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Pennsylvania National Guard achieved excellence in 2018

Pennsylvania National Guard achieved excellence in 2018

Story by SGT Zane Craig on 01/29/2019

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. The Pennsylvania National Guard achieved excellence during 2018 through successful responses to natural disasters in our Homeland, deepening our Partnerships throughout the government, in our communities and with our allies, and adding to the strength of our Warfight around the world.

Key highlights include the extraordinary support provided by Pennsylvania National Guard members to areas affected by the record-breaking 2018 hurricane season, the participation of more than 1,000 guard members in domestic operations including snow storms, floods, and the 2018 midterm election.

Other highlights of 2018 include approximately 1,000 Pennsylvania National Guard members deployed throughout the world in support of multiple operations and participation in training events throughout the nation and abroad to enhance the readiness of our force and interoperability with our partners, all while supporting our Soldiers’ and Airmen’s civilian and family lives.

Domestic Operations

As part of our core function to protect the Homeland, more than 1,100 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard participated in a variety of domestic operations, including responding to winter storms and summer floods, providing election security measures for the 2018 General Election, and assisting in response to Hurricane Florence in South Carolina.

Approximately 150 members of the Pennsylvania Army and Air National Guard were placed on state active duty to support nine Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency directed missions throughout the state in response to Winter Storm Riley, which struck eastern Pennsylvania March 2-3.

More than 500 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard were placed on state active duty to assist the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and other state agencies in response to Winter Storm Quinn beginning March 6.

“We are very fortunate to have our PA National Guard members living and working in our communities and able to mobilize on short notice to provide help,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “Their service is vital to our commonwealth, and I thank them and the staff at PEMA for their dedication to helping Pennsylvanians affected by this storm.”

More than 400 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard were placed on state active duty to assist the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) in response to Winter Storm Toby, the fourth nor’easter to strike the commonwealth within three weeks, from March 20 to 22.

“This response illustrates the dynamic dual-status role of the Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general. “At the direction of the governor, we are able to provide assistance to our communities during critical weather incidents like this one.”

Approximately 70 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard were placed on state active duty to support 11 Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency directed missions in Central Pennsylvania during summer flooding July 23 to July 27, when several days of rain left much of Central Pennsylvania’s waterways at near-record highs. The

The flooding led to the Pennsylvania National Guard’s activation to assist in transportation missions with vehicles capable of fording high waters, as well as helicopters and crews with the Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, located at Fort Indiantown and in Johnstown, Pa. The team is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, along with credentialed civilian rescue technicians.

Pennsylvania National Guard members are always on duty at the Pennsylvania National Guard’s joint emergency operations center. The center maintains continuous communications with the National Guard Bureau and PEMA in order to anticipate future requirements that could be assigned to Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers and Airmen.

Pennsylvania National Guard members with the Pennsylvania Counterdrug Joint Task Force led a demolition effort of abandoned homes in Beaver Falls, Pa. that attracted illegal activity. The Pennsylvania National Guard has been part of the war on drugs for nearly 30 years.

“The main reason we do it is to prevent drug abuse in abandoned houses,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Gendall, as he waited for his fellow Guards on Monday morning. “There’s a need for it.”

As part of the Pennsylvania Inter-Agency Election Preparedness and Security Workgroup, several Pennsylvania National Guard members provided various election security measures, including the monitoring of polling systems for issues before and during polling, for the general elections. They worked alongside partners such as the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and PA Department of State.


As part of its federal mission, approximately 1,000 Pennsylvania National Guard personnel deployed throughout the world in 2018 in support of multiple operations, including Operation Spartan Shield, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and missions in support of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Air Force Special Operations Command and NATO.

Approximately 500 Soldiers with 28th Infantry Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Pennsylvania National Guard, were honored in a ceremony Jan. 13 as they prepared to depart for a deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield (OSS).

The 28th Infantry Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion was the third National Guard unit to provide mission command for several thousand additional troops supporting OSS. This mission included units conducting theater security cooperative activities and partnership operations in several countries throughout the Middle East.

“In 1918, the 28th Division earned its nickname, the Iron Division, in the fierce fighting of World War I,” said Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general at the ceremony. “Now, a century later, you embark on this major commitment to defend freedom and liberty throughout the world. You join more than 35,000 other members of the Pennsylvania National Guard that have deployed and sacrificed since 9/11.”

Additionally, Approximately 160 Soldiers with 28th Military Police Company, 165th Military Police Battalion, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, were honored in a ceremony Sept. 9 as they prepare to depart for a deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield (OSS).

The 28th MP Co. is providing security and customs support in several countries in Southwest Asia, and will initially fall under the command of the 28th Infantry Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion.

