Wednesday, February 01, 2012

NDNG celebrates its origins and 150 years of service

North Dakota courtesy report

BISMARCK, N.D. (2/1/12)  - The North Dakota National Guard, along with the South Dakota National Guard recently marked 150 years of service to their communities, state and nation as they celebrated the Jan. 27, 1862, birthdate of the organization’s formation.

The day marks fifteen decades of honorable and distinguished service for members that have served in the very beginning of the militia to present-day Soldiers and Airmen of the NDNG.

“The North Dakota National Guard has an impressive record of service to this state and nation, from the early days of the organization’s formation to the outstanding contributions our Guardsmen are making today here at home and in foreign lands,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

“Throughout our history, North Dakota has been able to count on the men and women who have worn the uniform of the National Guard and our state has been forever shaped by their extraordinary service and sacrifice,” he said.

The NDNG shares its heritage with the SDNG, which is traced to the Dakota Territorial Militia in the early 1860s. The militia system was a descendant of the English colonial militia system carried over from the English colonies.

On Jan. 27, 1862, the first unit of the Dakota Territorial Militia organized under Capt. Nelson Miner in the territorial capital of Yankton. On that date, the seeds were planted for what would eventually become the North and South Dakota National Guard.

During the period following statehood in Nov. 1889, up until the Spanish-American War, the NDNG recorded no significant activities except of training and maintaining organizations. Since that time, NDNG units have served in nearly every major war or conflict, as well as providing assistance to the state in times of domestic emergencies such as floods, fires, tornadoes and winter storms.

“Like our early militia members, the soldiers and airmen of the North Dakota National Guard have met every challenge presented to them in an exemplary manner at home and abroad,” said Army Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general. “We are proud of our rich shared heritage with our sister state, South Dakota, as we look forward to a bright future of service to our state and nation.”

Throughout the history the NDNG, members have served with distinction in federal active service in support of wars and conflicts such as: the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Operation Just Cause, the Persian Gulf War, operations in Kosovo, Operation Provide Comfort, Operation Northern Watch, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

Members of the N.D. National Guard are the recipients of 11 Medals of Honor. Ten were awarded for heroic action during the Philippians Insurrection in 1898-1899. In 2008, Master Sgt. Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Keeble was awarded the nation’s highest honor posthumously for actions during the Korean War. Keeble is also a recipient of the “N.D. Rough Rider Award."

At home in North Dakota, the Guard has responded to wildfires and tornadoes, assisted stranded motorists during blizzards and ice storms and has aided law enforcement authorities with search and rescue missions. The Guard has also served on flood fighting duty for the last three years to include 142 days on flood fighting duty in 2011.

Present-day NDNG has mobilized more than 3,800 soldiers and more than 1,800 airmen in the last decade in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 275 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense.

Transition Benefits: NAS Kingsville Sailors Take Advantage of Available Help

By Fifi Kieschnick, Naval Air Station Kingsville Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR STATION KINGSVILLE, Texas (NNS) -- Four Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville Sailors not selected for retention by the Enlisted Retention Board (ERB) are now looking at their options, and what the Navy is doing to help with that process.

"The ERB looked at 31 ratings and Sailors in those ratings that had more than seven years service, but less than 15, as of Oct. 1, 2011," said Chief Navy Counselor (AW/SW) Minerva Verley, NAS Kingsville's career counselor.

The first step for separating Sailors is to obtain a DD Form 2648, Preseparation Counseling Checklist for Active Component Service Members from their command career counselor. The counselor goes over the form with the Sailors to ensure they are aware of the assistance and benefits available to them.

The checklist covers employment assistance, relocation assistance, education, training, health and life insurance, finances, and veterans benefits among other items.

The next stop is the Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC).

The FFSC offers transition assistance classes, among other services for departing service members. Transition assistance is one of Ramon Panganiban's chief responsibilities, at the NAS Kingsville FFSC.

"Many of the Sailors I see are really stressed out, especially the ERB Sailors," Panganiban said. "Many of them came into the Navy straight from high school and have spent the past 12 to 14 years in their current career field. This, the Navy, is all they know. I prepare them to become a civilian."

Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Natascha Josey entered the Navy out of high school and was not selected for retention.

"I don't take it personally," Josey said. "But it's hard to absorb. It feels like I'm standing on rocky ground and that everything I have been working for has been taken away from me."

Josey said she is not sure what she wants to do or where she wants to go when her enlistment ends in September.

