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Top photo: From left, Brig. Gen. Leo Ryan, N.D. Army Guard commander, Capt. Heather Baril, 188th Engineer Company commander, Sgt. 1st Class Benjilee Boll, unit readiness noncommissioned officer, and Sgt. 1st Class Jon V. Benedict pose with the Chief of Staff, Army, Supply Excellence Award Program plaque in Wahpeton, N.D. on Dec. 5, 2020. Story below. (National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jill McGough, 142nd Engineer Battalion)

2020 Year In Review

188th Engineers Earn Supply Excellence Award

by Sgt. 1st Class Jill McGough, 142nd Engineer Battalion

The 188th Engineer Company (Vertical) was recognized for their outstanding supply operations by winning the Chief of Staff, Army, Supply Excellence Award (SEA). The unit was named the top Army National Guard Company Level I (A) (MTOE) in supply operations for the calendar year 2019-2020 after an Army-wide competition. Brig. Gen. Leo Ryan, N.D. Army National Guard commander, formally presented the award to the unit during a ceremony at the Wahpeton Armed Forces Reserve Center, Wahpeton, North Dakota, on Dec. 5, 2020.

Brig. Gen. Leo Ryan, left, N.D. Army Guard commander, congratulates Sgt. 1st Class Jon V. Benedict on winning the Chief of Staff, Army, Supply Excellence Award Program while Sgt. 1st Class Benjilee Boll, unit readiness non-commissioned officer watches. The award was presented at the Wahpeton Armed Forces Reserve Center, Wahpeton, N.D. on Dec. 5, 2020.

Sgt. 1st Class Jon V. Benedict, currently assigned to the 142nd Engineer Battalion, poses with the plaque recognizing the 188th Engineer Company's supply operations as the best in the Army National Guard. Benedict earned an Army Commendation Medal for his efforts in supply management and contributions to winning this award while assigned to the 188th Engineer Company.

Sgt. 1st Class Jon Benedict was awarded a Chief of Staff Army, Supply Excellence Award Program coin for his excellent assessment during the inspection in Wahpeton, N.D. on Feb. 12, 2020. Presenting the coin is CW4 Adam Coltes, Logistics Training Department Management Officer, Fort Lee, Va. From left to right, Sgt. Zachary Miller, 188th Engineer Company supply, Benedict, Coltes and Sgt. 1st Class Benjilee Boll, 188th Engineer Company readiness noncommissioned officer.

The SEA was established in 1984, the program's objective are to:

  • Enhance readiness of all Army units
  • Enhance the Command Supply Discipline Program
  • Provide a structure for recognition of group and individual Soldiers
  • Perpetuate group competition
  • Increase public awareness of supply excellence in the U.S. Army

Happy Hooligans Help Fight California Wildfires

by Chief Senior Master Sgt. Dave Lipp, 119th Wing

Six members of the 119th Operations Group, North Dakota Air National Guard, recently volunteered to support the state of California in its fight against ongoing wildfires from late August through early October. The Airmen traveled to March Air Reserve Base, Riverside, Calif., to assist the 163rd Attack Wing, California Air National Guard’s MQ-9 operations to support the firefighting mission. “Our supervisor said they were looking for personnel with incident awareness and assessment (IAA) experience to go out to California to work with MQ-9 aircrew to try to corral the fires,” said Staff Sgt. Nelson, of the 119th Operations Group. According to the California Air National Guard's 163rd Attack Wing, Airmen from MQ-9 units in eight states, some as far away as New York, were flown in to support the 163rd’s 24/7 firefighting operations. The MQ-9 Reaper is a multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) that is well-suited for loitering over an area to provide IAA and look for fires using high-tech cameras and imagery capabilities that can see through smoke to detect hotspots and assist firefighters on the ground. “The MQ-9 is a fantastic tool, from our view, to track damage that a fire has done or where it’s heading, and we actually spotted an unknown fire on the way to a known fire,” said Nelson.

California Army and Air National Guardsmen from throughout the state combine efforts to assist with battling the wildfires that are devastating much of California. California National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk crews drop water on the Ponderosa wildfires near Redding, Calif.

U.S. Marines with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 364, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) from Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Pendleton, assist in the efforts of containing the Tomahawk fires on MCB Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 16, 2014. 3rd MAW partnered with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to conduct aerial firefighting against several wildfires ablaze in San Diego County. (U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo, 3rd MAW COMCAM/RELEASED)

An MQ-9 Reaper flies over the smoky San Gabriel Mountains of southern California in transit to a fire mission in northern California, late August, 2020. (Photo courtesy Chalk 2 for the 163rd Attack Wing)

