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Good question: What are you doing for Earth Day?
Aviators of the New Mexico National Guard completed three-day joint agency training with U.S. Forest Service firefighters outside of Santa Fe, April 6 to 8, in preparation for increased fire danger this summer.
While firefighters on the ground trained to signal and direct water-carrying aircraft, pilots and crew chiefs in UH-60 Blackhawks practiced dropping up to 400 gallons of water from orange Bambi Buckets in the most effective way possible.
“You guys did great keeping your altitude there in the end,” said Mike Amicarella, an inspector from the Bureau of Indian Affairs who flew with the NMNG during their training. “As the load gets lighter, you know, you didn’t just keep the same power level. Good job guys.”
Many factors contribute to the effectiveness of Blackhawks in firefighting, from the precision of the water on the fire to the speed and height of the aircraft. It’s imperative that aviators get experience and feedback during training. From chaotic airspace to the danger of fanning the flames, the missions rely on up-to-date technique and skill.
NMNG Aviators complete UH-60 Blackhawk water bucket training
Aviators of the New Mexico National Guard completed three-day joint agency training with U.S. Forest Service firefighters outside of Santa Fe, April 6 to 8, in preparation for increased fire danger this summer. While firefighters on the ground trained to signal and direct water-carrying aircraft, pilots and crew chiefs in UH-60 Blackhawks practiced dropping up to 400 gallons of water from orange Bambi Buckets in the most effective way possible.“You guys did great keeping your altitude there in the end,” said Mike Amicarella, an inspector from the Bureau of Indian Affairs who flew with the NMNG during their training. “As the load gets lighter, you know, you didn’t just keep the same power level. Good job guys.”Many factors contribute to the effectiveness of Blackhawks in firefighting, from the precision of the water on the fire to the speed and height of the aircraft. It’s imperative that aviators get experience and feedback during training. From chaotic airspace to the danger of fanning the flames, the missions rely on up-to-date technique and skill.Posted by New Mexico National Guard on Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Story and photos by Douglas Mallary, NMNG Public Affairs
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Command Sgt. Maj. Rudolph Checkley’s life has been about service.
He joined the New Mexico Army National Guard as a radio operator in July 1980, embarking on a military career that would span four decades.
While serving as a traditional Guardsman, Checkley spent 15 years as an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department.
Checkley attended Officer Candidate School as a classmate of Maj. Gen. Kenneth Nava, the Adjutant General of New Mexico. After earning his commission as an Air Defense officer, Checkley served as a platoon leader, executive officer, and battery commander before returning to the enlisted ranks.
Checkley worked his way up through those ranks, eventually becoming the command sergeant major of the 515th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) in Santa Fe.
The Guard honored Checkley during an April 13 retirement ceremony at the Albuquerque Readiness Center.
From Basic Combat Training to the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy and a plethora of schools in between, Checkley has maintained his qualifications as a Soldier. Like any good Soldier, he fulfilled his operational assignments as well – including two tours in Iraq.
Decorations have marked his milestones. Checkley holds a Bronze Star, four Meritorious Service Medals, seven Army Commendation Medals, seven Army Achievement Medals, the Iraq Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, and a stack of other awards.
The decorations are byproducts of Checkley’s commitment to service.
Nava recalled how when he was in command of the 515th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and given orders for Iraq, Maj. Gen. Kenny Montoya was the Adjutant General at the time.
“General Montoya told me that I could pick my own team. Was it fair? No. Was it cool? Yes,” Nava said.
“The first guy I picked was Rudy Checkley because when you give Rudy a job to do and he makes sure he understands what’s required, he gets it done,” Nava said.
Checkley would spend nine months in Iraq between 2009 and 2010 as Nava’s battalion operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
In addition to his military duties, Checkley is active in the Enlisted Association of the New Mexico National Guard and chairs the Legislative Committee. He is also a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a few other military associations, and yet still finds time to play guitar.
Checkley is married. He and his wife Deborah have seven children and nine grandchildren.
His military duty done, Checkley can now focus on completing his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and looking for ways to continue to serve.
Weekly promotions and awardsPosted by NM National Guard Youth Challenge Academy on Friday, April 13, 2018
Gonzales promoted to Colonel
By Joseph Vigil, Chief of Public Affairs, NMNG
SANTA FE, N.M. - Col. Tom Gonzales was promoted to his current rank April 6 in front on family, friends, fellow Soldiers and Airmen at the Regional Training Institute. Gonzales was pinned with his new silver eagles by his wife Sylvia, his daughter Samantha and son Patrick.
Samantha, who hosts New Mexico Living on Fox 13, also served as the master of ceremonies.
"Thank you Samantha for hosting me on New Mexico Living to talk to you about Bataan, the New Mexico National Guard and our legacy," said Maj. Gen. Ken Nava, the Adjutant General of New Mexico
Nava said he has known Gonzales for a long time and called him a true professional. They were deployed at the same time to Iraq, even though they didn't work in the same areas.
"Tom went up to National Guard Bureau and worked in Force Modernization," Nava said. "As we do our station plans, rework our force structure and work on growing the New Mexico National Guard, it's people that Tom knows that continue to help us to this day, so for that I am very grateful."
Nava said that Gonzales has done a lot in his career, but this is not about what he has done to this point, it is about what he will do going forward.
"I am excited to see what he is going to bring to the New Mexico National Guard in the rest of his career," Nava said. "We are all getting towards the end of our careers, so let's make this the best National Guard we can for our young 18 year olds. Tom, our challenge is to lead them and give them everything they need to train and be successful."
As Gonzales took the podium he thanked Nava for the trust and confidence he has in him to serve as a Colonel on Nava's staff and said it is truly a blessing to be a member of this great organization.
Gonzales said he could have never imagined 30 years ago when he signed up as a private in Charlie Battery, 4-200th Air Defense (a unit that he later commanded) that he would be destined to achieve the rank of colonel.
"As I look back at all the blessings in my life, I realize that I could have not done it without my family," Gonzales said. "My wife put her career on hold so that she could focus of taking care of us and holding down the fort. Through all the good and stressful times, deployments, and my traveling, she continues to stand with me, support me and give me the encouragement to stay resilient."
Gonzales also acknowledged the hard work of his children, and said he is very proud of them and loves them very much.
"To my parents, thank you for teaching me the value of hard work, dedication and a good education," Gonzales said. "My father, Charles, is a retired command sergeant major from the New Mexico National Guard and my mother Isabel started her career as a front desk clerk of a cleaners and through hard work and dedication, purchased the business and made it one of the most prosperous businesses in the area."
Gonzales also thanked the many officers and NCO's that played an instrumental role mentoring him and said he could not have achieved this rank without them.
"We have an opportunity to shape the future and make our New Mexico National Guard the very best to serve and protect the citizens of New Mexico and be ready when nation calls us," Gonzales said. "We are moving this organization at a rapid pace and I am proud to be part of it."
Gonzales currently serves as the deputy G3 with Col. Jamison Herrera, an assignment he enjoys.
Gonzales enlisted in the New Mexico National Guard in 1987. He graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and earned his commission in the Reserve Officer Training Corp program there in 1990.
He has held numerous positions, from platoon leader to command and staff positions and in 2006, he was selected by the Adjutant General of New Mexico to perform a Title-10 tour in Washington D.C. for two years, working at the National Guard Bureau as the future force manager for all 54 states and territories.
In February 2009, he was again called to assume command of the 720th Transportation Company from Las Vegas, New Mex. and deployed the unit to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Reyner, Assistant Adjutant General – Air, promoted to Brigadier General
By Joseph Vigil, Chief of Public Affairs, NMNG
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Brig. Gen. Robert Reyner was promoted to his current rank at a ceremony with family, friends, fellow Airmen and Soldiers April 4 at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial Center. Reyner was pinned with his new silver stars by his wife Michelle, son Kylen, and daughter Kaitlyn.
He is currently assigned as the Assistant Adjutant General – Air, New Mexico National Guard, where he serves as the senior military advisor to the Adjutant General and is responsible for providing the State of New Mexico and the United States with a ready force of citizen Airmen. He also directs, manages and supervises the administration, discipline, organization, training and mobilization of the New Mexico Air National Guard and ensures the organization is equipped and trained to respond to any domestic disaster or combat contingency.
“Promotion is not what you have done to this point, it is about what your going do,” said Maj. Gen. Ken Nava, the Adjutant General of New Mexico, who presided over the ceremony. “General Reyner is helping bring the New Mexico Air National Guard into this new phase we are going into. He has done all the tough jobs in the Air Guard and he is someone that is going to lead us in our charge.”
Nava also thanked Michelle, Kylen and Kaitlyn for their support and said we could not do what we do in the Guard without our families’ sacrifices.
Reyner began his remarks by telling Michelle and his children that they are his daily inspiration, he loves them more than words can describe and he thanks God for their presence in his life.
“To my wonderful parents and step parents, thank you for being here and sharing this day with me,” Reyner said. “Your guidance, love and dedication is the reason why I’m standing up here today. I appreciate my dad, retired Lt. Col. Mark Reyner, introducing me to the unit as I was getting ready to graduate college with no idea of what I was going to do in the world.”
Reyner thanked Nava for taking the time from his busy schedule to be here. He also thanked the many retirees for their service and friendship.
“It is an honor to have you here today,” he said. “To my Army brethren, the 377th and 58th leadership, thank you for your valued partnership in this profession of arms that we share. It is an honor to serve along side you.”
Both Nava and Reyner expressed their gratitude to Reyner’s employer, Southwest Airlines, for being incredibly flexible and allowing him to work with the military.
“They are a huge supporter of the military and I am proud to be a part of them too,” Reyner said.
Reyner, a 25 year veteran of the NMANG, graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1992 and enlisted as an F-16 egress technician. He was commissioned in the unit and went on to fill a variety of squadron/group roles to include a F-16C/D pilot, mission commander, instructor and evaluator.
When the 150th Fighter Wing entered a Total Force Integration with the 58th Special Operations Wing, Reyner took on the role of unit conversion officer and was one of the first unit pilots to attend full C-130H and follow on HC-130P/N conversion training.
Prior to his current assignment, he served as the commander for the 150th Special Operations Wing, responsible for training combat Personnel Rescue/Special Operations Forces mission ready aircrews, performing maintenance and sortie generation on HC/MC-130J, CV-22 and HH-60 aircraft. He was responsible for a Medical Group, Intelligence Targeting Squadron, REDHORSE mobile engineering squadron, Power Production mission, multiple agile combat support capabilities while ensuring training and equipping over 900 Wing personnel to support both state and federal missions.
He also served as the director of operations (A3), HQ-NMANG commander of both the 188th Fighter Squadron and the 188th Rescue Squadron.
Reyner is a command pilot with more than 2,800 flying hours and has served in Operation Southern Watch, Operation Northern Watch, Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As the newly promoted General winded down his remarks, he described the true meaning of leadership as the ability to serve others in a way that positively affects their lives.
“Trust is the true magic of leading people and it should never be interpreted as a gain of personal importance,” Reyner said. “Trust to consider the needs of those you lead over your own. Trust to put valuable resources where they best serve the organization and your people who trust you to do the right thing.”
Reyner said he hopes to live up to this lofty goal and hopes to serve our Airmen in a greater capacity.
“I will work hard to earn your trust day in and day out as I perform the duties of the AAG- Air," Reyner said. "Thanks for sharing this honor with me.”
By Douglas Mallary, NMNG Public Affairs
Photos by Joseph Vigil, NMNG Chief of Public Affairs
SANTA FE, N.M. – The heroes of Bataan and their families served “through the tears and darkness,” said Chaplain (Col.) Elmon Krupnik.
Krupnik offered the invocation and benediction for yesterday’s Commemoration of the 76th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan outside the Bataan Memorial Building here.
While dignitaries such as Gov. Susana Martinez and Maj. Gen. Kenneth Nava, the Adjutant General of New Mexico, attended the ceremony, honored guests included Bataan survivor William “Bill” Overmier, his wife Ann, and direct descendants of other Bataan veterans.
Approximately 1,800 members of the New Mexico National Guard’s 200th Coast Artillery were sent to the Philippines in 1941 before the U.S. entered World War II. Once there, the regiment was divided to form the 515th Coast Artillery, which was referred to as “The Brigade.”
Japanese forces attacked the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941. Naval and aerial bombardments preceded the landing of the Japanese 14th Army. The Japanese were under orders to capture the islands in four weeks.
Without benefit of reinforcements or resupply, Allied defenders fought on for four months. Those on the Bataan peninsula were ordered to surrender to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. The victorious Japanese forced their new prisoners of war – already weakened by malnutrition, tropical diseases, and battle wounds – to walk 65 miles in what is now known as the Bataan Death March.
Allied forces on the island of Corregidor were ordered to surrender a month later.
As captives, the Allies were dispersed to POW camps throughout Asia, including Japan. More died aboard the “hell ships” transporting them to these camps, where many became a source of forced labor for the Japanese war effort.
Of the 1,800 New Mexicans, only half would live to see home again. Half of the survivors, their health wrecked beyond repair, would die within their first few years of freedom.
The defenders of the Philippines are credited with thwarting the Japanese plan to steamroll through the Pacific theater of operations, culminating with their intended conquest of Australia. Martinez echoed this sentiment in her proclamation and paid tribute to the Filipino defenders in her speech.
“Freedom is not free,” Martinez said in her speech. “We will never forget their sacrifice. God bless our Bataan heroes.”
Bataan survivor 1st Sgt. Manuel Armijo (now deceased) began the commemoration ceremony in 1946. The ceremony takes place annually in front of a monument that NMNG members built at Logan Heights on Fort Bliss, Texas, during their training there before moving on to the Philippines. Then-Gov. John Miles and Maj. Gen. R.C. Carlton (then Adjutant General of New Mexico) later had the monument moved to its current home in Santa Fe.
The yearly ceremony includes the lowering of the American flag and raising of the white flag of surrender. A roll call lists the name of veterans who have died in the last year. This year’s roll call included Trinidad G. Martinez; Pedro A. “Pete” Gonzales, Jr.; and Julio T. Barela.
It’s estimated that only 11 Bataan survivors are left alive, including eight in New Mexico.
Retired Lt. Gen. Edward Baca, former Adjutant General of New Mexico and Chief of the National Guard Bureau, repeatedly promised the Bataan survivors for years that the NMNG would continue the commemoration after the last survivor has passed.
As Lt. Col. Dominic Dennis, the master of ceremonies, said, “It’s a legacy of service and honor.”
Soldiers from the New Mexico National Guard competed in the grueling Best Warrior Competition in Santa Fe last week. A few share their thoughts on the most challenging obstacle that they overcame and the importance of the event.
Soldiers share stories from 2018 Best Warrior Competition
Soldiers from the New Mexico National Guard competed in the grueling Best Warrior Competition in Santa Fe last week. A few share their thoughts on the most challenging obstacle that they overcame and the importance of the event.Posted by New Mexico National Guard on Monday, April 9, 2018
Congratulations to our 2018 Best Warriors, Staff Sgt. John Crespin and Spc. Connor Verploegh!
Crespin, who is assigned to 2nd Battalion (General Studies), 515th Regiment (Regional Training Institute), was selected as the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
Verploeph, who is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 200th Infantry, was chosen as the Soldier of the Year. More to follow.