“I recognize that balancing the demands of school and work while keeping yourself ready to deploy is not an easy thing, but you do it with courage, you do it with courage and determination,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

Three Soldiers with the 1928th Contracting Support Detachment, 213th Regional Support Group, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, were honored during a ceremony Oct. 29 as they prepared for a deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel (OFS).

OFS is part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission following the end of U.S. combat missions in Afghanistan. OFS is designed to maintain a U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia to strengthen our defense relationships, build partner capacity and continue counter-terrorism measures against Al-Qaeda.

“There is much expected of these few,” said Col. James G. McCormack, 213th RSG commander at the ceremony. “I know they will meet those expectations that is naturally presumed of Pa. National Guardsmen wherever they go.”

Approximately two dozen Soldiers with Charlie Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard, returned in September from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Four rotations of Airmen with the 111th Attack Wing’s 201st RED HORSE Squadron worked with the Lithuanian Armed Forces to construct a military air-to-ground range at the Brig. Gen. Kazio Veverskis Training Grounds, Kazlu Ruda, Lithuania. The project, which broke ground in July and wrapped up in September, will provide Lithuanian and NATO forces with realistic training similar to what is provided by the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Bollen Air-To-Ground Weapons Range.


The entire 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Members of the 213th Regional Support Group, Soldiers from Pennsylvania and other states’ National Guards, and soldiers from Lithuania’s armed forces experienced a rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. in August.

Twelve enlisted Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers competed in the 2018 state-level Best Warrior Competition at Fort Indiantown Gap March 26-29. The Soldiers competed in ten events designed to test their physical and mental endurance and assess the “Whole Soldier Concept.”

The events were: a written exam, the Army Physical Fitness Test, M4 carbine zero and qualification, M9 pistol qualification, obstacle course, a six mile road march, a night/day land navigation challenge, a mystery event, a warrior tasks evaluation, and finally, a leadership/appearance board.

Fort Indiantown Gap hosted Air Assault, Pathfinder, and Rappel master courses at Fort Indiantown Gap in March, and dozens of additional exercises which ensure the readiness of the Pa. National Guard and the readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces as a whole by hosting training for service members from throughout the active and reserve components, as well as law enforcement.

Strengthening Partnerships

The Pennsylvania National Guard and the Lithuanian Armed Forces celebrated 25 years of cooperation in the State Partnership Program, which began in 1993 soon after Lithuania reclaimed its independence from the Soviet Union. Pennsylvania National Guard members participated in numerous engagements as part of the State Partnership Program with Lithuania. These events support U.S. allies and align with the strategic objectives and partnerships of the Department of Defense.

A contingent of leadership from the Pennsylvania National Guard spent time during Feb. in Europe with dignitaries from U.S. Department of State, U.S. Army Europe, Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania and Lithuanian Armed Forces leadership. The discussions centered on strengthening existing partnerships as well as conducting shared mutual training events and missions with both the active duty troops stationed in Europe and with Pennsylvania National Guard’s long-standing partner Lithuania. Shared events enhance interoperability between U.S. armed forces and NATO allies.

Soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard and the Lithuanian Army marked their 25 years of partnership with an airborne friendship jump June 7 in Rukla, Lithuania. More than 30 American and Lithuanian Soldiers from various units spent the day conducting refresher training together in preparation for the jump.

“It is tremendously significant that we conducted this cooperative jump on the 25th anniversary of our partnership because it clearly demonstrates the high level of trust and confidence in each other to execute such a high-risk operation jointly,” said Maj. John Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s state partnership program officer, who participated in the jump.

Pennsylvania National Guard senior leadership and representatives visited Lithuania June 6-12 to take part in the commemoration of 25 years of successful partnership between the Pennsylvania National Guard and the Lithuanian Armed Forces.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general, and other Pennsylvania National Guard leaders visited Soldiers of the 213th Regional Support Group, Pennsylvania National Guard in the field June 8. The Soldiers were participating in Exercise Saber Strike 2018, an annual international exercise with more than 18,000 participants this year. The group then attended embassy meetings to visit with staff at the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

The Pennsylvania National Guard leaders traveled to Pabrade, Lithuania June 9 to visit Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, who were training with partner nations as part of Exercise Saber Strike 2018.

Soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 166th Regiment trained a group of Lithuanian soldiers Nov. 5-16 in the Pre-Master Gunner course at Fort Indiantown Gap. The eight noncommissioned officers selected for this course then prepared to attend the Master Gunner Course at Fort Benning, Ga. and to impart their knowledge to junior soldiers at home in Lithuania.

