When I heard the words ‘nine-one-one’ growing up, I associated them to calling first responders for help. After Sept. 11, 2001, those words morphed into ‘nine-eleven’ and took on a new meaning for me; terrorism, destruction, loss and heartbreak.
I wasn’t in the service in 2001, although I wish I had been. The events of 9/11 happened the day after my 15th birthday. I vividly remember watching live footage of airplanes crashing into the twin towers while I sat in my high school library. I understood quickly that the events were terrorism-related based off news reports, but still didn’t fully grasp what that meant for our nation’s political and military climate.
For the Wyoming Air and Army National Guard, the events of 9/11 drove us and other National Guard units to volunteer to respond, effectively marking the turning point of being a strategic reserve to an operational force.
Shortly after 9/11, more than 80 Wyoming Air National Guard members deployed to Oman, and were among the first waves to provide boots-on-the-ground to combat terrorism. Since that time, our nation has completed two of the largest combat operations in our history: Operation Iraqi Freedom, which lasted more than seven years (March 2003 – August 2010), and Operation Enduring Freedom, which lasted more than 13 years (September 2001 – December 2014).
In sum, the Wyoming Air National Guard has deployed someone 3,766 times since 2001, many of whom have deployed twice and some up to six times. The Army National Guard complemented the Wyoming effort by adding another 2,271 soldiers deployed since 2001 for various missions around the world.
Looking back to when I was 15 years old, I couldn’t have predicted this nation would still be decisively engaged in fighting terrorism in 2016.
This decisive engagement has proven the National Guard to be more critical to this nation than ever before. As an operational force, the Wyoming National Guard is now involved all over the world in numerous mission sets ranging from humanitarian assistance and domestic support to civil authorities to combating terrorism.
Since October 2015, the Wyoming Army National Guard has deployed more than 50 personnel from A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery Regiment and C Company, 5th Battalion, 159th General Aviation Support Battalion for aviation and artillery missions. Leaning forward, the Army will send 60 additional personnel this summer from B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery Regiment and Detachment 3, B Company, 159th Aviation Support Battalion for further aviation and artillery missions.
The Wyoming Air National Guard has heeded their call to support as well as they have deployed 21 people to Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica and 42 members to Coronet Oak in Puerto Rico since last year. They’re also preparing to send more than 60 personnel out the door next month from across the 153rd Airlift Wing for our first-ever Agile Combat Support mission. An additional wave of more than 60 deployers will leave mid-summer to supplement efforts of the first wave and eventually take over.
It’s hard to believe that at the age of 15, my mindset about the term 9/11 was changed forever. Fifteen years has also proven that the Wyoming National Guard will continue to preemptively support this nation in contingency operations as our sacrificial nature and operational capability have been proven time and time again.
With more than 50 personnel currently deployed for contingency operations in the Wyoming Army and Air National Guard, and hundreds more on deck to support deployments the remainder of this year and into next, the resolve of the Wyoming Army and Air National Guard has proven its worth.