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News | June 1, 2023

Message to the Force: From generation to generation

By Maj. Gen. David Mikolaities

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

Juxtaposed against a holiday weekend and the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day is a solemn reminder that the freedoms we enjoy come at a dear price.

Since the Revolutionary War, 1.1 million men and women have died in service to our nation. The Civil War accounts for nearly half the fallen, World War 2 for more than 400,000.

New Hampshire's losses number in the thousands.

Since 9/11, forty-four servicemen have been added to the state’s roll. They were soldiers, airmen, and Marines fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Four came from our own ranks: Sgt. Jeremiah Holmes of the 744th Transportation Company, Spc. Alan Burgess of 2nd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment, Sgt. David Stelmat of the 237th Military Police Company, and Cpl. Scott Dimond of Charlie Company, 3rd of the 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain).

Staff Sgt. Jose Pequeño of the 237th MPs nearly died after he suffered a massive head wound in Iraq in 2006. At the time, he was one of the most severely wounded American servicemen to return home from either of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now residing in Florida, the former Sugar Hill police chief continues to make remarkable progress thanks to the devotion of his mother Nelida Bagley.

The collective spirit of our fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms, that profound sense of selfless service passed from generation to generation, continues to thrive in the men and women of this organization. Last week, Lt. Col. Tori Scearbo, an M-Day nurse with the 157th Medical Group, was among 15 Granite Staters who received the NH Hero Award for her lifesaving efforts at the scene of a car accident last year.

Earlier this month, Staff Sgt. Colin McGrail of the 237th MPs was recognized for performing his 1,000th funeral honors. He joins a select fraternity of NH guardsmen who've achieved the milestone that includes Sgt. Charles Biron, Sgt. 1st Class Cameron Holt-Corti, and Staff Sgts. Michael Avard, Patrick Combs, and Nicholas Fournier.

In February, we welcomed home the 197th Field Artillery Brigade after another successful tour as the field artillery headquarters for U.S. Army Central Command. A month later we bid farewell to a well-trained, well-led 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment as it prepared to deploy to the Middle East.

The 157th Air Refueling Wing and its active associate, the 64th Air Refueling Squadron, added to their impressive KC-46 training credentials, leading a large-scale, deployment readiness exercise earlier this month in support of NATO allies in the Azores, Portugal.

The 170 NHARNG soldiers of Task Force Southeast are hitting their stride as they pass the halfway point of a year deployment on the southern border in support of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In March, the NHNG Biathlon Team took third place in the National Guard Bureau's Biathlon Championship, placing just behind Vermont and Minnesota. Spc. Tom Echelberger was one of just 11 servicemembers -- all from the National Guard -- who qualified for the World Military Ski Championship. Coached by Maj. Rob Burnham, the team's performance was extraordinary, considering the program had been inactive for 16 of the last 20 years.

At the same time, the NHNG Marksmanship Team "came out of nowhere" to seize third place at the U.S. Army Small Arms Championship after a 10-year hiatus from the national competition. Most impressive was their first-place finish in team pistol against 54 squads. Two months later, Sgt. 1st Class David Musso of the 3643rd Brigade Support Battalion and Tech. Sgt. Conner Cunio of the 157th Air Refueling Wing earned the "Chief's 50" marksmanship badge for finishing eighth and 10th respectively out of 247 competitors at the 52nd Annual Winston P. Wilson Rifle and Pistol Championships.

The 12th Civil Support Team helped ensure the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby, that drew more than 100,000 spectators this month, was safe and secure. In Lincoln, Nebraska, the NHNG placed 14th in the annual National Guard Marathon. Two NHNG airmen, Tech. Sgts. Christopher Ager and Amber Martine, earned spots on the National Guard Marathon Team.

Closer to home, a contingent of 18 soldiers and airmen are nearing the end of a three-month activation in support of men's state prison in Concord, marking the third time in three years the NHNG has helped offset critical staffing shortages there.

Our state partnership program continues to flourish, marked by the 39th Army Band's return to the Ilopango Air Show in El Salvador and a successful series of small unit exchanges with the Cabo Verde armed forces. Soldiers from both countries traveled to New Hampshire in February to compete in our annual Best Warrior Competition. The winners, Staff Sgt. David Jollimore of Recruiting and Retention and Spc. Brendan Tuttle of 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment, earned NCO and Soldier of the Year honors.

We rekindled our cross-border training relationship with Canada, conducting field training exercises with our military police at Gagetown and Fort Devens. Two Mountain Company soldiers, Capt. Robert Matzelle and Staff Sgt Michael Avard, were among a group of guardsmen from four states who volunteered for arctic training with the Canadian military during Guerrier Nordique 23, an annual exercise in Resolute Bay, Nunavut.

As we join our fellow citizens on the last Monday in May to honor our war dead, take time to reflect on your accomplishments and that unrelenting spirit that’s in each of you and in those who fought and died before us. Stay safe and enjoy time with your family and friends.


Major General David Mikolaities
Adjutant General
New Hampshire National Guard