Helping to reduce that uncertainty is what Panganiban says is one of the objectives of the FFSC.

"We ensure they know what resources are available to them and that they go to TAP class," Panganiban said. "I continue to touch base with them, too, sending them vacancy announcements, as I see them, and referring them to job fairs and counseling, if needed."

The FFSC offers transitional assistance that includes resume writing, financial counseling and relocation counseling. They also answer questions about veterans' and educational benefits.

Panganiban says everyone's circumstances are different; from their rating, to marital status or education, to whether they rent or own a home. He says its his job to guide them to varying resources based on their circumstances.

For example, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 1st Class Nathan Jones, would like to move to Georgia where he owns a home. He'd like to work for the military there in his chosen career field. However, he may have to consider other options.

"Because of the economy, Sailors may have to relocate to find jobs," Panganiban added, "and not necessarily where they were looking to move to.

"My heart goes out to these Sailors who are getting caught in this (ERB)," Panganiban said. "But, we're here for them, the FFSC. We not only offer transition assistance, but have two counselors on staff available to talk to. We'll send them information about job fairs and job opportunities, but the rest they have to do on their own."

Both Panganiban and Verley believe the Navy and the command are doing everything possible to support ERB-affected Sailors. That includes offering opportunities to receive one-on-one counseling, as little or as much as they need, so they are as prepared as possible to depart the military and enter the civilian workforce.

"After I give them pre-separation counseling," Verley said. "They can come back anytime as questions come up."

"I have the resources I need (because of command support), I just need to decide what I want to do and put it in resume format," Josey said.

"I'm trying to look at it like this could open the door for better opportunities," Jones said. "Things happen for a reason. I may not like how it happens, but when one door closes, another opens."

Face of Defense: Airman Serves in First Lady’s Office

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chris Powell
Defense Media Activity

FORT MEADE, Md., Feb. 1, 2012 – A C-17 Globemaster III pilot is helping First Lady Michelle Obama in her effort to rally support around the country for service members and their families.

Air Force Lt. Col. Rodney Lewis, former commander of the 4th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., is one of four service members in the 15-member 2011-2012 class of White House Fellows.

Lewis began his fellowship in August and serves in the first lady’s office. President Lyndon B. Johnson created the White House Fellows Program in 1964 to give promising American leaders "first- hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs," according to a White House news release.

"I think for any airman to understand how our government works and how you as an airman fit within the construct of our Constitution is key," Lewis said. "I will have a much better understanding of all three branches of government."

Lewis' primary mission is to help the first lady and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, with their “Joining Forces” program, a national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to support service members and their families.

Three pillars -- employment, education and wellness -- make up Joining Forces, Lewis explained. The employment pillar focuses on helping veterans and spouses expand employment and career development opportunities. The education pillar helps military children by working with schools to make them more aware of their unique academic needs, and the wellness pillar brings attention to critical issues facing veterans and their families.

"We don't work on issues that aren't real,” Lewis said. “This is about impacting all service members across the board. One of the biggest roles that I play is the understanding of the grassroots level and to put some validity to what we're working on with Joining Forces."

Lewis said one of the highlights of his fellowship was getting the opportunity to meet with a group of business leaders in New York who were interested in finding ways they could employ veterans transitioning from the military. Part of his role during the meeting was "breaking down stereotypes and answering questions about how they could do that," he said.

"These individuals have the authority to go out and chart the direction of their companies and say, 'Yes, we are going to hire veterans. That's going to be a part of our strategy,'" he noted.

Lewis said he sees similarities between working at the White House and leading airmen in the Air Force.

"A normal day here is much like being a commander in the Air Force," the lieutenant colonel explained. "I don't think of my day in terms of ending, but being able to create and move forward on the initiatives I'm working on. There are meetings that I will attend on behalf of Joining Forces, but really, my day is [about] going out and engaging government and private industry to help them understand and shape what the first lady wants to do with Joining Forces."

Lewis was directly responsible for the Defense Department's only prime nuclear airlift force, which handles the nation's most-sensitive cargo and provides tactically qualified C-17A crews who stand ready to airdrop combat troops and supplies anywhere in the world.

In 2010, Lewis received the Air Force Association National Medal of Merit for his work supporting children with medical problems in the “Pilot for a Day” program. He is a native of Oklahoma City, Okla.

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. of American Forces Press Service contributed to this article.)