Fire fighters from the Calif. Department of Forestry and Fire Protection assist in the efforts of containing the Cocos Fire in San Marcos, Calif., May 15, 2014. 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing partnered with the Calif. Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to conduct aerial firefighting against several wildfires ablaze in San Diego County. (U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Corporal Tyler C. Gregory, 3rd MAW COMCAM/RELEASED)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Chacon of the 163d Operations Support Squadron, 163d Attack Wing, California Air National Guard, looks at a fire map for the Mendocino Complex Fire, Aug. 4, 2018, while working in an operations center at March Air Reserve Base, California. Chacon and other members of the wing are working with state agencies to provide fire perimeter scans and spot checks inside the complexes burn area, which encompasses both the River and Ranch fires. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Chacon of the 163d Operations Support Squadron, 163d Attack Wing, California Air National Guard, looks at a fire map for the Mendocino Complex Fire, Aug. 4, 2018, while working in an operations center at March Air Reserve Base, California. Chacon and other members of the wing are working with state agencies to provide fire perimeter scans and spot checks inside the complex's burn area, which encompasses both the River and Ranch fires. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

The IAA provided by the MQ-9s was vital in detecting, mapping and analyzing the direction fires were traveling to inform firefighters and determine the best course of action, which helped determine the need for evacuations to save lives and property, as well as to evaluate damage. “The flames were over 100 feet in some cases and there was so much smoke that it would go up into the atmosphere and make pyro cumulus clouds, which could create lightning, which was something I have never seen before,” said Senior Airman Knudsvig, of the 119th Operations Group.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection estimates that more than 8,200 fires burned ‘well over’ 4 million acres in 2020 so far, which more than doubled the previous record. “I worked on multiple fires from northern California all the way down to just north of Los Angeles, the bobcat fire, the August complex fire, the LNV complex fire, the snow fire, the glass fire, the bear fire, the creek fire, the zog fire and several more fires,” said Knudsvig. The California Air National Guard pioneered the use of RPAs for IAA to aid firefighting in a 2013 proof of concept initial flight of an MQ-1 Predator in the domestic airspace, which involved lengthy negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and air traffic controllers, and written approval of the secretary of defense. Emergency Certificates of Authorization (eCOA) to utilize RPAs for California domestic operations (DOMOPS) were created and limited to very specific geographical areas for the purpose of IAA support to fighting wildfires. Once the initial eCOAs were created, it became easier to execute similar missions.

With smoke visible at high altitude, New York Air National Guard pilot 1st Lieutenant Nicole Clay, assigned to the 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse, N.Y., conducts remotely piloted operations with an MQ-9 while deployed in September, 2020 at March Air Reserve Base in California. Clay and three other Airmen from New York supported wildfire containment efforts in support of the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing, providing reconnaissance capabilities to the 18,000 firefighters battling wildfires for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). (Courtesy photo)

“When I signed up for the Guard, I never had any idea I would be involved in something like this. It was an awesome opportunity and I hope I can do something like this again,” said Nelson. “I’m proud to be a Happy Hooligan and incorporate the ‘Hooligan way’ into my everyday life, and it was really important to me to represent that while I was in California,” said Senior Airman Marciniak, of the 119th Operations Group.

Charlie Company Checks In

by 1st Sgt. Mitch McCoy, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 285th Assault Helicopter Regiment

On Nov. 12, 2020, about 70 Soldiers of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 285th Assault Helicopter Regiment (Assault) departed North Dakota en route to the National Capital Region (NCR) for a nine-month mobilization. The three-day trek from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, included 10 aircraft and 17 ground vehicles. Their mission is to support movement objectives on behalf of the Military District of Washington. Upon arrival, the unit was subjected to a 14-day quarantine before they could inherit mission assumption from the outgoing Illinois National Guard aviation unit.

Top Left: Crew chiefs Sgt. Meric Beck, Sgt. Mac Nagel and Spc. Kolby Wetch wash a UH-60 Black Hawk at Davison Army Airfield, Fort Belvoir, Virginia on Dec. 3, 2020. Helicopters require a wash every 30 days. Top Right: Sunrise pre-flight checks at Davison Army Airfield on Dec. 2, 2020. Bottom: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brent Freese, Sgt. Meric Beck, and Spc. Joey Vandervliet perform a maintenance ground test run in the rain at Davison Army Airfield on Nov. 30, 2020. (National Guard photos by Sgt. Logan Maier, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment)

When the quarantine period ended, the Soldiers began a very intense RIP/TOA (relief in place/transfer of authority) process. Successful completion of this mandatory training allows incoming units to properly prepare before they assume their newly assigned mission. The leaders and Soldiers of the Army Aviation Brigade and 12th Aviation Battalion worked hand-in-hand ensuring a quality hand-off during mission acceptance.

On Dec. 9, Charlie Company Soldiers completed a validation exercise allowing the unit to assume the mission the following day. These North Dakota aviation Soldiers proudly wear the 12th Aviation patch after having been formally accepted into the 12th Aviation family.

Sgt. Cody Goetz displays the National Capital Region patch on his shoulder. Charlie Company Soldiers will wear this patch for the duration of their mobilization.

