News | April 5, 2022

Called Upon Again

By Spc. Kelly Boyer

A deployment ceremony for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 197th Field Artillery Brigade and the 1986th Contingency Contracting Team was held at Concord High School on April 2.

As the 39th Army Band played a welcoming tune, family and friends filled the gymnasium to participate in the time-honored tradition of a supportive sendoff for the more than 130 New Hampshire Army National Guard soldiers.

HHB will serve as field artillery headquarters for U.S. Army Central Command, which includes Jordan, Syria, Qatar, and Kuwait. The three-man contracting team will plan, coordinate, and execute contract support activities for CENTCOM in Kuwait. Both units report to Fort Bliss, Texas later this month for three weeks of premobilization training before departing overseas.

Gov. Chris Sununu spoke highly of the call to service in New Hampshire, thanking the men and women of the 197th and 1986th, many of whom provided pandemic relief support in the state during the past two years.

“To be here today, it’s an absolute honor because many of these individuals were at the vaccine sites, at hospitals, providing internal relief in the state when we needed them,” Sununu said. “Now we ask them for more, and there’s nothing that these individuals won’t do when called upon.”

“When we need something done, the men and women of the New Hampshire Army National Guard are always there," he added.

Col. Davis Ulricson, commander of the 197th FAB, praised his unit’s preparation for the upcoming nine-month deployment in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield. It will be the brigade's fourth deployment since 2004.

“We trained long and hard over the past year, and this training has made the team exceptional,” Ulricson said. “After seeing the team in action at our command post exercise at Fort Drum a few weeks ago, I am confident that the team we have built is ready to be the senior field artillery headquarters in the Middle East.”

His soldiers will be stationed throughout the area of operation "ready to plan, synchronize, and conduct combined joint and multinational fires supporting the United States Central Command.”

“Our mission is to protect critical sites and the allied forces in the region with our radar systems," Ulricson said. "This is not going to be an easy mission.”

Pfc. Bailey Vachon, a new soldier with HHB, graduated from Advanced Individual Training only two days prior to the ceremony. The 19-year-old from Plymouth was looking forward to her first deployment.

“I got the call that we were deploying while I was at school and was pumped the whole time,” she said. “Just being thrown into my job, being able to actually exercise what I learned at school and apply it, it’s so exciting.”

Her father, Steve Vachon, was more reserved about seeing his daughter leave again.

“We are extremely proud of her and obviously nervous about her being in the Middle East,” he said. “I’m proud that she’s part of this unit and is going with this team. They have a great reputation.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan spoke of the Guard’s proud tradition of taking care of each other. She recognized how difficult the time away from families will be.

“I want to take a moment to thank your families, your loved ones, your friends as well,” Hassan said. “To the children who are here today, thank you for sharing your moms and dads with your state and your country. They are doing really, really important work.”

After the speeches, Staff Sgt. Chad Kelble, a radar operator with HHB, stood holding his two-year-old son with one hand while his four-year-old daughter held on to the other. This is Kelble’s second deployment, but his first with children.

“He doesn’t understand that I’m leaving, but she does,” Kelble said. “I hope it will be easier when they’re this age and they won’t really remember me being gone.”

Samantha Harvey-Dinan, spouse of 1st Sgt. Kevin Harvey, said that while this was not her husband’s first deployment, it was their first as a family.

“I didn’t cry today, so that’s good,” she said. “We’ve gotten most of that out of the way by now. I know that he loves his job very much and always has. I am excited for him in that sense, but we will miss him so much.”

During the time away, Congressman Chris Pappas assured the soldiers that "the people of New Hampshire stand with them and will provide whatever support we possibly can as we wait to welcome them home safely.”