Rancher Ropes in Top Warrior Title [repost]

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 14, 2008 – A Montana National Guard noncommissioned officer, recently named as the Army National Guard’s NCO of the Year and the Army’s Warrior of the Year, said the best warrior is the one who knows when he needs help.

Staff Sgt. Michael Noyce Merino, honored Oct. 6 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting and exposition in Washington, credits free counseling sessions he received through Military OneSource with helping him cope with stresses that accumulated during combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“That really helped me,” Noyce Merino said.

Noyce Merino won the Army Guard’s final competition in mid-August at Fort Benning, Ga. That achievement allowed him to match his skill and knowledge against 12 soldiers representing the Army’s other major commands for a final Best Warrior competition at Fort Lee, Va., Sept. 30 to Oct. 3. He won the Army’s competition to his great surprise, he said.

“I’m equally proud of winning [both competitions],” Noyce Merino said. “They were both difficult in their own way.”

Noyce Merino explained that the Guard’s competition was physical with its 12-mile road march and land navigation events. In contrast, the Best Warrior competition challenged his marksmanship and ability to think under pressure.

“We’re fortunate to have all those soldiers – regardless of component – compete,” Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard, said. “Those are the best of the best. It’s a big moment for the Guard, and it’s also a big moment for the Army.”

Noyce Merino joined the Guard after his release from active duty in 2007 and returned to his family’s 21,000-acre cattle ranch in Montana. He also works as a shipping supervisor for United Parcel Service, and he praised that company for its support of his service.

“Now that we have settled down on the ranch, we hope to start a family,” he said. “Right now, we are building the operation and developing a functioning [cattle] business.”

Noyce Merino was home-schooled and grew up on the ranch. “It’s what I knew and loved until I joined the [active duty] Army,” he said.

His 2001 active-duty enlistment took him immediately to battlefields in Afghanistan. “I was in basic training when the 9/11 attacks happened,” he said. “So right away, I knew I was going into combat.”

He attended airborne school, was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, and deployed for six months. He returned home only to deploy to Iraq for eight months.

“After that, I re-enlisted into the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood [in Texas],” he said. He returned to Iraq for an additional 12 months.

On one patrol, Noyce Merino used his combat lifesaver skills to apply two tourniquets to a fellow soldier after a mortar attack in Baghdad. “He had extensive shrapnel wounds and arterial bleeding in both legs, and was going in and out of consciousness,” he said. The patrol transported the soldier to an aid station within nine minutes and helped to save his life.

During the recent Best Warrior competition, Noyce Merino said, he faced a similar medical scenario that required treating a wounded leg.

“Those who had not been in that situation saw what it was like to treat a casualty under fire,” he said. He added that the competition simulated battlefield conditions well. “The Army and the Guard should do as much of that as they possibly can.”

Though he’s proud to have been honored, Noyce Merino said he’s just one of many deserving soldiers.

“I don’t consider myself to be the best,” he said. “There are a lot of soldiers and sergeants right now who are deployed, who are serving, and their duty prevents them from competing. I’m more of a representative of all NCOs and all soldiers in the Army. I’m an example of what it takes to be one of the best.”

(U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy)


Air Guard’s charter members reflect on first 60 years [Repost]

Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

(Note: This reposted article was originally written and published April 9, 2007)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AF NEWS) — Their membership gets older and smaller every day. Nearly 60 years have passed since they formed, but time has not removed distant memories of 1946 and 1947 after these veterans helped claim victory in World War II and flew as Air National Guardsmen. 

You may have met them on your drill weekends outside your shop or at a base function. He was that man with the silver hair who grabbed your elbow in the hallway one Saturday afternoon to tell you about those who came before you. Or it was another senior citizen describing how his and other Airmen’s voices filled the cockpits of retired aircraft and echoed in hangars long since torn down. 

They are the Air Guard’s charter Airmen. They will be there when the Air Guard celebrates its 60th birthday this fall. 

Some of these charter Airmen keep in touch with their units and share their whereabouts and experiences through alumni groups, museums, speaking engagements, and interviews. 