Sgt. Riley Marquardt performs maintenance on a UH-60 Black Hawk tail rotor assembly at the Davison Army Air Field maintenance hangar, Fort Belvoir, Va, Dec. 11, 2020.

This is Charlie Company’s 3rd mobilization since 2009. The unit was previously deployed to Kosovo in support of peacekeeping operations from November 2013 to December 2014 and to Iraq October 2009 to September 2010.

Spc. Riley Roy-Lagasse re-fuels a UH-60 Black Hawk at the FARP (forward arming and refuel point) at Davison Army Airfield, Fort Belvoir, Va. Dec. 15, 2020.

N.D. Air Guard 119th Regional Training Site

by Tech. Sgt. Nathanael Baardson, 119th Wing Public Affairs Office

In his opinion, “There’s no more significant or important training facility in the U.S. outside of this base,” said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Rush of the 190th Air Refueling Wing (ARW), Kansas Air National Guard. Rush doesn’t mince words when describing the impact the 119th Regional Training Site (RTS) has had on him. “The facilities are nice and the training resources are up to date, some of the best I’ve seen in my career.” Having been to the Fargo training site seven times, he knows what to expect and how the 119th RTS operates.

Tech. Sgt. Anthony Rezac, 119th RTS training manager, agrees that the equipment based in Fargo, like the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU), is the same equipment Airmen would use during a deployment. These Mission Essential Equipment Trainings (MEET) result in hands-on experience which effectively carries over to real-time use if or when any unit is called into action.

Rush recalled his experience while deployed to Haiti after the island nation suffered a severe earthquake. "We set up a ROWPU, and our own power generation, tents and expeditionary medical support. It all just clicked thanks to the great hands-on training and the skills learned at the 119th RTS.”

Senior Airman Ryan Matzke, Civil Engineering Structural Craftsman from the 190th ARW, realized the importance of his time spent at the 119th RTS. “The training I received is invaluable. It’s more than likely that I will get the chance to use these skills overseas, so this is our chance to test everything out in a safe, learning environment.” Matzke spent the first day setting up a tent and getting acclimated, then spent a majority of his time in the welding shop. “Back home, we don’t have the resources that are here in Fargo. I was told to utilize the equipment and resources here as much as possible because we don’t have these same resources available for training at our base.”

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Matzke, a structural craftsman assigned to the 190th Civil Engineering Squadron, Kansas Air National Guard, practices welding at the 119th Regional Training Site (RTS) North Dakota Air National Guard Base, Fargo, N.D., Sept. 12, 2020.

Airmen from the Kansas Air National Guard’s 190th Civil Engineering Squadron, train on land surveying at the 119th Regional Training Site on Sept. 12, 2020.

Coming to the 119th RTS once every two to three years, Rush understands the importance of making the most of the training opportunities. “If it weren’t for this base, we’d be stuck watching power point presentations, and reading U.S. Air Force Technical Orders instead of experiencing valuable hands-on training.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected how the training site functions, Rush explains. “It’s helpful that this RTS is away from our home station allowing us to simulate a deployed location. We could erect tents for housing if we didn’t have the hooches [quarters]. We can be self-sufficient out here. We arrived COVID-19 free and we intend to go home healthy.”

Rezac noted that the 119th RTS trains Airmen from all three components; Air National Guard, active duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve. “Whenever we get an opening for a course, it’s filled almost instantly. Our trainers never have a down season.”

An example of popular MEET courses are the two crane classes, initial and refresher. This training teaches everything needed to support setup of an expeditionary base and improvised airfield. The 119th RTS has equipment available that some bases don’t have in order to conduct the training.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chew of the 164th Airlift Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard, practices crane operations at the N.D. Air National Guard’s 119th Regional Training Site (RTS), North Dakota Air National Guard Base, Fargo, N.D. Sept. 17, 2020.

Staff Sgt. Jerod Rudd of the 219th Red Horse Squadron, Montana Air National Guard, assists in lowering a storage container into place during crane operation training at the N.D. Air National Guard's 119th Regional Training Site (RTS), North Dakota Air National Guard Base, Fargo, N.D., Sept. 17, 2020.

With over 900 Airmen trained during fiscal year 2020, the N.D. National Guard’s 119th Regional Training Site helps keep our nation’s Airmen ready to serve by providing wartime mission training as well as proficiency training on construction practices, utility support, emergency services, maintenance and repair of base infrastructure.

Classes offered at the 119th Regional Training Site:

  • High Power Generation (HPG)
  • Minimum Aircraft Arresting System (MAAS)
  • Bear Distribution System (BDS)
  • Expeditionary Airfield Lighting System (EALS)
  • Reverse Osmosis Water Purification System (ROWPU)
  • Survey Grade Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Fundamentals of Geospatial Information & Services (GI&S)
  • Crane Initial and Refresher

Brig. Gen. Huber Appointed As N.D. Dual-Status Commander

by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland, N.D. National Guard Public Affairs Office

Brig. Gen. Jackie Huber was appointed as the first dual-status commander in North Dakota's history on Dec. 12, 2020. Dual-status commanders help streamline coordination efforts between National Guard members in state status, Title 32, and other service members in federal status, Title 10. These commanders can be drawn from either the National Guard or the active component Army or Air Force. Those appointed must have completed the dual-status commanders' course and other specialized training and certifications.

