The Vermont National Guard broke ground on a new $27 million facility for the Army Mountain Warfare School on Nov. 5 at Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho.
"In my many conversations with the Secretary and the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and the Director of the Army National Guard, it was clear to me that replacing the facilities of the Army Mountain Warfare School allowed the Army to greatly expand and improve its capabilities,” said Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. “As Appropriations Vice Chairman I was glad to be in a position to be able to ensure that it was funded, when the Army told me that despite the need it had not been included in the budget submission. I'm proud of the opportunity ahead of us for Vermonters to expand our ability to teach Soldiers and other members of our Armed Services how to not only survive, but to master and make the most of difficult terrain and cold climates."
The 82,668 square foot facility will include educational space, billeting for 174 personnel, and a dining facility. The new schoolhouse will also offer students a unique four-story indoor climbing wall and will use a geothermal ground source system to provide heating and cooling. Space for the installation of photovoltaic panels will also be incorporated. Project completion is expected near April 2022.
“The Army Mountain Warfare School cadre are among the best and brightest in the field; this school is where students learn to become competent mountaineering professionals,” said Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, Vermont adjutant general. “This new facility is a testament to those Soldiers, and the thousands of graduates and cadre that have come through the school for nearly four decades.”
The Vermont National Guard has operated the only Army Mountain Warfare School in the country since 1983. They now instruct courses in basic, advanced, and specialty mountain warfare. They also provide additional mission specific training to United States and foreign military forces in a variety of countries.
“This new facility ensures the continuation of excellence in mountain warfare operations, and the lasting value this school brings to Vermont and the U.S. Army. Sincere thanks to Senator Leahy for his efforts in making this a reality,” said Knight.
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More than 70 Airmen from logistics, civil engineering, communications, comptrollers, first sergeants, personnel, services, contracting, supply, ground transportation, air transportation and medical are deploying to locations throughout the world. Watch the live-streams of their deployment ceremonies below.
James Sides, 158th Security Forces Squadron civilian security operations supervisor, was recently named Air National Guard security forces flight level civilian supervisor of the year for 2020.
Sides, a retired Army Lt. Col. who spent his active duty career in military police, learned about his win through his leadership on the evening before Thanksgiving.
“I didn’t believe the news when I first heard it because I’ve only been here 11 months,” said Sides. “I feel like I’ve done some good things here, but we’re just getting started.”
For Sides’ leadership, he was an obvious selection for the award and the final outcome came as no surprise.
“Officer Sides has made a significant impact within the squadron, since his hiring 11 months ago,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jeremiah Brooks, 158th SFS manager. “His previous experience working for the state of Vermont and as a commander in the U.S. Army, has brought a significant amount of skills and knowledge to his current position.”
Sides maintains his recognition is more of a reflection of his subordinates and the entire 158th Security Forces Squadron.
“It’s really the environment here, both in the Air National Guard and the squadron, that set me up for success,” said Sides. “When I arrived, they clearly explained the problems and gave me the freedom and authority to tackle those problems. I also want to give credit to our security officers because a lot changed for them when I came onboard. Not only did they all change with me, but they welcomed it.”
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Julie Shea, 158th Fighter Wing public affairs specialist, is the U.S. Air National Guard’s 2020 Outstanding Communication Civilian.
Shea now represents the Air National Guard at the Air Force service level against the active duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve components.
“Julie’s performance has been nothing short of tremendous,” said Army Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight, adjutant general, Vermont National Guard. “Telling our story is so important and Julie does it every day. We are lucky to have her as part of our organization.”
The Air Force Public Affairs Communication Excellence Awards program recognizes Air Force individuals in Air Force, Space Force or joint organizations for excellence in communication efforts, outstanding achievement and innovation.
“Our wing is so proud of Julie and this deserving, distinguished recognition of her as a communications expert and professional at the national level,” said Col. David Shevchik, commander, 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard. “Julie has enabled and fostered both community engagement efforts and internal messaging to our team through a challenging environment, providing a vital connection within our team and with our communities.”
Shea, a resident of Underhill, serves as a photojournalist for the 158th Fighter Wing. Her coverage focusing on the wing’s transition from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the F-35A Lightning II highlighted her submission for the nomination. She also covered Vermont’s continued participation in the State Partnership Program with Senegal and North Macedonia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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As the first Air National Guard unit to base the F-35A Lightning II, the 158th Fighter Wing is certainly familiar with making history and breaking records. Now, the wing claims another title: home of the first F-35 low observable (LO) shop in the Air National Guard.
In anticipation for the arrival of their first F-35s, a new Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) became available to the Vermont Air National Guard’s Green Mountain Boys: low observable aircraft structural maintenance (LOASM), traditionally reserved for only active duty counterparts.
Now with their full complement of 20 F-35s, these cross-trained Airmen make up the first F-35 LO shop of its kind, run completely by Guardsmen.
“We are the first Air National Guard base with the F-35, so we are also the first LO shop for the F-35 in the Air National Guard,” said Tech. Sgt. Jason George, LOASM craftsman assigned to the 158th Maintenance Group (MXG), Vermont Air National Guard.
In an upstairs room at her home in New York, while her children and dogs are playing downstairs, Lt. Col. Sarah Davis, clinical nurse assigned to the 158th Medical Group, Vermont Air National Guard, sits down at her computer screen with pieces of training equipment nearby, hoping to avoid being interrupted. It was September 28, the first day of a three-day trauma nurse training, when she logged on to greet participants virtually - a new normal during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On another continent, time zones away, more than 10 nurses in the Armed Forces of North Macedonia were also at home and logging onto their respective computers. These nurses, much like those in the Vermont National Guard, work in clinical environments and also train for contingency operations, similar to training over a drill weekend.
Also logging in for this exercise was Capt. Michael Kelley, senior nurse for Charlie Company (Med) of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), Vermont Army National Guard, who was asked by his chain of command if he was interested in participating a few weeks prior. Agreeing without initially knowing what his role would be or what topics he would cover, Kelley found himself planning the event agenda and presenting multiple topics over this three-day course.
Throughout the engagement, Vermont Guardsmen instructed on topics to include trauma patient management and the nursing process, preparation and triage, team setup, MASCAL procedures and priorities of personnel, among other lessons.
“I covered an overview of what a trauma system is, how a trauma team is set up and responsibilities of the trauma nurse and team leader. I also discussed mass casualty (MASCAL) situations, how to set up for MASCAL operations, disaster triage, emergency operations plans and discussed opportunities to improve current plans,” said Kelley.