News | March 18, 2022

Message To The Force

By Maj. Gen. David Mikolaities

To the Soldiers, Airmen and Civilian Employees of the NHNG,

As Operation Winter Surge comes to a close this week, I join our commander-in-chief, Gov. Chris Sununu, and so many other state and local officials who have expressed their sincere appreciation for your tireless work alongside first responders, EMS departments, hospital staff and volunteers.

Whether you staffed a hospital cafeteria, folded linen in a nursing home or hauled cases of face masks to a local school district, you accomplished each task with equal care and professionalism.

For Pfc. Liam MacVittie, that bearing extended well beyond his military duties. Driving home from a Feb. 7 shift at the Coos County Nursing Hospital in West Stewartstown, MacVittie spotted a plume of smoke billowing from a mobile home. When he arrived at the scene, the residence was nearly engulfed in flames.

MacVittie and two other bystanders rescued a woman from the blaze. Had MacVittie not stopped to investigate, she would have perished in the fire, according to the state fire marshal's office.

During Winter Surge, which began in December, 250 NHNG soldiers and airmen amassed nearly 78,000 duty days. Going above and beyond doesn't begin to capture their accomplishments when the Omicron variant of COVID-19 triggered severe staffing shortages in health care facilities and at the men's state prison.

* 25 hospitals supported, accounting for over 35,000 shift hours
* 11 long-term care facilities supported and 9,500 shift hours
* Nearly 10,000 vaccine boosters administered
* More than 1,000 vaccines administered by mobile vax team
* More than 1,100 calls handled at the 211 call center
* Nearly 35,000 vaccines and 356,000 masks delivered to more than
120 locations, accounting for 17,000 miles driven
* 29 soldiers accounting for 6,400 shift hours at men's state prison

At the same time, we met and often surpassed our military obligations under the Mission Triad of Fighting and Winning Our Nation's Wars, Securing the Homeland, and Building Enduring Partnerships.

Fighting and Winning Our Nation's Wars

We welcomed home three NHARNG units: Alpha Company, 1/169th Aviation Regiment from Kosovo; Charlie Company, 3rd of the 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain) from the Middle East; and Task Force West Sentinels, a headquarters element from the 3643rd Brigade Support Battalion, after a year on the Southwest Border.

Just over 100 airmen from the 157th Air Refueling Wing completed tours in five different countries spanning the Middle East and Africa as well as closer to home in support of Operation Allied Refuge at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Next month, we'll bid farewell to 125 soldiers from the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, while one of its subordinate units, 3rd Battalion, prepares to deploy in early 2023. We'll also host a Purple Heart ceremony for five soldiers from the 238th Medevac Company, who were stationed at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq during an Iranian missile strike Jan. 8, 2020.

To date, more than 5,500 soldiers and 5,400 airmen have deployed since 9/11 in support of combat and humanitarian missions around the world.

Securing The Homeland

Closer to home, the Granite State element of the New England Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Enhanced Force Package or CERFP participated in Arctic Eagle-Patriot 2022. Held in Alaska, the three-week exercise posed homeland security and state-level scenarios to facilitate realistic training in austere, extreme cold-weather environments. The 21 NHNG soldiers and airmen were among 900 guardsmen from across the country and 200 active duty soldiers, airmen and Marines.

Our fledgling biathlon team continued to make great strides. Sgt. Jacob Engelhardt, a mental health specialist with 197th Field Artillery Brigade, finished 12th out of 26 competitors in the men's novice class during the National Guard 2022 Biathlon Championships at Camp Ripley, Minn. on Feb. 14. Two other NHARNG soldiers competed -- Maj. Jason Longval of Joint Force Headquarters and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Dingman of 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment.

In state, we stood up our Warrant Officer Candidate School after a five-year hiatus. Five NHNG soldiers and one reservist are enrolled in the six-month program, which is open to any enlisted soldier E4 and above with four to six years of experience.

A public affairs soldier swept the Best Warrior Competition for the second straight year. Sgt. Mark Hayward of the 197th Field Artillery Brigade bested a field of nine soldiers to win NCO of the Year. Spc. Michael Downs of 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment, earned Soldier of the Year honors. He and Hayward will compete in the regionals later this spring.

Just as impressive was the performance of two Salvadoran soldiers. Sub Sgt. Raul Martinez and Sgt. Osmel Hernandez placed second and third in the junior enlisted and enlisted divisions respectively. It was the first time they had seen snow, not to mention freezing rain and sleet.

At Pease, the 157th Air Refueling Wing welcomed a temporary compliment of KC-46 personnel from the 22nd ARW last month. The swift integration of active duty personnel from McConnell with our airmen is a testament to the trust and confidence the 157th has cultivated with Air Force leadership over the last three decades of continuous operations.

In December, the 157th was recognized for hosting an exceptional air show. The Wing earned gold in the Military Air Shows/Open House Pinnacle Awards category for its extensive Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) exhibit that featured a basketball court-sized robot tournament. Led by forward-thinking Capt. Richard Lambert, more open houses focused on STEM education are being planned at Pease.

Building Enduring Partnerships

In February, a delegation led by Gov. Sununu made a big splash in Cabo Verde when the NHNG and the island nation off the coast of West Africa officially established a state partnership program. Cabo Verde represents our second partnership. As we have done with our friends in El Salvador, we hope to forge an enduring relationship anchored in a whole-of-society approach involving both government and private sectors.

Looking ahead, we plan to sustain the partnerships we established with fellow state departments during our response to the pandemic.

Recruiting remains our top priority. I encourage each of you to pitch the benefits of serving in the NHNG whenever and wherever the opportunity presents:

* Free tuition to any state college or university including graduate
degrees
* Minuteman scholarship to any college or university in the country
* Loan repayments
* Immediate health and dental coverage
* Paid to become qualified in careers ranging from trades to STEM
* Accomplish this in a part-time status without having to relocate

It continues to be an honor to serve alongside such a dedicated and compassionate group of professionals. On behalf of our state and nation, thank you for living the Guard motto of being, "Always Ready, Always There."

Sincerely,

Major General David Mikolaities
Adjutant General
New Hampshire National Guard