The dual-status commander is simultaneously a member of the state chain of command – subject to the orders of the governor and adjutant general – as well as the federal chain of command, subject to the orders of the President and Secretary of Defense.

Brig. Gen. Jackie Huber, deputy adjutant general, N.D. National Guard.

The first mission that N.D. National Guard and active-duty troops collaborated on was the integration of active-duty U.S. Air Force nurses and health care workers into civilian facilities across the state. These efforts are in support of battling the effort to slow and stop the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lt. General Laura J. Richardson, commanding general of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), recently visited North Dakota to review COVID-19 efforts and addressed issues and concerns with civilian health officials and senior leaders of the N.D. National Guard. Richardson visited Fargo on Dec. 15 and traveled to Bismarck to conduct a meeting with Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, adjutant general, and Brig. Gen. Jackie Huber, deputy adjutant general, at Fraine Barracks the following day. U.S. Army North is the Army service component command to U.S. Northern Command, the geographic combatant command for North America. U.S. Army North also works alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate and provide support where needed.

From right, Lt. General Laura J. Richardson, commanding general, meets with Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, adjutant general and Brig. Gen. Jackie Huber, deputy adjutant general at Fraine Barracks on Dec. 16, 2020.

COVID-19 Response Update

by Bill Prokopyk, North Dakota National Guard Public Affairs Office

The emergency response support to the COVID-19 pandemic by the N.D. National Guard continues. On Nov. 19, the N.D. National Guard assessed 67,495 personnel-days surpassing the record 67,264 personnel-days worked in response to 2011 flood. As of Dec. 17, 2020, N.D. Guard Soldiers and Airmen have expended 75,548 personnel-days, administered over 317,000 COVID-19 tests and transported over 159,000 specimens to the N.D. state laboratory for evaluation.

Along with other states, the N.D. National Guard’s federal funding for COVID-19 response was scheduled to end later this month. However, the President extended federal funding until March 31, 2021 at a 75% rate. States will contribute 25% of the cost of National Guard expenses in COVID-19 operations. Currently, about 300 N.D. Guard members are on duty supporting COVID-19 response operations.

N.D. National Domestic Operations personnel-days by mission.

Normal Operations Continue Despite Pandemic

by Chief Master Sgt. David H. Lipp, 119th Wing Public Affairs Office

Even though the N.D. National Guard remains heavily engaged in COVID-19 response, Hooligan Airmen of the 119th Medical Group continue to support routine operations. This includes annual flu immunizations for all members of the 119th Wing.

Tech. Sgt. Roman Gaughan, 119th Medical Group noncommissioned officer in charge of vaccinations, administers the annual flu vaccine to Senior Master Sgt. Shawna Affield, of the 119th Communications Flight, at the N.D. Air National Guard Base, Fargo, N.D., Dec. 15, 2020.

Tech. Sgt. Roman Gaughan, 119th Medical Group noncommissioned officer in charge of vaccinations, administers the annual flu vaccine to Master Sgt. Jeremy Roering, of the 119th Communications Flight, on Dec. 15, 2020.

Fighting Stigma, a Radio Message from ND Cares

by Michelle Gauvin-Panos, Executive Director, ND Cares

The N.D. National Guard and the ND Cares Coalition recently collaborated to produce a new anti-stigma radio message, encouraging military members and Veterans to seek help for a mental health or for substance abuse issues.

The radio spot will feature former N.D. National Guard state command chief, retired Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Miller, who advises service members and Veterans to seek help when they are struggling. Reaching out for assistance helped him and it can help others too. Unfortunately, we continue to have stigma associated with seeking this type of help. The fear of losing your job or being labeled an unproductive team member often keeps those who are suffering from asking for help. The good news is that all military services are working together to help break this sigma barrier. Within the North Dakota National Guard and beyond there now stands a multitude of programs and resources ready to help any Airman or Soldier facing difficulty, offering assistance without judgment.

If a mental health or substance abuse problem becomes a crisis requiring immediate attention, dialing 211 gets service members or Veterans help quickly. FirstLink operates North Dakota’s 24-hour 211 helpline with direct connections to resources for emergency needs.

Right: Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Miller congratulates Staff Sgt. Jessica Harper, left, and Staff Sgt. Sarah Harper, both of the 219th Security Forces Squadron, for being named N.D. Air National Guard Family of the Year, in Minot, N.D., July 17, 2020.

Before retiring in December, Miller recorded the following message with the goal of helping others by highlighting his experience.

