As the Director of Military Support I wanted to take the space in this newsletter to thank the Soldiers and Airmen who are actively supporting four current Covid-19 response missions with the Vermont Department of Health. Much of this ongoing work is very much “behind the scenes” with no way to publicly recognize the contributions team members are making every day. The Guard was ready when asked to do these missions and the work by our small teams is indicative of matching State partner expectation to capability. These teams are making a considerable difference and relieving state agencies of some of the heavy load they have been contending with since March.
The Vermont National Guard has a team that receives and repackages personal protective gear for hospitals, schools and other customers and has been in place since April. We also have a team which builds many of the medical sampling kits used by Department of Health. During our Covid-19 response, the VTNG has provided both Air and Army planners who assisted in putting together some of the earliest guidance on how to move forward. We still do this and provided another officer just this past Thursday.
Finally, there is Task Force Coyote. TF Coyote has “been in the trenches” actually taking samples for the Department of Health in multiple locations throughout the state. As augmentation they have established themselves as an indispensable part of the overall state testing effort. The Guard has been ready when asked to form these teams and we have done it with passion and alacrity.
There is personal awareness that should also be maintained and we should individually continue to follow trusted guidance on our daily prevention effort. Check out the website below to better understand what is happening here in Vermont: https://www.healthvermont.gov/response/coronavirus-covid-19/current-activity-vermont
-Col. Randall Gates, Director of Military Support
Four Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers will depart next week to represent the U.S. at the Biathlon Pre-World Cup in Austria on Nov. 1.
Vermont Army National Guard Spc. Vaclav Cervenka and Sean Doherty of 1st Detachment, Garrison Support Command will join with Spc. Deedra Irwin, 86th Troop Command and Leif Nordgren, Army Aviation to begin training after their quarantine is complete in preparation for the first World Cup races in Kontiolahti, Finland, which begin November 28.
“Being able to represent the Vermont National Guard while competing on the world stage in the sport I love is all I could ever ask for,” said Cervenka. “As the youngest athlete to go on this trip I want to prove that I belong there.”
In 2018 Doherty became the first U.S. Biathlon athlete to triple podium at any World Championship event after placing 3rd in sprint, 2nd in pursuit and 3rd in mass start at the U.S. Biathlon National Championships in Park City, Utah. Both Doherty and Leif represented the U.S. at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and the 2018 Pyeong-Chang Winter Games.
The Vermont Army National Guard manages the National Guard Biathlon Program out of the Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vt., which is home to one of the oldest Biathlon facilities in the United States. Every year more than 160 Soldiers participate in the National Guard Biathlon Program in addition to serving with their assigned units across the country.
Two Vermont National Guard Soldiers earned spots on the elite All-Guard Marathon Team during the trial race in Omaha, Neb. on Sept. 20.
Vermont Army National Guard Captain’s Ferne Ryder and Sarah Griffin placed 7th and 12th within the women’s category and will now represent Vermont and the National Guard, along with 43 other soldiers and airmen, on the All-Guard Marathon Team. Ryder finished with a final time of 3:40:36 while Griffin finished in 4:04:32.
“All-Guard competitions are a great way to challenge ourselves and meet fellow Soldiers from across the country,” said Griffin. “I am really excited to join and compete with the All-Guard Team, it’s a real honor.”
The Lincoln Marathon has served as the official trial race for the All-Guard Team since 1984. Typically held in May, this year’s race was postponed to September due to restrictions related to COVID-19.
“These two officers represent the type of strength and resilience that exists in the Vermont National Guard,” said Maj. Kurt Kafferlin, state judge advocate, Vermont National Guard, who also ran in the trial race. “Switching event dates when training for a marathon is extremely difficult and these two did it very well. They will make Vermont proud as members of the All-Guard Team.”
The All-Guard Military Competitions Program additionally encourages and enhances the National Guard Retention Program by instilling physical fitness, self-discipline and esprit de corps among National Guard members from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories. The Vermont National Guard manages the All-Guard Biathlon program at the Camp Ethan Allen Training Site.
Ram's Head Device Awarded!
