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News | March 4, 2020

Difference Makers

By Maj. Gen. David Mikolaities

To Our Soldiers, Airmen, Civilians and Families of the New Hampshire National Guard,
Since I last wrote you in October, I can say without reservation that your deeds and accomplishments have continued to make a difference. I’m still awed by the talent and professionalism displayed by our citizen soldiers and airmen, sometimes under the most difficult of circumstances.
In early January, one of our medevac crews steadied its Black Hawk against strong gusts to perform a mountain-side hoist of a near hypothermic hiker from 170 feet. Half a world away in Iraq, Capt. Brendan Meehan, a platoon leader with the 238th Medevac Company, ensured his soldiers were safely outside the impact area of an Iranian rocket attack with minutes to spare.
At Pease, the 157th Air Refueling Wing has fielded five of its fleet of 12 off-the-production-line KC-46A refuelers, an unprecedented achievement for an Air National Guard flying wing. The sixth aircraft is scheduled to arrive on March 6th. Concurrent and proportional fielding of this new weapons system is proof that the Air National Guard is truly a part of the Total Force.  
KC-46 training missions have steadily increased with total flight training hours for January of 55.5-hours, more than doubling December’s total of 21.4-hours.
For the first time in more than 17 years, the NHNG fielded a biathlon team that competed in January’s regionals at Camp Ripley, MN. Majs. Heath Huffman and Rob Burnham and Capts. Luke Webster and Tom Hossfeld represented NH well – with Webster garnering third in the novice division and the team qualifying NH to participate in the Chief’s NGB Cup later this month at Camp Williams, UT. If you are seeking a winter challenge, we are looking for more soldiers and airmen to join the team.
I’m also elated to announce the return of the NHNG magazine. The “New Hampshire Guardsman” will be published quarterly in both digital and hardcopy. The joint publication will be mailed to the home of every soldier and airmen. If you didn’t receive the first issue, please make sure your address is up-to-date. The second issue is due out later this month.
I could not be prouder of our force and its commitment to the Mission Triad of fighting and winning our nation’s wars, defending the homeland and building enduring partnerships.
Overseas, our 238th Medevac Company and Detachment 18, Operational Support Airlift are in the early stages of their nine-month deployments to the Middle East. Another six soldiers, several of whom have volunteered, are at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA conducting individual training in preparation to deploy with New York’s 42nd Infantry Division for their nine-month deployment to the Middle East. Meanwhile two airmen, one from the Wing and the other from the active associate squadron, are supporting missions in Kuwait and Spain.
Both our Mountain Infantry Company as well as remaining rotary wing aviation unit (Alpha Company, 1/169th General Support Aviation Battalion) are in the final training stages for nine month deployments in 2021. The NHARNG is also working with US Southern Command to lead a four-month Beyond The Horizon (BTH) humanitarian and civic assistance exercise in our state partnership country of El Salvador.
We were recently notified that the 197th Field Artillery Brigade and its subordinate units were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal for exceptionally meritorious service for their 2010-2011 Southwest Asia deployment.  
The 136th Cyber Security Team is nearing the end of a 400-plus day deployment to the National Capital Region area in support of a global cyber mission. In addition, two soldiers and three airmen have volunteered and are supporting the Southwest Border mission.
Forty-five airmen from the 157th Air Refueling Wing joined Army and Air National Guard soldiers and airmen from three New England states participated in a medical rapid response training exercise from Nov. 4-8 in Brunswick, Maine. The exercise simulated the collapse of a chemical manufacturing facility and provided these soldiers and airmen an opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills required for the medical management of casualties.  
Later this month, the 12th Civil Support Team and Alpha Company, 1/169th GSAB, with a contingent from the 114th Public Affairs Detachment, will travel to Alaska in support of Arctic Eagle, an annual joint, interagency, multi-national training exercise based on the defense strategies for the Arctic Circle Region. The three-week mission will be an opportunity for our units to participate in high-level training and support global challenges in remote locations and extreme cold weather.
In addition, a squad from our Infantry Company will be participating in the Northern Sojourn exercise with our northern friends up in Goose Bay, Canada while six airmen head south to Gulfport, MS to participate in a Patriot North exercise.
The NHNG Counter Drug Task Force ensured the state’s Drug Take Back Day in October was another successful haul. Since 2010, they’ve collaborated with the Drug Enforcement Agency to monitor, transport, and destroy tons of unused prescription drugs from across the state.
In November, the NHARNG teamed up with the New Hampshire Department of Education to host the inaugural 2019 Chopped Challenge, a cooking competition in the style of “Chopped” and “Iron Chef America.” Six New Hampshire high schools’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs participated. The first-of-its-kind event took place at Salem High School and was so successful that we are already planning for next year’s competition.
Veterans Day through the holiday season was our busiest time of the year for supporting community events. From color guards to guest speakers, we had soldiers and airmen participating in ceremonies and parades at town commons, schools and city main streets.
The 114th PAD interviewed Don Williams, a World War II combat engineer and former resident of the State Veterans Home in Tilton. The resulting video story is a wonderful homage to Don who unfortunately passed away weeks later at age 94.
For the 37th consecutive year, we hosted the Capital Region Food Program’s holiday food basket project at our Concord Readiness Center. In addition, about 100 NHNG soldiers and airmen volunteered for Operation Santa Claus, the annual holiday event sponsored by the State Employee Association (SEA) of New Hampshire. For more than 30 years now, we have assisted the SEA in loading and distributing donated gifts to families in need across the state.
We recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the NHNG-El Salvador State Partnership Program. We joined U.S. Ambassador Ronald Johnson and Salvadoran Defense Minister Rene Merino to reaffirm our commitment to an international program that has accounted for more than 200 security cooperation engagements since 2000 and has played an important role in strengthening U.S. - El Salvador relations. A return engagement by the 39th Army Band and a historic, first-ever KC-46A flyover at the Ilopango Air Show highlighted a weekend of celebration.
In January, the 157th Air Refueling Wing took a defining step toward addressing the health concerns of men and women stationed at Pease by announcing that the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s Epidemiology Consult Service will conduct an occupational health study. The year-long study will address cancer-related deaths from 1970 to 2018. Since the Wing hosted its first listening session in December of 2018 to address health concerns related to former and current employees of Pease, our Division of Veterans Services has registered 324 people into its database.
Planning is in the works for a state-wide celebration of Armed Forces Day on May 16. Open houses with numerous displays will occur at our Concord aviation facility, the Littleton Readiness Center as well as Pease Air National Guard Base.
In a tight labor market, recruiting and retaining the best possible talent remains our number one strategic priority in order to fill our current ranks and to grow new force structure. We are pursuing legislative changes that would help young men and women to not only serve but to secure a college degree on their way to learning a critical skill. Proposed legislation would allow eligible recruits to attend a state university tuition-free as soon as they join the NHNG. If passed, there would no longer be a waiting period or space-available caveat.
In late August, we look forward to hosting El Salvador’s Minister of Defense and Chief of Defense at the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) annual convention in Boston as well as here in New Hampshire.
As I conclude this message, please keep our deployed soldiers and airmen in your thoughts and prayers. It remains an honor to serve alongside you as you continue to make a difference every day. Thank you for your service to our State and Nation.
Major General David J. Mikolaities
The Adjutant General, New Hampshire National Guard,
Commissioner, Dept. of Military Affairs and Veterans Services