“I’m Chief Jeff Miller from the North Dakota Air National Guard. We need to break the sigma that prevents people from getting help when struggling with mental health or a substance abuse crisis. Getting help doesn’t show weakness. It shows personal awareness and the desire to improve. Staying connected to those around us can help break the stigma. It wasn’t easy for me to reach out to my chain of command about my struggles – but when I did, it didn’t hurt my career - it helped it. If you’re in the military or a Veteran who’s struggling, please dial 211 and talk to someone today.”

ND Cares has contracted with the North Dakota Broadcasters Association (NDBA) to air other radio and television promotional spots such as those for the 211 Helpline, N.D. Veterans Home at Lisbon, and Veterans' Stand Downs. The radio message featuring Miller will began statewide in January 2021 through NDBA member stations and will continue throughout the year.

N.D. Army Guard's "Eagle Flight" Soars On

by Sgt. Tyler Wall, 116th Public Affairs Detachment

The N.D. Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion conducted their annual event providing information to Guard Soldiers on how to obtain officer and warrant officer commissions within the force. The program called "Eagle Flight", was recently held in Bismarck and Fargo on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13 respectfully. Recruiters provide information to enlisted Soldiers on officer candidate school, warrant officer candidate school, direct commissioning and specialty branches (legal, medical and chaplain corps). For more information on pursuing a commission contact Warrant Officer Richard Blumler at 701-809-4338.

Honoring an Employer

by Tech. Sgt. Jesica Geffre, 119th Wing Public Affairs Office

N.D. Air National Guard member Tech. Sgt. Jesica ‘Jecca’ Geffre nominated her supervisor, Shawn Riley, the N.D. Information Technology (NDIT) department chief information officer, for an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) ‘Patriot Award'. The award, presented to Riley virtually on Dec. 16, 2020, recognizes supervisors and bosses nominated by a Guardsman or Reservist employee for support provided directly to the nominator.

Geffre, who recently transferred from the Colorado Air National Guard, credits Riley with allowing her sufficient time to have an effective transition to her new unit and to complete military training requirements while she began her full-time job with NDIT.

Participants in a virtual meeting whose purpose was to present the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Patriot Award to Shawn Riley, the NDIT department chief information officer, on Dec. 16, 2020. Clockwise, from top left, Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, the N.D. adjutant general; Col. Darrin Anderson, 119th Wing commander; Janette Fetch, N.D. ESGR; Mason Sisk, policy advisor, N.D. Governor's office; Riley; and Tech. Sgt. Jesica ‘Jecca’ Geffre, 119th Wing, who nominated Riley for the ESGR award.

“Congratulations to Shawn Riley. We’re grateful to our National Guard and Reserve forces, which are serving an important role in the pandemic response, and it’s vital we recognize the special partnership with employers who contribute to the call to serve by providing support to service members,” said Gov. Doug Burgum in a Dec. 16, 2020 news release.

Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, N.D. adjutant general, participated in the virtual presentation and also thanked Riley acknowledging that the National Guard could not perform its missions without the support of our families and employers.

N.D. ESGR Ombudsman Message

N.D. Army Guard Welcomes Chaplain

by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland, N.D. National Guard Public Affairs Office

The N.D. Army National Guard added another chaplain to the force on Dec. 14, 2020. Father Justin Waltz was commissioned in the rank of captain during a brief ceremony at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, N.D. Waltz, senior pastor at St. Leo's Catholic Church in Minot, N.D., joins fellow Catholic Chaplain (Capt.) Chad Gion in the 164th Engineer Battalion. The N.D. Army National Guard has not had two simultaneously serving Catholic chaplains since 1993.

Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, adjutant general for the N.D. National Guard, administers the oath of office to Father Justin Waltz during his commissioning ceremony in Bismarck, N.D. on Dec. 14, 2020.

Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann renders remarks during Chaplain (Capt.) Justin Waltz's commissioning ceremony at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, N.D. on Dec. 14, 2020.

Chaplain (Colonel) David Johnson, left, state chaplain for the N.D. Army National Guard, congratulates newly commissioned Chaplain (Capt.) Justin Waltz by awarding him a coin on Dec. 14, 2020.

Retired U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Lloyd Krueger, left, and N.D. Army National Guard Chaplain (Capt.) Chad Gion, right, participate in Chaplain (Capt.) Justin Waltz's commissioning ceremony in Bismarck on Dec. 14, 2020. Krueger serves as a deacon at St. Leo's Catholic Church with Waltz.

Chaplain's Corner

“Light Shining in Darkness”

by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Cheney, 119th Wing

In just a couple of days on Dec. 21, we will experience the shortest and therefore darkest day of the year due to annual winter solstice. In the midst of all this darkness, we are in for a special treat this year. Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in our solar system, will line up to create what is known as the Christmas Star or the Star of Bethlehem, something we have not seen in nearly 800 years.

According to astronomer Patrick Hartigan, "alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to be to one another. You'd have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226 to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky. On Dec. 21, look toward the southwest sky 45 minutes after sunset to see this conjunction. They will look like a double planet, separated by only a fifth of the diameter of the full moon. For most telescope viewers, each plant and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening."

A light shining in the darkness helps us find our way. Christmas and light go together. Midnight services sung by candlelight. Lights are strung on our houses and Christmas trees. Blinking, twinkling, colored lights, white lights, and all those candles. Each one a light in the darkness.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Cheney, 119th Wing Chaplain

Light and darkness. Life and death. God knows how thick the darkness is and how deep rivulets of separation can alienate us, especially as we all deal with the ongoing pandemic. This season is one which celebrates a saving light that no darkness can overcome, not even the darkness of our own shortcomings and failures to love.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah writes: "the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father Prince of Peace."

A light shining in the darkness and leading us home. To come home… like the shepherds and magi, parents, siblings, oddball cousins, tax collectors, Pharisees, hypocrites, skeptics and agnostics, the bored, baptized, and chosen all on a journey inspired by seeking and led by light. May this Christmas star lead us all to a place of reunion, peace, and joy where the glow of human love meets the warmth of divine compassion.

Diversity and Inclusion Update

by Rob Roehrich, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager

Greetings to our readers. We are always grateful for the opportunity to let everyone know what our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Executive Committee, Diversity and Inclusion Working Groups and other supporting elements have been up to in the last quarter. In this month’s D&I Corner, we want to tell you about past events, future planning and some past federal observances.

2021 Women’s Leadership Summit Planning Committee: We are well into planning our first ever Women’s Leadership Summit which has been re-scheduled for summer 2021 from March 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic. This summit is intended for service members and civilian employees of the N.D. National Guard. The theme will be “Unleash your Potential”. We are confident that our planning resilience will pay off and this event will provide our attendees the ability to network, create mentor/mentee relationships and increase their overall leadership skillsets. This event is for men and women alike as we are all one team. We are confident that our participants, regardless of their job specialty or level of responsibility, will gain something from this event. We invite you to please like our Facebook “NDNG Women’s Leadership Summit” page as we do promote and share information through this page.

Sexual Harassment Training: Recently, our state Equal Employment Manager in conjunction with the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator provided a professional development opportunity to the North Dakota National Guard full-time staff. The training focused on illegal sexual harassment, which is unacceptable and is not tolerated by our organization in any form. Rob Roehrich explained to the audience how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces EEO Laws down to the agency level and the avenues an employee may use to bring up a concern. Our organization is deeply committed to equity, diversity and inclusion. Every employee, regardless of a protected class status (race, color, religion, sex (including gender, gender identity, sexual orientation), national origin, disability (both physical and mental), age (40 and older) and genetics, should be treated equitably, with fairness and respect, regardless of what of our physical and non-physical differences are.

Happy National American Indian Heritage Month: November was American Indian Heritage month and a static display was erected at the Raymond J. Bohn armory in Bismarck annotating interesting historic information of American Indian culture. We continually encourage our members to attend community events such as Pow Wows, smudging ceremonies, talking circles etc. These events are typically great ways to increase cultural awareness of the people of our Tribal Nations. We also collect data that shows minority trends in employment within our agency to include our Native American employees. About 2% of the North Dakota National Guard force is comprised of those with American Indian heritage. We are grateful to all our American Indian service member warriors who serve, have served, or will serve our country in the future.

Disability Awareness month: October was Disability Awareness month. Did you know that one in four Americans have or are living with some form of disability? That is somewhere in the range of 61 million people in the United States. In terms of normal observance activities, COVID-19 precautions have slowed us to a crawl, but we still need to take the time to recognize this large and sometimes untapped resource. People with disabilities have shown to be valuable employees in both private and government sectors. In most cases, with the correct workplace accommodation, these employees have proved high levels of success in their work and accomplishments. The word “disability” is sometimes considered a disparaging term, but I am always quick to point out that disability does not mean “inability”. Thank you to all our current, former and future employees who live and work with disabilities.

While we celebrate annual observances during specific timeframes for months such as American Indian Heritage, and Disability Awareness, we must remember that we are not held to just that month. As we celebrated our federal observances in 2020, we must acknowledge that culture and disabilities don’t stop when the month ends. They are part of who we are and honoring our heritage, differences, and uniqueness of our employees, service members, and community is a year round opportunity that we embrace.

Community partnerships with Bismarck State College (BSC) and the N.D. state government: Another cool opportunity is our community partnerships. The N.D. National Guard has members participating on a couple of different Diversity and Inclusion committees and working teams within the Bismarck-Mandan community. We have worked with BSC on events such as Culture Fest and speaker engagements on the BSC campus or in other venues. Recently, our team has connected with the North Dakota state government in their Diversity and Inclusion working group. We look forward to initiatives, and continually seek opportunities to strengthen bond within our communities.

Until next time, I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season in whatever fashion you choose to observe and may the New Year bring you new opportunities to do great things for the state of North Dakota. For more information, contact the Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager at (701) 333-3293.