The Vermont National Guard has newly appointed Special Emphasis Program Managers (SEPMs). SEPMs play an important role in making the VTNG an organization that is inclusive for all our members. From advocating on behalf of our underrepresented members, to celebrating cultural awareness, SEPMs promote respect, which ultimately makes us a more effective organization. These Soldiers, Airmen, and employees have the creativity and determination to help the VTNG achieve equity, fairness, and workforce diversity.
This is our SEPM team and their program:
The Vermont National Guard also has 29 graduates from the Equal Opportunity Leaders Course (EOLC) recently held at the 124th Regional Training Institute. As Equal Opportunity Leaders, they are now ready to assist their fellow Soldiers with issues related to discrimination and train our staff on how to respond and prevent bias and harassment. Thank you for all the hard work you put into the course. Your dedication will make us a better organization.
Don't forget the Multi-Cultural Day event being held at the Wing on Sunday, November 8, starting at 2 p.m.. There will be cultural music, trivia, and food. Let’s celebrate our diversity that brings us together.
Last Aircraft Arrival
Col. David Shevchik, Jr., commander of the 158th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard, flies the wing's final F-35A Lightning II to the South Burlington Air National Guard Base during a ceremony marking the arrival, South Burlington, Vt., Oct. 14.The aircraft is the 20th and final to be assigned to the wing since taking delivery of the first two in Sept. of 2019.
Standing for over 120 years in Barton, Vermont, E.M. Brown & Son, Inc., towers at four stories located on the town’s main street. A hardware store that has been a staple of the community, it is a main source of supplies for the rural community.
Having changed hands over the generations, the store is now currently owned partly by Arthur LaPlante. Many of the customers that walk in know him by name. Many others however, know him as a master sergeant in the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing, based in South Burlington.
His time at the wing is spent leading the wing’s student flight, which trains and prepares new enlistees on what it takes to be an Airman. His experience with working with young people isn’t just limited to the Air National Guard though.
A common fixture at his store has been children between the ages of 8 and 13 that come in from local schools under a program designed to give them experience outside of the classroom. These are kids who, due to disabilities, do not thrive in a classroom environment.
The Vermont Air National Guard undertook a new mission early this year amid the Coronavirus pandemic of assembling COVID-19 test kits at the Vermont Department of Health COVID-19 Warehouse, and distributing them to VDH district offices, pop-up tests sites and primary care physicians across the state.
Launched on July 20, 2020, seven Airmen stepped up to the challenge to tackle the monumental task to assemble enough COVID-19 test kits to keep up with Vermont’s daily testing demand and to amass a reserve stockpile of at least 20,000 kits.
“This operation has afforded me the opportunity to take an active role in ensuring the safety of my fellow Vermonters, as well as develop new skill sets I wouldn’t otherwise gain in my normal work environment.” Staff Sgt. Mike Grupp, from the 158th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, low observable shop.
The test kit bags include absorbents, saline vials, nasal swabs, health forms and patient instructions. Despite hectic scheduling, by the end of the first week our Airmen quickly produced nearly 8,000 kits. As the operation grew, more Airmen throughout the entire VTANG stepped up and volunteered their time to help complete the mission.
“As warehouse functions evolved, it was a challenge to choose the right individuals to lead the various roles of inventory, distribution, kit-assembly and so on,” said Master Sgt. Karl Johansen, the 158th Medical Group first sergeant and the warehouse manager. “The fact that this team is composed of diverse AFSCs (Air Force Career Specialties), skill sets, ranks and experiences made those decisions easier.”
Several weeks later, soldiers from the Vermont Army National Guard state food distribution mission joined the VTANG test-kit team. Working together as one unit, the warehouse was renamed the Covid War House.
“We know that the world is going through a very difficult time with this pandemic,” said Staff Sgt. Dhruv Gulati, of the 158th Maintenance Squadron. “As a member of the VTANG, I was given the opportunity to be a part of this team. I am honored to be part of the collective effort with the state, the VTANG and the VTARNG to fight this pandemic.”
Exceeding expectations and just 60 days after the initial launch of the warehouse, on September 18, 2020, the team assembled its 50,000th test kit making the mission an overwhelming achievement for the state.
”A lot of this team’s success can be attributed it’s diversity,” said Johansen. “Members volunteered from across many career fields and Air Force specialties; each brought a different skills sets and experiences to the effort.”