“The course provided a series of seminars and practical exercises to enable Iron Wolf Brigade NCOs to properly plan for the execution of stabilized gunnery to facilitate participation in NATO-sponsored exercises in support of operations, actions, and activities with our allies demonstrating credible capability,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Nebzydoski, State Partnership Program noncommissioned officer-in-charge.

The Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (PA-HART) conducted a joint complex search and rescue land-based exercise March 23 at Gilbert Airfield in York, Pa. The team consisted of more than 50 civilian and military personnel. The exercise integrated PA HART rescue technicians, 1 CH-47F Chinook, 3 UH-60 A/L Black Hawk, and 1 LUH-72 Lakota helicopters to simulate search and rescue operations to hoist (simulated) patients and rescue divers/technicians.

The Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (PA-HART) is a joint multi-agency partnership between the Pennsylvania Army National Guard (PAARNG), the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and credentialed civilian expert rescue specialists. PA-HART provides a unique joint search and rescue air-ground team that is deployable to respond to natural and man-made disasters incidents throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and United States.

More than 630 service members and civilians participated in the seventh annual March for the Fallen event hosted by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard at Strickler Field, Fort Indiantown Gap Sep. 29. Event categories included a 28 mile and 14-mile march, a 28-mile hand cycle route, and a 5k walk/run. Participants competed individually or as a team to complete the challenging courses. The event is held to honor the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.

In addition to the State Partnership program and the events listed above, the Pa. National Guard continues to cooperate with our state agency partners, local governments and organizations. In 2018 we participated in more than 200 community events, cementing our relationship to the people of Pennsylvania.

Achievements and Milestones

The strength management team with the 193rd Special Operations Wing earned two 2017 fourth quarter awards from the Air National Guard Readiness Center Feb. 7, 2018. The SMT obtained the Region 4 honors of Wing with Top Accessions and Wing with Top Critical Accessions.

These awards are earned by wing recruiting and retention teams that go above and beyond recruiting goals, surpassing other teams in their region, according to strength management team personnel. In fiscal year 2017, the wing’s SMT acquired a total of 60 accessions, or recruits, with 49 out of those 60 being critical accessions.

A team of Soldiers assigned to the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site placed first in the two-day Pennsylvania National Guard’s Adjutant General’s Combined Arms Match held at Fort Indiantown Gap June 2-3.

The competition is held annually by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s G3 Individual Training Branch. Participants competed in five events with M16 rifles and M9 pistols. All participants are assigned to the Pennsylvania National Guard. This marks the fifth year that the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site team placed first.

The Pennsylvania National Guard’s 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade held re-patching ceremonies at Fort Indiantown Gap July 30, 2018 and at their armory in Scranton Aug. 3 to remove the keystone patch of the 28th Infantry Division and apply the new black horse patch.

The 55th MEB’s shoulder sleeve insignia was redesigned, effective Feb. 22, 2017 and was primarily designed by the 55th MEB’s previous commander, Col. Michael Konzman. The new patch features a black horse on a gold keystone shield edged with a blue border, in a slightly larger size than the former Keystone patch.

Blue and gold are both the unit and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s colors. The keystone shape is also indicative of the unit’s assignment in the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division. The black horse is emblematic of the unit’s history as a mounted maneuver brigade as well as signifying strength, agility and loyalty. The patch’s colors are subdued as part of the duty uniform.

The Pennsylvania National Guard is recognizing the legacy of our contribution to the U.S. and Allied victory in World War I, which ended exactly 100 years ago at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918.

Pennsylvania contributed enormous resources of manpower and industrial production to securing victory in what was then known as “The Great War” and “The War to End All Wars.” Though the war began in 1914 and soon engulfed most of Europe, the United States did not formally join the Allies until 1917, following a series of German provocations.

The Guard engaged in combat for the first time ever in WWI with the official name of “National Guard.” These National Guard forces fought alongside the American active-duty component and our foreign partners. This united effort halted the German advance that had recently menaced the entire Allied effort on the Western Front.

The installation’s natural resource conservation team, staffed by members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs won the 2018 Secretary of the Army Natural Resources Conservation Team Award.

Fort Indiantown Gap is the busiest Army National Guard training center in the nation and winning an environmental award in addition to training a large volume of troops here was highlighted during the ceremony by presenters.

“While we’ve been able to increase the effectiveness of our training, we’ve also done great things for the environment,” said Carrelli. “Those two don’t always go together. It would be easy to have an excellent training center without the environmental accomplishments. Or to have an environmentally sound installation that does not train many troops.”

In 2018, the Pennsylvania National Guard served the Commonwealth and the United States with pride and distinction. Every Guard member can be sure their efforts during the past year have set this organization up for continued success in 2019.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please contact Lt. Col. Angela King-Sweigart (717) 861-6254, or e-mail

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