30 Year Anniversary of Desert Shield/Storm

by retired Lt. Col. Shirley J. Olgeirson, N.D. National Guard historian and retired Master Sgt. Dave Somdahl (contributor)

In September 1990, the unexpected happened. North Dakota Army National Guard units were mobilized for the first time since the Berlin Crisis 28 years earlier. Iraq invaded Kuwait and the world responded with U.S. and Coalition forces rushing to defend the sovereign nation from its larger, aggressive neighbor. Operation Desert Shield began and later transitioned to Desert Storm when the Coilition air campaign began on Jan. 17, 1991. Three North Dakota Guard units were activated during September. The 132nd Quartermaster Company (Water Supply), 134th Quartermaster Detachment (Water Distribution), and 131st Quartermaster Detachment (Water Purification) produced, stored, and distributed millions of gallons of potable water to coalition forces and local entities in Saudi Arabia.

Page from N.D. National Guard's 'The Straight Arrow', a publication which featured the best Desert Shield/Storm photos on the conflict's first anniversary.

By November 1990, four more units were going to war. On Dec. 1, the 818th Medical Battalion landed in Saudi Arabia to provide command and control for medical units supporting the VII Corps rear area. The 136th Quartermaster Battalion (Water Supply) and 133rd Quartermaster Detachment (Water Distribution) also landed in theater that month to enhance water services. The 191st Military Police (MP) Company (EPW Guard) constructed Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) detention areas and, along with other MP units, transported, guarded, and fed more than 20,000 enemy prisoners from January through May. Shortly after the air war began on Jan. 17, 1991, the 842nd Medical Detachment (Blood Collection) deployed directly to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to gather and process over 1,600 units of blood. In total, over 460 N.D. National Guard Soldiers were mobilized for Desert Shield/Desert Storm, adding another chapter to an already rich history for our organization.

Also during Operation Desert Shield, over 100 N.D. National Guard Airmen were mobilized to augment the resources of the U.S. Air Force. These Happy Hooligans served at several different Air Force bases within the continental Unites States to backfill U.S. Air Force personnel sent to the Middle East. The Hooligans that mobilized were from the 119th U.S. Air Force Clinic (now 119th Medical Squadron), 119th Civil Engineer Squadron, 119th Services Flight and the 119th Security Police Squadron. Please click for more information about the N.D. National Guard's Desert Shield/Storm activities.

Senior Army Advisor Retires

by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland, N.D. National Guard Public Affairs Office

A retirement ceremony was held for Lt. Col. Justin Zimmer at Raymond J. Bohn armory on Dec. 11, 2020. Brig. Gen. Jackie Huber, deputy adjutant general, who presided over the ceremony, remarked how she remembered meeting Zimmer early in her career when he served as an enlisted Soldier with the N.D. National Guard's 191st Military Police Company in the mid-1990s. He earned his commission in 1998 from the ROTC program at the University of North Dakota and served in the active Army, coming home to North Dakota in 2019 for his final assignment serving as the N.D. Army National Guard's Senior Army Advisor from 2019 to 2020. The Senior Army Advisor is the link to the active duty Army which helps keep the National Guard current and aligned with regard to tactics, doctrine, regulations, as well as providing advice to commanders at all levels.

Brig. Gen. Jackie Huber, deputy adjutant general, presents Lt. Col. Justin Zimmer a N.D. National Guard Meritorious Service Medal during his retirement ceremony at the Raymond J. Bohn Armory in Bismarck on Dec. 11, 2020.

Lt. Col. Justin Zimmer and his father, retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Tim Zimmer.

Many of Zimmer's family members were present for the ceremony honoring his 24 years of military service. This included his wife Jodi, children, and his mother and father. His father, retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Tim Zimmer, is a former N.D. Army National Guard Command Chief. Zimmer plans to continue to live and work in North Dakota.

Risk Reduction Navigator

Mindfulness for the Military

Dr. Kirby Schmidtgall, Ph.D., LPCC, NCC - Psychological Health Program Manager, North Dakota Army National Guard

As we navigate the upcoming holidays with the added stress of the recent pandemic, it is important to keep an eye on resilience and risk reduction. One way to strengthen resilience is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of paying attention. It is the ability to focus on the present moment and experience the sensation without judgment, resisting it, or trying to change it. Mindfulness is a skill, and like any other skill it takes practice. The article below is from the Human Performance Resources by CHAMP web site. Check out their web site for tips on optimal performance. If you are interested in learning more about Mindfulness check out the “Mindfulness Coach’” smart phone app available at the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs' app store.

Mindfulness training, the practice of training your brain to stay in the present moment, offers many benefits. Practicing mindfulness can help you relax, lower your blood pressure, sleep better, become more focused and alert, “tune in” to your body to perform better and improve your relationships. In military environments, mindfulness training can enhance your ability to perform at your best in garrison, during training and in theater. It also can help reduce pain and stress related to post-deployment and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and improve your impulse control.

How does mindfulness work?

