Purple Heart Hall of Honor opens [Repost]

Today being Purple Heart Day, I’m reposting my 2006 coverage of the opening of the Purple Heart Hall of Honor that November. Thank you to all those who served and suffered an injury to receive this medal, it’s one that no one wants to earn but is the most respected. It was a grand event, and the institution’s history displays are worth the trip. The site also records the stories of the medal’s recipients on-site for the national archives. This was also my first remote assignment when I started serving at the National Guard Bureau Joint Staff in DC.

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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, historical music, tours, a ribbon cutting, and a fly-over by Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters.

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

The Air Force’s 60th birthday in 2007 generated a lot of news assignments and traveling for me, to air shows and interviewing people, including this interview with 90-year-old Harry Emily. Mr. Emily passed away nearly three years to the day after this article published, which proved the importance of telling his and others’ stories before they are gone forever. I always felt a responsibility to include history articles as much as news and commentary in my efforts as a military journalist. For young journalists, no one is going to tell you to write these stories; it’s instead a responsibility that comes with managing the position. The opportunities come to you, which you should not ignore.

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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…

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Rancher Ropes in Top Warrior Title [repost]

June is PTSD awareness month. This news article on the Army’s best warrior I wrote in 2008 highlighted how PTSD should not stop service members from achieving their best when seeking counseling to overcome it. The Guard Bureau would send me to these annual, total Army-level competitions, which was a great experience as an Air Force journalist covering Army training. I also wonder where these high-achievers are today. Photo by Jon Sucy.

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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…

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USAF instructors prove their agility with classroom-to-camera skills

LOUISVILLE, Tenn. — U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Megan Francolini and Tech. Sgt. Renee Wiederspahn recorded sessions in the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center TV studio, June 4, on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in East Tennessee, during camera-work for virtual in-residence remote NCO academy for the total U.S. Air Force.

Their efforts are among just a few weeks’ worths of turnaround by TEC’s Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center – the Air Force’s largest EPME center – as it kicks off VIR-R NCO Academy as well as VIR-R Airman leadership school mid-month.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Steven Durrance, the EPME center commandant, said in March that his team was focused on preparations to instruct a new curriculum as well as alternative learning methods.

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Instructors learned television-studio camera skills from broadcasting experts, including reading from a teleprompter, to record their curriculum. TEC operates the Air National Guard’s broadcast center and Warrior Network television studios.

“This was an extremely quick turn for Lankford; especially considering the circumstances,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Beiting, NCO academy superintendent. “It really has been a massive effort with a lot of challenges.”

The Air National Guard’s Lankford Center is a total force institution and graduates thousands of students annually. The 38 faculty include 19 enlisted Airmen from the regular Air Force, 18 from the National Guard, and one from the Reserve Command, as well as three support staff. They focused on coursework revisions and transformations from home since the worldwide pandemic suspended classes on campus.

More than 250 EPME students will connect from their homes across the nation beginning June 15.

Airmen interested in these courses should speak with their assigned education managers concerning VIR-R EPME opportunities.

Interactive gatherings bypass traditional auditorium events

FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. — The Air National Guard’s training and education center in East Tennessee recently held two core organizational events virtually that would fill an auditorium under normal circumstances.

The interactive gatherings online included the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center’s quarterly commander’s call, as well as the organization’s all-staff tactical pause day. They are the most extensive and latest gatherings of assigned personnel to be affected by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Continue reading “Interactive gatherings bypass traditional auditorium events”

Commentary: The combat effective couch commando

FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. – “I forgot how to do homework. My back is killing me. I need to get off of this old couch.”

“Then you need to take care of that,” my wife recently told me over the phone from Missouri. “There’s no one there besides you to see it and point that out.”

“You’d think for a writer that I’d have telework down,” I replied. “I need to use a desk and a good chair. I’m too old to get by long with poor posture.”

Alright. In perspective, my aches and pains are small potatoes in this terrible pandemic. Hardship and suffering are rampant. And I was not battling the virus or at any significant risk, unlike our courageous health care workers and essential services workers. I was working from home, writing an article about how U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center are teleworking.

As it turns out, that and my hurt back all got me thinking about ergonomics. Continue reading “Commentary: The combat effective couch commando”

Shared online workouts lift spirits during detachment’s home isolation

Video meeting

FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. — U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the Air National Guard training and education center in East Tennessee are not taking their current seclusion for the global pandemic sitting down but instead exercising through shared video workouts.

The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center’s online fitness classes are a means to tackle the COVID-19 adversity together, said the staff and faculty.

The Tuesday through Friday, 10:20 a.m., workouts are challenging. Still, there is plenty of camaraderie and encouragement that radiates from the computer screen, tablet, or smartphone. The 25-minute Zoom meetings that began on April 7 are open to service members and their families and continue for the foreseeable future.

Continue reading “Shared online workouts lift spirits during detachment’s home isolation”

National Guard training and education center outlines strategic plan

The Air National Guard’s training and education center in East Tennessee this month released a five-year Strategic Plan designed to outline its priorities and lines of effort from 2020 through 2024.

The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center will work on its main priorities: Take Care of Team TEC; Increase Readiness; Develop Exceptional Leaders.

Also, the Strategic Plan calls for the engagement of its staff and faculty to reach their full potential. Each priority identifies a team, and a deliverable date, as well as lines of effort, key terms, and focus areas for progressing into the future. The plan’s guiding values are respect, trust, and engagement. Continue reading “National Guard training and education center outlines strategic plan”

Guard members remember Oklahoma City bombing [repost]

I wrote this feature on the Oklahoma City bombing 10 years ago. Today (April 19, 2020) is the 25th anniversary. What the National Guard did on that day and following still impresses me. I am certain that many families, friends, and responders today continue to deal with the tragedy, and many Oklahomans drive by the memorial as a reminder to stay vigilant.

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Staff Sgt. David Humphries of the 745th Military Police Company, Oklahoma National Guard, stands watch while rescue operations at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building continue April 20, 1995, the day after the Oklahoma City bombing. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Al Newmeyer, Oklahoma National Guard)

Some describe April 19 as “the day the world began to look at terrorism differently.”

Hundreds of Oklahoma National Guard members will remember today’s date by how they responded 15 years ago to a homeland disaster, unexpectedly, and on a scale never before seen.

At 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was the target of a bombing called “the most significant act of domestic terrorism on American soil.”

A rental truck filled with explosives parked in front of the building exploded, destroying the north side of the building and killing 168, including 19 children. At least 850 more…

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Air Guard’s primary learning center transforms through homework

TEC Classroom Building

FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. – The Air National Guard’s primary learning and broadcast center is generating military education solutions for the total U.S. Air Force in immediate and long term challenges, said its Airmen teleworking in East Tennessee this week.

The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center staff are following the guidance and directives of the CDC, the National Guard Bureau, and the Department of Defense concerning COVID-19, which includes personal distancing, teleworking, and other actions to stop the spread.

Continue reading “Air Guard’s primary learning center transforms through homework”