Retired Colorado Air Guard Tech. Sgt. Harry Emily, 90, is the oldest living charter member of the Colorado Air Guard. 

Sergeant Emily joined the National Guard in 1938 and left after World War II. He helped train pilots, navigators, and aero engineers on B-25 Mitchell bombers, and he went to school to serve in a P-38 Lightning fighter squadron. He said there were 17 members in 1946 when they reorganized the 120th Aero Observation Squadron into the 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron, which flew P-51 Mustang fighters. They were the first Air Guard members in the country to be federally recognized. 

They federalized in Texas, and still have a photograph taken of the entire observation squadron. “That photo hangs in the Buckley Air National Guard Base headquarters building in Denver,” he said. 

During the war, many Army Air Corps units were moved or broken up, and their experienced Soldiers scattered throughout the Army. After the war, the new Air National Guard Airmen came from a war-expanded and reorganized Army Air Force. These veterans were already forming Air Guard squadrons in their hometowns when Congress established the Air Guard Sept. 18, 1947. 

Sergeant Emily said what defined the early Air Guard was no different than the National Guard today: The primary intent to take care of the state and to protect the nation in case of a national emergency. Everything has gotten bigger, he said, but the individuals and the families that sacrifice time to serve their state and country remain the same. 

“They are doing a wonderful job, and, God, we can’t do enough to support them,” he said. 

He and others from the original Colorado Air Guard do their best. The group helped build a museum. Established in 1994, the Winds over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver is a place where people learn about the role of aviation and the Air Guard. The museum recorded and archived Sergeant Emily’s experiences on video. 

“At my age, all you have left is memories,” he said. Sergeant Emily was an Air Guard member, a newspaperman, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He lives in Denver with his wife, Frances.

The origins of the Colorado Air Guard and Sergeant Emily’s small group are similar to how other Air Guard units started throughout the country. Most units existed as a handful of seasoned combat flyers and mechanics from the war. Others were the Air Guard’s first recruits. 

Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow, a public affairs officer for the Vermont Air Guard, said 27 World War II combat veterans organized the Vermont Air Guard, which was the fifth Guard unit to be federally recognized. 

“The original 27 Air Guard members are now reduced to four,” Colonel Goodrow said. 

The unit’s second wing commander, retired Brig. Gen. Richard Spear, is one of them. General Spear, who now lives in Arizona, was a pilot during World War II and started his own business when he returned home. But he left it when he heard there would be a flying unit in Burlington. 

“We had just a big, empty field. There was absolutely nothing there,” the general said. 

Colonel Goodrow said the unit leased a hangar from the city, which became home for their training aircraft, a C-47 Skytrain cargo plane, and an L-5 Sentinel liaison aircraft. Maintenance performed on the flightline. The unit provided air and sea rescue on Lake Champlain with its C-47, a 5-foot raft, and a 42-foot crash boat. 

Today the Vermont Air Guard is involved in homeland defense. Since 9/11, its 158th Fighter Wing has defended the nation with its F-16 Fighting Falcons. 

“Sixty years have passed, and so have many who proudly called themselves Vermont Air National Guardsmen,” said Colonel Goodrow. 

He said high tech multimedia marketing plans have now replaced the days of knocking on doors of World War II veterans to invite them to sign up for the Air Guard. 

“The ultimate desire to serve and make a difference remains the same,” Colonel Goodrow said. “These gentlemen, our original pioneers, lit the spark that became the powerful fire that is now the Air National Guard, and our gratitude for their courage and determination will remain. Our challenge is to carry on their great legacy.” 

(Photo U.S. Army Spc. Jessica Stone)


Purple Heart Hall of Honor opens [Repost]

By Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith, National Guard Bureau

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. – Thousands of people, including members of the National Guard, gathered under a bright autumn sun here Nov. 10, the day before Veterans Day, to dedicate a lasting tribute to the nation’s recipient of the Purple Heart Medal.

Active duty, Guard and Reserve members, past and present combat veterans and their families, and political dignitaries gathered to dedicate the $6.5 million National Purple Heart Hall of Honor with patriotic speeches, traditional music, tours, a ribbon-cutting, and a fly-over by Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters.