SD Guard engineer receives national recognition
RAPID CITY, S.D. – A Dell Rapids man with the South Dakota Army National Guard received a national award from the Society of American Military Engineers recognizing outstanding military service at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, April 20.
Sgt. Richard Buechler, 25, who serves with the Madison and De Smet-based 211th Engineer Company, received the Van Autreve Award, which recognizes junior-enlisted personnel contributions and service to U.S. Army engineers.
Named for the fourth sergeant major of the Army, Leon. L. Van Autreve, the award is presented annually to a Soldier in the U.S. Army, Army Reserve and National Guard.
“To win the Van Autreve Award for the National Guard component was an incredible feat, one that I was not sure I would be a contender for,” Buechler said. “To win this award is very overwhelming and reassuring of the hard work I have done over my career.”
Buechler was selected for the honor based on leadership recommendations for his outstanding performance as a Soldier and his skills as a combat engineer.
“Sgt. Buechler always performs his duties and accomplishes all assigned missions with the utmost professionalism,” Lt. Col. Dennis Bickett, commander for the 153rd Engineer Battalion, said. “His accomplishments and dedication to duty over the past year have definitely earned him the distinction of being recognized.”
“Being a combat engineer is being a part of something great,” Buechler said. “We have trained in some of the worst conditions, from blistering cold to melting heat, and remain the best of the best. The training we do, and who we do it with, is the best part of being a combat engineer.”
The Van Autreve Award is one of five engineer awards presented annually. Award selection areas include training and education, leadership skills, personal growth, management experience and other discerning areas in the overall selection process.
“Sgt. Buechler’s nomination packet highlights the level of commitment which he brings not only to his military assignments, but in his efforts in his local community as well,” Col. Doug Bogenhagen, commander of the 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, said. “His accomplishments make him an outstanding recipient for this distinguished award.”
“One of my favorite things about serving in the 211th is the leadership,” Buechler said. “The amount of knowledge and experience they have to offer for new troops and those of us new leaders is by far the best.”
In his civilian life, Buechler works for Sioux Steel as a parts runner. Buechler said his employer has been very supportive of his National Guard career. The company’s chief operating officer, Doug Jack, was also present for the award presentation.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be recognized on the regimental level and to be able to represent the 211th and their ability to mold great Soldiers and leaders,” Buechler said. “The opportunities that are available [in the South Dakota National Guard] are endless and the ability to create opportunity is yours for the taking if you work hard enough.”
SD Army National Guard names Soldier, NCO of the Year
RAPID CITY, S.D. – The South Dakota Army National Guard evaluated four enlisted Soldiers and three non-commissioned officers, April 7-8, for the state’s Best Warrior Competition, which names the Soldier and Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year, respectively.
Sgt. Cory Staab, Detachment 1, 842nd Engineer Company, was named the 2018 SDARNG Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year and Spc. Bailey Ruff, Detachment 2, 842nd Engineer Company, the 2018 SDARNG Soldier of the Year.
Traditionally, the competition is a three-day event that assesses the participants’ ability to fulfill the total Soldier concept, which is designed to bring out the best in every Soldier through physical fitness, education and leadership, among other aspects. The winners were selected using a paper board this year due to inclement weather during the scheduled event.
“Mother nature made this year’s competition very difficult,” said State Command Sgt. Maj. James Hoekman, the SDNG’s senior enlisted leader. “Most of the events they do are tied directly to battle drills and warrior tasks which requires intense physical training outdoors and it wasn’t safe for them to compete.”
The paper board review consisted of the competitors’ major command’s evaluations, which resulted in cumulative scores based from their Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons qualification, awards, and military training and education, to name a few.
“It’s been very humbling,” said Staab. “I never thought I would be NCO of the Year and representing our state at regionals when I enlisted.”
At regionals, they will be tested on a variety of skill sets, which can include warrior tasks and battle drills, written essays, uniforms and appearance, drill and ceremony, land navigation and map reading, first aid, weapon systems, physical fitness and general Army knowledge.
“Each of the next levels of competition is definitely an increase in difficulty,” said Hoekman. “We go against seven other states at regionals and several of those states have Army rangers, Special Forces and other infantry-type personnel, so they’re competing against people who perform these tasks every day.”
The Region 6 Best Warrior Competition is scheduled for May at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, where Staab and Ruff will represent the SDARNG against Soldiers from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota.
“It’s been very humbling to be selected as this year’s Soldier of the Year,” said Ruff. “I look forward to proving myself at regionals – I want a good showing for our state.”
Joining Ruff in the SDARNG Best Warrior Competition were Spc. Spencer Kirkpatrick, 152nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, the 2018 Soldier of the Year runner-up/alternate; Spc. Jesse Thorne, 235th Military Police Company; and Spc. Eric Sanders, 881st Troop Command.
Staab’s fellow NCOs in the competition were Sgt. 1st Class Clint Sandness, SDARNG Medical Command, the 2018 NCO of the Year runner-up/alternate, and Sgt. Tyler Jacob, 82nd Civil Support Team.
“I look forward to the opportunity to compete at regionals,” said Staab. “It’s going to make me grow as a person and a leader, which will allow me to use the training and knowledge I learn there to be a better mentor for my peers in my unit and the organization as a whole.”
While Staab and Ruff will move on to represent South Dakota in the regional competition, and potentially nationally, it was the year leading up to the competition that ultimately affects the organization.
“When these Soldiers and NCOs see the intensity of the training they go through in the Best Warrior Competition, they get to bring those skills back to their units and impress upon them the importance of high-intensity, quality training,” said Hoekman. “In today’s operating domain around the world, our Soldiers have to be in the best physical shape and they need to be ready to fight if they have to.”
Story by Staff Sgt. Austin Pearce and photos by Spc. Dustin Jordan - 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
You strive to make something more of your college experience. In the classroom and in the field, you are leaders, athletes and scholars. I applaud you for dedicating your time to this program and to serving others. - Gov. Daugaard
SD Army Guard adds crew-served weapon systems to range safety course
GUERNSEY, Wyo. - Soldiers with the South Dakota Army National Guard’s Small Arms Readiness Training Section completed a range safety course at Camp Guernsey, March 25-31.
While the Small Arms Readiness Training Section has conducted its own range safety courses in South Dakota for decades, the course in Wyoming added crew-served weapons to the training, expanding capabilities and support the section will be able to provide to units across South Dakota.
“Last year after the small arms range safety course in South Dakota, one of the class members asked about adding crew-served weapons to our course,” said Sgt. 1st Class Josh Wermers, resource non-commissioned officer with the SDARNG who was tasked to add crew-served weapons to this year’s course. “Since South Dakota does not have a range capable of handling weapons of that caliber, the team had to look elsewhere.”
After researching neighboring states, Camp Guernsey was chosen to hold the pilot course.
The SDARNG sent 32 Soldiers to the course, making it the largest range course held for the organization.
Classroom instruction included weapons safety and risk assessments, state standing operating procedures and range information, and ammunition management.
Weapons systems introduced included the M9 pistol, M16 and M4 rifles with optics, M249 squad automatic weapon in the automatic rifle role and the light machine gun role, M240B machine gun (with thermal weapons sites), M2 .50 caliber machine gun and the MK19 40 mm grenade machine gun.
Each weapon system had classroom instruction to include safety briefs, equipment knowledge and range commands. Following each classroom portion, students were taken to the range to test their skills acting as shooters, ranges safeties, ammo details, officer/non-commissioned officer in charge responsibilities, and tower operators.
Students also had the opportunity to use the Engagement Skills Trainer II, a virtual simulation trainer that assists Soldiers with the basic fundamentals of marksmanship, as well as collective and escalation of force training before conducting live ranges or operations.
After completing this course, Soldiers with the rank of staff sergeant or higher are able to operate ranges in South Dakota and many other states with approval from their commanders.
“The large majority of units throughout South Dakota have crew-served weapons systems and require annual qualifications at ranges that we simply don’t have in our state,” Wermers said. “This course gives us the ability to better facilitate the qualification processes, regardless of the type of weapon, the range or its location.”
The South Dakota National Guard takes this day to remember the loss of one of America’s finest, Sgt. Dennis Morgan.
Morgan, 22, a member of Company A, 153rd Engineer Battalion, was killed Apr. 17, 2004, in Haswah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device went off near his armored personnel carrier.
He was manning an automatic weapon while providing security during route clearing operations. He was in the last vehicle of a convoy, protecting another armored personnel carrier.
Morgan, the first South Dakota National Guardsman to die in enemy action during Operation Iraqi Freedom, posthumously received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medal.
More than 1,000 mourners attended his memorial service at the Winner National Guard Armory the evening before his funeral.
“He loved everybody,” his wife, Cassie, told the crowd. “He was always friendly.”
The next day his funeral was held at Valentine, Neb. Morgan is buried at the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis.
“Sgt. Dennis Morgan payed the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom, and we should never forget that fact,” said Maj. Greg Darlow, commander of Company A at the time.
April is Month of the Military Child
April marks the nation’s “Month of the Military Child,” a time to honor military youth in communities who have been impacted by deployments, as well as the unique opportunities and challenges that all military children face.
The South Dakota National Guard invites everyone to join in and be part of “Purple Up! For Military Kids Day,” being held April 13.
South Dakota schools, communities, businesses and organizations are being encouraged to wear purple on that date as a tangible way to show their support and thank all military children for their strength and sacrifices.
“This is a perfect time to celebrate military children and to recognize their character, strength and resilience,” said Taryn Broomfield, SDNG Child and Youth Program lead coordinator. “Our military youth are impacted daily, whether their service member is home, deployed, at drill, or away attending training or school.”
There are more than 7,100 military children in South Dakota with parents or guardians who serve in the National Guard, Reserves and active duty. Of these children and youth, over 3,900 are affiliated with the SDNG.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard demonstrated his support of military kids by signing a proclamation announcing April 2018 as the Month of the Military Child.
Established by Casper Weinberger in 1986, the Month of the Military Child recognizes the important role military children play in our communities. We pause each year to honor the millions of military children for their contributions to their families.
“Military kids are an integral part of our families and communities, and they serve too,” said Broomfield. “Please celebrate the military children in your life and thank them.”
#PurpleUp #SDNG #SDNationalGuard
SD National Guard recognizes individuals making positive impacts on family readiness
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The South Dakota National Guard’s Service Member and Family Support held their annual State Family and Youth Symposium and Awards Banquet in Sioux Falls, March 24-25.
The event brought together current and former Soldiers, Airmen, family members and civilians, all who volunteer in various capacities supporting the SDNG, for a weekend of training and an evening of recognition.
“I want to thank you all for being the heart of our program and for the tremendous support you have given to the South Dakota National Guard, to our service members and their families,” said Lt. Col. Brendan Murphy, SDNG’s Service Member and Family Support director, to the volunteers attending. “We would not be able to be a world-class organization without you.”
Dana Litwin, a transformational coach, strategic advisor and public speaker with a background in team building and environmental conservation, kicked off Saturday morning’s training with strategies to better recruit, engage and retain volunteers.
“Every interaction is an invitation to stay or an invitation to go,” Litwin told the room of service members and volunteers alike. “When volunteers know that you’re thinking about their comfort, their convenience and their connection – they’re going to be committed. They’re also going to be the best advocates for your agency.”
Litwin also spoke to a group of teenaged-volunteers, telling them how valuable they are.
“The value of their volunteerism is priceless,” Litwin said. “They are just beginning their life of service to others. I hope this presentation inspires them and enforces that the good they are creating in society is so much more than dollars and cents.”
Jennifer Powers, an international speaker, coach and best-selling author, spoke next on creating a shift in your life as you learn the secrets to having more control over your reality so you can experience more joy.
“You have at all times the power to choose,” Powers said, summarizing her ‘Oh, shift!’ message. “When you exercise your power of choice, you can literally change your reality. The things that we emphasize choosing are your words, your role and your reaction to that which is happening.”
Award-winning high school teacher Mark Tucker joined Powers to adapt her best-selling book ‘Oh, shift!’ into a teen version in 2011 and joined her in speaking to the youth in attendance.
“They were wise, articulate and introspective, and they were really able to absorb the content,” Powers said of the teens in attendance.
“They have a lot more power and control over their lives than they realize,” Tucker said.
Chaplain (Maj.) David Stimes, a combat veteran who deployed with the SDARNG’s 153rd Engineer Battalion from November 2016 to September 2017 - spending most of his time in Iraq - opened Saturday’s afternoon session presenting an overview of ‘The 5 Love Languages’ to both adults and teens.
Saturday evening’s awards banquet kicked off with Jason Schechterle, a retired Phoenix police officer who trains audiences on how to persevere through adversity.
“Schechterle served four years in the Air Force, then at the age 26, achieved his goal to work on the streets of Phoenix as a rookie police officer,” Murphy said as he introduced the evening’s keynote speaker. “After 14 months into what was supposed to be a life-long career, his life took an unexpected, dramatic and, at the time, tragic turn.”
On the night of March 26, 2001, a taxi traveling over 100 miles per hour crashed into Schechterle’s patrol car, bursting his car into flames, trapping him inside with temperatures reaching over 700 degrees.
Schechterle’s training teaches and encourages attendees on how to manage life’s adversity. Focusing on how family and friends can help attendees to objectively slow down and reflect on situations or circumstances and then begin to move forward.
“First and foremost, I hope everyone leaves with a renewed sense of why they do the things they do,” Schechterle said after sharing his story. “Perspective shapes everything we do, and I want them to see through my story that it doesn’t go to waste.”
Several awards recognizing both service members and civilian volunteers included:
Guard Family of the Year: Presented to any active or retired SDNG member and their family that shows outstanding and exceptional service through volunteering to the SMFS Family Readiness Program.
- SDARNG: The Rodriguez Family (Capt. Paul Rodriguez and his wife, Leslie, and children, Zoey and Easton) of Rapid City
- SDANG: The Curley Family (Col. Kevin Curley and his wife, Daneen) of Sioux Falls
Volunteer of the Year: Presented to one Army and one Air Guard volunteer that has shown outstanding and exceptional service to the SMFS Family Readiness Program.
- Becky Thompson and Courtney Armstrong
Military Member of the Year: Presented to one Air Guard and one Army Guard military member that shows outstanding and exceptional service to the SMFS Family Readiness Program. Their knowledge and assistance has aided the progression of family readiness within their unit and/or state.
- SDARNG: Staff Sgt. Kayla Morris, 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Rapid City
- SDANG: Tech. Sgt. Brittnie Bunkers, 114th Force Support Squadron, Sioux Falls
Family Program Community Purple Award: Presented to a community group or organization that best exemplifies the true meaning of “The Purple” concept of the Joint Family Program by working with both Air and Army Guard (Purple means Air and Army jointly).
- Militiamen Veterans Motorcycle Club (VMC), Flatlander's Chapter - Brookings
The Gold Award: Presented to a person (can be retired military member from any branch of service or non-military person) showing long‐term, consistent, and dedicated support by volunteering with the SDNG Family Readiness Program and within their community.
- Kristi “Cricket” Palmer, Sturgis
Youth Volunteer Award: Presented to an Army or Air National Guard youth volunteer (14-18 years old) who exhibits exemplary commitment to and support of the National Guard Youth Program, their school and community. Serves as a role model for military youth.
- Brianna Neugebauer, Rapid City
Youth Development Volunteer Award: Presented to any youth program volunteer, regardless of military affiliation, who has made a significant impact in the development and support of the SDNG Youth Program mission.
- Corey Jennings, Rapid City
Unit of the Year Award: Presented to an Air Guard and Army Guard unit that shows outstanding and exceptional dedication to the development and progression of Family Readiness within their unit.
- The 152nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Pierre
Following the awards presentations, attendees were treated to music provided by the SDNG 147th Army Band’s Drive On.
Author, corporate trainer and life coach Bob Prentice kicked off Sunday morning’s training with lessons on turning negatives into positives, finding personal motivation, making better daily life choices and improving lives through laughter and love.
“We shared the philosophy of a Spanish philosopher who lived centuries ago, Ortega, and his basic philosophy was in life you can do one thing or another, making right kinds of choices - right kinds of decisions,” Prentice said. “We encouraged them to seize opportunities, to get ready for the opportunities in life, to be tenacious in their commitments, approach life with a spark of enthusiasm, and being goal minded with a proper mental attitude.”
Detective Derek Kuchenrither of the Sioux Falls Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force spoke on social media awareness to educate parents and children about the dangers associated with social media and online predators.
Personal Financial Counselor Marli Erickson concluded the training with sessions for both the youth and adults on being financially aware. From budgets and retirement planning to understanding mortgages, Erickson helps Soldiers and Airmen understand their money and assists with ways of making it work for them.
“This year’s Family and Youth Symposium was a huge success,” Murphy said. “A lot of effort went into providing top quality training and programming for both our adults and our youth that attended.
“We are truly blessed for our amazing volunteer support we continually receive across the state,” Murphy added. “And this annual symposium affords us the opportunity to recognize our behind the scenes heroes that earn the praise and recognition they deserve.”
By Capt. Chad Carlson – SDNG Public Affairs Office
SD Guard Family Readiness Group receives national award
ARLINGTON, Va. – For the fifth time in six years, the Department of Defense awarded a South Dakota Army National Guard unit with the Reserve Family Readiness Award for the Army National Guard.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs presented the Huron and Parkston-based 153rd Engineer Battalion and its Forward Support Company with the award for 2017 at the Pentagon, March 23.
The annual award is presented to one unit from each of the seven Reserve components that demonstrate excellence in engaging with and supporting their members’ families. Units represented come from the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and the Coast Guard Reserve.
“The RFRA program was established in 2000 to recognize the top unit in each Reserve Component that demonstrated outstanding family readiness while maintaining superior mission readiness,” said Robert Wilkie, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, in a letter to the units. “Strong family readiness programs contribute to mission readiness and greatly enhance the ability to deploy Guard and Reserve units.”
Volunteer team leaders from the Huron and Parkston family readiness groups joined state and national military representatives for the awards program at the Pentagon.
“Every Soldier that deploys needs to feel assured that their family is taken care of,” said Lt. Col. Dennis Bickett, 153rd commander. “Having an excellent family readiness group goes to great lengths to assuage concerns that deployed Soldiers have for their families back home. This award demonstrates that fantastic job the Headquarters and Forward Support Company Family Readiness Group did while the 153rd was deployed to the Middle East.”
The 153rd deployed to the Middle East from November 2016-September 2017 and provided command and control and logistical support of attached engineer units.
“When units are deployed, the FRG is a connection to others going through the same stresses,” Bickett said. “It is also a resource for families to share information and solve problems. When a unit has a solid FRG, officers, NCOs and Soldiers can focus on preparing the unit rather than worrying about how their family will be supported during a deployment.”
SD National Guard leads nation in energy conservation
RAPID CITY, S.D. – Stephen Smith, an employee for the South Dakota National Guard, decides to head to the office and work over a cold, winter weekend. It’s a nice, quiet day because it’s an off-drill weekend for traditional National Guard Soldiers.
Smith soon realizes that the temperature is a bit colder inside than usual. The thermostat is set to 50-55 degrees and no matter how the thermostat is adjusted, the temperature does not budge.
Buildings are set to lower temperatures during hours and days when they’re vacated to decrease the amount of energy consumption they’re using.
“As outside air is delivered into a building per original design, as if the building is fully occupied, we can use carbon dioxide air monitoring to minimize the amount of outside air needed for conditioning when it isn’t fully occupied,” said Michael Haltiner, SDNG operations and maintenance branch energy manager. “When we ventilate to this required amount (during unoccupied periods), it’s called demand ventilation, which allows us to ventilate to real-world occupancy rather than to the building’s max occupancy.”
The SDNG’s Operations and Maintenance Branch, Construction and Facilities Management Office, implemented this statewide automation system to remotely control heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems across 45 SDNG buildings throughout 15 South Dakota communities to maximize energy efficiency, which has been crucial in energy savings, said Haltiner.
The automation system also aids in controlling air handlers, heat pumps, water heaters, exterior lighting, boilers, furnaces and exhaust fans, to name a few.
Over the last 12 years, the SDNG has led the nation in efforts to reduce energy consumption, and its energy management program is designed to create a greener, safer and more cost-effective organization.
The statewide automation system is just one way in which the organization has improved its energy conservation efforts. Other projects include passive heating solar walls, redesign and replacement of HVAC and boiler systems, and the implementation and replacement of LED lighting in buildings throughout the state, said Haltiner.
“We also send out a quarterly awareness newsletter, we hold energy conservation competitions between armories, and the SDNG PAM 11-27 (Energy Program) demonstrates our leadership’s support by providing guidelines for our energy conservation program,” said Haltiner.
These modifications have resulted in an annual savings of $248,931 and a cumulative cost avoidance of well over $1 million since fiscal year 2010.
“The federal government is the largest U.S. consumer of energy,” said Army Col. Scott Petrik, the construction and facilities management officer. “The president (in 2006) published an executive order mandating a 30 percent energy consumption reduction over a 10-year period. The South Dakota Army National Guard was one of two states in the nation to meet the requirements of the presidential executive order.”
The executive order required each state to reduce their energy consumption efforts by at least 3 percent per year in order to reach their 30 percent 10-year goal. When Haltiner took over as the energy manager in 2010, the SDNG’s energy consumption levels were at its highest.
“We actually had to reduce by more than 30 percent to reach our goal by 2015,” said Haltiner. “Although, we were able to make it happen and surprisingly exceeded the goal by 2.5 percent.”
The reduction efforts haven’t gone unnoticed either, as the National Guard Bureau rewards the SDNG with increased funding allocations each year to continue making improvements for conservation efforts.
“Energy efficiency is absolutely the name of the game right now,” said Stephen Smith, SDNG planning and programming branch engineer. We get what we ask for in funding because we are so successful, and that is a big deal.”
The state received $120,000 for energy projects two years ago, $500,000 last year and will receive more than $850,000 this year.
The funding is critical because the new presidential executive order demands a decrease in energy consumption by 25 percent from 2016-2025. The SDNG is currently 0.5 percent ahead of its 2.5 percent per year reduction goal.
“Right now we’re focusing our attention more toward renewable energy, so we’re trying to get solar photovoltaic systems on our armories because of how efficient they are,” said Haltiner. “The systems would also provide us with energy security because they can act as alternative energy sources.”
The significance of the SDNG’s success in energy consumption and its efforts moving forward has also had a positive impact for those in the organization.
“By being as efficient as we can, we’re saving the state money as well so we have more money to spend on training for the Soldiers,” said Haltiner.
Another way Haltiner has seen an impact is by noticing that people are also utilizing these new advances in their everyday lives. For example, people are beginning to use programmable thermostats and replacing lights in their homes with LED lights.
“The conservation program has individuals thinking about energy conservation when they may not have even thought about it otherwise, and it allows them to participate both at work and at home,” said Haltiner.
Now whether it’s Smith going in on a weekend for some additional work or a National Guard service member wanting to save some additional money at home, the lessons and advances that the SDNG have made over the last 10 years demonstrate the importance of energy efficiency and cost effectiveness.
By Staff Sgt. Austin Pearce – SDNG Public Affairs Office
#SDNG State Family & Youth Symposium 2018 is underway with some phenomenal training and trainers to include Oh, Shift!
In recognition of #WomensHistoryMonth, we salute our women serving in the field artillery. Spcs. Cotton and Kasten made #SDNG history in 2013 as the first female artillery crewmembers in its 156-year history. #WomenInService #KnowYourMil #SDNationalGuard
SD National Guard recognizing Soldiers, Women's History Month
In recognition of #WomensHistoryMonth, we salute our women serving in the field artillery. Spcs. Cotton and Kasten made #SDNG history in 2013 as the first female artillery crewmembers in its 156-year history. #WomenInService #KnowYourMil #SDNationalGuardPosted by South Dakota National Guard on Friday, March 23, 2018
South Dakota ranchers send beef jerky to South Dakota National Guard Soldiers overseas.