Member, Family, Employer, Readiness Support Team, or S-FERST, offers 14 programs to Guard members and those who support them and has been ramping up for this cycle of deployments since February.

“It’s like a buffet of services you can pick and choose from,” said S-FERST Director Bill Breckenridge. “Some will never use any of them, but some will use them all.”

Among the menu items are personal financial counselors, psychological services, employer support, substance abuse counseling and a child and youth program, to name a few.

In addition to the main offices in Cheyenne, S-FERST has five regional Family Assistance Centers around the state that provide a link for families, service members and veterans, in or near their communities.

“Most of our soldiers are dispersed around the state,” Breckenridge said. “A lot of the aviators are in the southeast area, but the battalions are all over.”

Thompson said the soldiers from the units set to head out the door do cover a lot of Wyoming’s open spaces.

“The 2-300 minus, is the largest group. They are primarily out of Casper, Gillette and Lander,” Thompson said. “We have volunteers who are reclassifying to fill some vacancies also, so it will be pretty spread out.”

As operations have evolved for the WyARNG over the last decade, so have S-FERST services and procedures. According to Breckenridge, the last large scale deployment effort, and several smaller ones since, provided good lessons for him and his staff.

Most important, he said, is getting involved at Soldier Readiness Processing, or the annual administrative and medical drill all Army Guardsmen are required to attend, whether deploying or not.

“Being there allows us to update the Family Intake Sheets and to interact with the soldiers a year out,” Breckenridge said. “We’re mindful that the definition of family has changed over the years and we have more blended families and single parent families. Sometimes it will be the soldier’s mom or dad or another service member taking care of a child.”

State Family Assistance Coordinator Emily Study said getting the SRP data early in the mobilization process is important for a number of reasons.

“We want to be able to contact the families or the primary caregivers at least 90 days out and to ensure we have the best way to contact them. Some prefer email or text, and so we can get that information, and start communicating with them at 90, 60 days out and not be scrambling at the last minute,” Study said.

Soldiers need to be focused on the mission while deployed, and having things in order at home is crucial to that end. That includes knowing their job is secure. Employers may have concerns too, and S-FERST and the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve are there to support them as well.

“During that 2009 deployment, we had six county sheriffs from one department deploy,” Breckenridge said. “You can’t just put out a help wanted ad for something like that. It was key that ESGR and the adjutant general had dialog well in advance and we were able to arrange for getting help from other law enforcement agencies to fill in. There is a lot more advance training now too, but we haven’t had any trouble yet.”

The assistant adjutant general plans to unveil further employer support strategies next month.

Arkansas Army Guard working on the railroad at Guernsey

An Arkansas Army National Guard field artillery brigade, augmented by units from other states, is making tracks to Camp Guernsey’s North Training Area for a large-scale training exercise.

Transporting military equipment is often the duty of a specialized transportation unit, or contractors, but for Western Strike participants, it is the main focus of the brigade’s three-week training exercise, according to 1st Lt. Timothy Jones, a field artillery officer assigned to Arkansas’ 142nd Field Artillery Brigade.

He and hundreds of other artillerymen from Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama spent most of a week at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC railyard in Guernsey. There they unloaded various artillery systems, trucks, Humvees, ambulances and other vehicles from five trains, hauling 360 cars, making it the largest such operation at the facility.

Jones said the brigade is training to simulate an emergency deployment, which they haven’t done in more than two decades. A major objective for the brigade is to move its own equipment and deploy it in an unfamiliar location.

“When Operation Desert Storm happened, everyone had to move their equipment and get it shipped overseas. After that, units started falling in on equipment that was already staged in theater,” he explained. “So we’re relearning how to do this, and really at the crawl stage of the crawl, walk, run training cycle.

“Loading, staging and deploying the equipment is the main focus of this exercise. We will certify our fire tables and all that when we get out to the field, but really we can do that at any training facility, this is the important part, to be able to mobilize anywhere, anytime.”

Alabama Army National Guard Spc. Lonnie Crawford, an artilleryman with the 1/117th Field Artillery Brigade, was in the same shoes as many of the red legs working in the mud and rain in the railyard.

“I’ve never done this before,” Crawford said of his current duty and his previous one at Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, where he and his colleagues loaded the train cars bound for Wyoming. “We didn’t train for this, we just kinda learned as we went along.”

“It’s a little nerve-wracking moving your sergeant’s truck for him,” Crawford added, with a grin, “You don’t want it to fall off.”

His crew mate, and a fellow cannon crewmember, Spc. James Westbrook, said he’s feeling good about his unit’s capabilities.

“We’ve moved our stuff in the air, and on the ground and now by train; we are fully capable now to go anywhere,” he said.

Once the vehicles were moved off the train cars, they were staged nearby, and are awaiting a surge of soldiers that will be driving them to the training areas, to do with them, what they are meant to do. The main body arrived June 1.

Col. Joseph Huss, Camp Guernsey commander, visited with some of the Southern visitors in the railyard. They were unconcerned about doing a hard job they hadn’t been trained for, in less than ideal conditions. Actually, most said they were glad to get away from the heat and humidity back home.

WCCA, WCA partner to improve Guernsey training area

A developing partnership has helped Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center continue its mission of providing high-level training facilities to its customers, and to improve career opportunities for Wyoming Cowboy ChalleNGe Academy graduates.

The cooperative agreement between the National Guard Bureau-sponsored WCCA and the Wyoming Contractors Association’s Regional Training Center, located in Casper, has enabled a few recent WCCA graduates to earn advanced certificates in construction trades, to go along with the construction training they received while cadets at the residential program for at-risk youth.

“Some of our graduates have had a difficult time finding meaningful employment, so WCA was kind enough to offer some additional training here,” said ChalleNGe Academy Deputy Director David Salazar. “They have their finger on the pulse of what the state’s labor needs are. We came into some additional training funds, so we put our heads together and came up with a plan to provide the certificate training.”

The four participating graduates returned to Camp Guernsey for three weeks. During that time, they not only built two guard shacks to be used at entry control points at one of the training areas, but also helped mentor and train cadets at the Camp Guernsey-based program.

“They actually enjoyed being part of the program and helping out the cadre with drill and ceremony and physical training. We thought it might be an issue, but it’s not,” Salazar added.

Class 30 graduate Sean Spiering, from Powell, said he appreciates getting to see the program from a different perspective.

“It was a great time. I learned a lot dealing with the cadets and getting a better idea of what the sergeants do,” Spiering explained. “I got to help mentor and talked about what it takes to get through the program. I felt like some really listened, knowing I’ve been through it.”

Spiering said he has been working at a fast food restaurant since graduating in December 2016, but wanted to do something more challenging. Now he’s trained to do construction, but also drawn to work at the ChalleNGe Academy.

“WCCA teaches us to be able to adapt and change in situations, and I’d like to help the cadets do that,” Spiering added.

According to Wyoming Contractors Association Regional Training Center carpenter instructor Abel Ortiz, who trained the cadets when they bused to Casper for 16 training sessions during their 5 1/2-month residential phase, the sheds project enabled them to utilize most of the carpentry skills needed to construct a residential structure.

“It’s been a real blessing getting to help out with this first-time class. They did awesome and they learned a lot,” Ortiz said. “They should be able to get a job. There are lots of jobs in the construction industry right now with people retiring, and so forth, so we’re looking forward to helping more with the academy and helping the kids find good jobs for them and their families.”

The sheds were placed at the entry control points to the IED Village at the camp’s North Training Area, and will provide military personnel a more realistic training experience, as security details in combat zones often utilize similar structures.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Bye, facility engineer/deputy public works officer at Camp Guernsey, thanked the student-builders and explained the significance of the sheds to the camp’s mission.

“You didn’t just build a shed, you provided a place for soldiers to train,” Bye said. “This will save lives. We’ll reinforce it with sandbags and add fighting positions and really make it look realistic.”

“That’s pretty neat, now that I know what they’re going to do with it,” Spiering said. “I thought it was going to be a garden shed or something.”