Mindfulness training helps you develop your ability to focus on the present moment, while accepting your emotions, thoughts, and sensations calmly and without judgment. Mind-wandering, worrying and trying to evaluate the past can keep you from attending to important details of the present.

Benefits of Mindfulness

  • Improves relaxation
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves sleep
  • Helps ability to focus
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Reduces pain and stress
  • Improves impulse control

If you have ever been driving and realized you missed your turn or drove in the wrong direction, your attention was likely on replaying a memory or planning for something in the future. Mindfulness happens when you focus your full attention on the present. A mindfulness practice encourages you to experience a situation without judgment (“This is neither good nor bad”) and with acceptance (“This is happening right now”).

Mindfulness is a skill and like any skill, the more you practice the better yo will be able to focus your attention on the present moment. Regular mindfulness practice can help to decrease activity in the fight-or-flight parts of your brain (amygdala) that can cause you to be impulsive. Meanwhile, the part of your brain (pre-frontal cortex) that controls awareness, concentration, and decision-making increases in activity. This can help you to make better decisions, and be less reactive and more in control.

Practice using a mindfulness meditation. If you are new to mindfulness, start by trying out this simple 5-minute meditation you can do almost anywhere.

For best results, set aside at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted time in a quiet space every day to practice mindfulness. Just after you wake up is a good time since your mind is probably quiet already. Or practice before bedtime and see if it helps you sleep better. Find a time that works for you and stay with it every day for one week. As the days pass, notice how this practice affects your day. Over time, many people report feeling a sense of inner calm and relaxation with regular practice. If you find mindfulness works well for you, continue at least once a day—or any time you are stressed and need to relax and center yourself.

How do I know if I am doing mindfulness right?

Throughout the meditation, you might have wondered if you did it correctly. Or perhaps you caught thoughts about the future or past popping into your awareness despite your best efforts. The good news is that this is OK and completely normal. As long as you are aware of these thoughts and let them pass without judgement, then you are doing it right! The more you practice, the more you will be able to let unwanted thoughts pass by without judgement. This will help you to lower stress and gain the full rewards from practicing mindfulness.

How mindfulness can help in military environments. You can also use mindfulness tactically throughout your military experiences.

Mindfulness during training: In training environments, mindfulness helps warfighters stay safe while learning new skills and tactics. It also aids with memory and recall on difficult tests and qualifications. For example, warfighters need to be able to block out distractions and tune into their physiology to do their best in shooting tasks for weapons qualifications. Managing your mind-body experience of performance anxiety during the stages of your evaluations is crucial for being able to fire a weapon accurately and consistently.

Mindfulness in theater: Your situational awareness is enhanced by mindfulness in a combat environment too. Mind-wandering and judging an experience can create unnecessary stimuli that interfere with your ability to connect with the resources you need to accomplish tasks, avert disaster or respond to crisis. Warfighters are less lethal and less resourceful in combat when their minds wander and they are unable to fully focus on a situation. Mindfulness training for even relatively short periods of time (for example, 8 hours over 8 weeks) can improve focus in military service members. That is, they are able to keep their minds from wandering and have fewer lapses in performance during a given task. Combat environments are often characterized as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA), which can easily lead to sensory overload. Developing mindfulness can help increase your tolerance of these environments, allowing you to hone your skills of attending to the right stimuli at the right time. In one pain-threshold study, some participants who used mindfulness training were able to tolerate higher temperatures before they reported feeling pain. They were also able to endure heat stimuli for longer durations.

Mindfulness during garrison: In garrison or during dwell times, mindfulness can help you build stronger relationships with friends and family and make the most of your time to recover and restore your energy. Any of the mindfulness practices that promote relaxation and reduce stress can help you sleep. In addition to mindful meditation are tactical breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and autogenic training. Warfighters lead busy lives and time with loved ones can feel limited. Mindfulness helps you maximize those precious moments and cope with difficult emotions that can get in the way of communication and intimacy.

Transition from military life to home life: You would not be alone if you noticed that some of the stress that comes with military life at times spills over into how you communicate with and focus your attention on family and friends. Mindfulness can help you to be more present with family—and help you to notice—and reengage when you’re not communicating in the best way. Watch the video below to learn more about how you can use mindfulness to improve your relationships at home.

Debrief: One of the first steps in mindfulness involves pausing, taking a deep breath and bringing your attention inward for a moment. If you’re new to mindfulness, it might take some time before you start to see the benefits in your military career and personal life. Visit Human Performance Resources by Champ's (HPRC) Performance Psychology section to learn ways to practice mindfulness during everyday activities you are already doing for peak performance at work and home.

Note: Mindfulness meditation is not a replacement for medical treatment or advice.

HPRC is a team of fitness and performance experts who help members of the military community be physically and mentally fit, fuel and hydrate properly, maintain social ties and stay resilient—all pieces of the puzzle that make up Total Force Fitness. For more information visit HPRC-online.org.

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