News | Oct. 6, 2021

High Notes

By Maj. Gen. David Mikolaities

To the Soldiers, Airmen, and Civilian Employees of the NHNG,
 
We ended FY 21 on a thunderous note. The Pease air show, the first in a decade, drew a larger crowd than July’s NASCAR weekend at NH Motor Speedway. More than 70,000 visitors attended the two-day spectacle held on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It was a remarkable feat duly timed to remember the victims and heroes of that tragic day when terrorists struck at the very heart of our democracy.
 
We solidified our connection with local communities by naming each of 157th Air Refueling Wing’s new KC-46 refuelers after the state’s 10 counties, the town of Newington and the city of Portsmouth. The ceremony capped a hugely successful weekend thanks to the Wing and especially show co-chairs Maj. Shannon Van Splunder and Capt. Jake Ricciotti.
 
Six thousand miles away, an infantry team from Mountain Company was temporarily assigned to a security detail at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul while the last of our military departed Afghanistan. The withdrawal officially ended a war ignited by those attacks two decades ago.
 
Our obligation in the Middle East, however, is far from over. Mountain Company is on the final leg of a nine-month security mission in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar where a portion of the unit also assisted in the evacuation of Afghan refugees. They’re joined by more than 100 airmen from the 157th ARW stationed throughout the region to include Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Niger, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
 
Eastward, Alpha Company, 1/169th Aviation Regiment continues to support the long-running NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. Closer to home, 11 airmen are stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ helping to in-process Afghan refugees under Operation Allies Refuge.
 
After a year of supporting the Southwest Border Mission, Task Force West Sentinels are scheduled to redeploy later this month. NH looks forward to the return of the 45 soldiers from the 3643rd Brigade Support Battalion, who comprised the task force headquarters, which has been responsible for multiple units operating across a 330-mile stretch of border from California to Arizona.
 
As we begin a new training year, our first priority as an organization is to be 100% vaccinated. Per an August 24 directive from the Secretary of Defense, all service members are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Only two exceptions, medical and religious, will be considered.
 
Beginning with October drill, all unvaccinated soldiers and airmen will be scheduled to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine with a follow-on shot set for November drill. Timelines and disciplinary action for those who refuse the vaccine vary by service. Specific guidance has been published and shared by the chain of command. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your unit first sergeant. Currently, 72% of the NHANG and 64% of the NHARNG are fully vaccinated.
 
Over the past two years, more has been asked of the Guard than at any other time in our nation’s history. We have risen to every challenge, exceeded all expectations and performed above reproach. The worst of the pandemic seems behind us, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Reported cases of COVID-19 are trending up again, and emerging variants pose a new threat. We need to do everything within our means to protect ourselves and our families so if called upon, we can respond with same professionalism and grace our citizens have come to expect and appreciate.
 
I’ve said this many times before, but it truly has been an honor to serve alongside such an outstanding collection of men and women who remain so focused on the greater good. You represent the best of our state and nation.
 
Thank you for your dedication and commitment.

Sincerely,
 
Major General David Mikolaities
Adjutant General
New Hampshire National Guard