Soldiers Dedicate New Bridge in Portland
29 June 2012 » By SPC Alyson Pelletier
Soldiers Dedicate New Bridge in Portland from Maine Army National Guard on Vimeo.
Servicemembers past and present as well as local residents and prominent local figures gathered on the new Veterans Memorial Bridge to assist in a dedication ceremony. The new bridge replaces the Veterans Memorial Bridge built in 1954. The new bridge not only represents a fine piece of engineering and infrastructure, but also a lasting tribute to those who have served, are serving and will serve our country.
133rd Recieves Award for Decades of Community Service
28 June 2012 » By SPC Alyson Pelletier
133rd Recieves Award for Decades of Community Service from Maine Army National Guard on Vimeo.
The 133rd Engineer Battalion which includes the 136th Vertical Engineer Company and 185th Engineer Support Company are training as well as giving back to the community. For over 20 years Maine has benefitted from their hard work and on June 26 Gov. Paul LePage visited one of the project sites to extend his thanks and gratitude.
Maine Army National Guard Gives Back to the State
23 June 2012 » By PFC Adam Simmler
Soldiers with the Maine Army National Guard, 136th Engineering Company, 2nd Platoon, construct a section of a 1500-ft boundary fence at Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine, June 21
A Soldier with the Maine Army National Guard, 136th Engineering Company, 3rd Platoon, notches out a beam during construction of a community pavilion at the Cathance River park in Topsham, June 21.
In the Maine Army National Guard, training is a constant companion. Soldiers strive to stay on top of their chosen field, while training at every opportunity for the day that they will put their skills to use, in their state and on the battlefield.
One of the ways the Maine Army National Guard, 133rd Engineer Battalion, stays up on their training is by giving back to Maine communities. During the past week of their annual training, Soldiers from the 136th Engineer Company, 2nd Platoon have been lending a hand at Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine on several building projects to help the non-profit organization provide a fun environment for families.
This year, the unit is building several bridges, installing culverts, and working on several fence projects, said Staff Sgt. Kevin R. Sirois, from Rumford, a project supervisor for the mission.
"I love getting out and being able to do something for a community who can't really accomplish what we can do as a unit, just being able to get out and see the point of contact and the people we are doing the project for, is just a really good heart-filled feeling," said Sirois.
This isn't the first time that the National Guard has assisted the staff at Camp Sunshine; in 1992, National Guard Soldiers cleared the land that the camp sits on. Since then, National Guard units from around Maine have been able to assist on many building projects including a climbing wall, gazebo, bridges and even a pond.
Soldiers are taking the opportunity to train in a real-life environment, and in the process giving back to the community.
"It's great for me to know that my troops are actually learning and making progress, said Sirois.
Anna Gould, co-founder and spokesperson at Camp Sunshine, explains that "Camp Sunshine provides a respite for families who have a child with a life-threatening illness. Part of what makes camp special is that the camp is staffed predominantly with volunteers, probably 95 percent of the staff you see here are volunteers," said Gould.
1st Lt. Morse Doane, from Portland, leader of 136's 2nd Platoon said "Families come from all over the country to Camp Sunshine, it's a great feeling in many ways. Number one for my Soldiers is it's an outstanding opportunity to let other people see and appreciate how hard they work and the things they do."
Along with Camp Sunshine, there are many additional sites where Maine Army National Guard Soldiers are using valuable training time to practice their job and contribute to their friends and neighbors.
In Topsham, Soldiers from the 136th Engineer Company, 3rd platoon led by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Barnaby, are building two community pavilions at the Cathance River Park.
In Augusta, Soldiers from the 262nd Engineer Company, 2nd platoon led by 2nd Lt. Jonathan Bratten, are renovating parts of the Augusta Nordic trails at the Augusta Recreation area.
Doane expressed that it's inspirational for people to see Soldiers working here knowing that those same Soldiers could be deploying overseas, it's a reminder to people that the Guard is out here training. In another respect he says it's motivating for the Soldiers and the community just to see people out here in uniform doing something that he thinks people understand requires extra effort and an extra level of commitment.
All the training that National Guard Soldiers receive, and the skills
they learn through giving back, have earned them a reputation of being skilled and excellent at what they do, Doane said. "They're an invaluable part of what the federal mission is."
Daughter of Fallen Soldier Receives Honor
22 June 2012 » By SGT Angela Parady
Father's Day is a time to spend with the men in our lives who have helped to shape the people we are, a time to play and a time to be thankful for the presence they have had. For one little girl, this Father's Day was one of many to be spent cherishing the memories of a father who sacrificed his life in a war that is still far from over.
Allyssa Braelyn Hutchins will never have the pleasure of her dad teaching her how to ride her bicycle, nor will she know the pain of having her father lecture her before heading out on her first date. Her mother is determined that Allyssa will always know who he was, and the honor and sacrifice of his life.
The Maine Select Funeral Honor Guard presented Allyssa a folded flag June 17, Father's Day. The ceremony was similar to the one they had for her mother, Heather Hutchins, wife of Spc. Andrew Hutchins who was killed in Afghanistan in November 2010. Hutchins, who was five months pregnant wept openly during Andrew's funeral.
"I felt completely alone," said Hutchins, a native of Solon, of her husband's funeral. "I mean, there were people all around me, but I didn't have that spousal support. I had nothing to make me happy then. But now I have this little person, she just kind of lights up my world."
A network of other Army wives, have helped her to get through some of the tougher times. "They totally help you out, the other Army wives. You can say anything to them, anything at all and they just get it. Whereas my mom, she tries to give me her opinion, or her advice, but it's not the same. The other widows, they have provided a lot of support."
The military approached Hutchins to set up the ceremony to show Allyssa their recognition and appreciation for her father's sacrifice in the traditional folding ceremony.
Sgt. 1st Class Michelle A. Patten is the casualty assistance officer for the Hutchins family. "Heather picked the day, but the military wanted to present Allyssa with the flag and the gold star lapel, because that is what is proper for the child," said Patten, who works for the Maine Army National Guard. They want to make sure everything is done."
"It seemed like a happy day for Heather," said Patten. "She had a smile on her face, and she was really happy that they were doing this for Alyssa."
Hutchins agreed. The ceremony itself was very emotional, and almost too reminiscent of her husband's funeral, but she has a different outlook now.
"I don't think it should be a sad thing, to see mine and Andrew's baby receive a folded flag," said Hutchins. "It is sad, but it's a good thing that the Army wanted to present this to her, that they even remembered her."
"I think it is very important that she has her own flag," said Hutchins. "I couldn't come up with any real reason why she should wait until she was older, and I just really wanted her to have her own flag for her father."
Hutchins had asked that the Honor Guard speak directly to Allyssa, a potential challenge considering she is only 15 months old. Spc Denis J. Haiss, of Brewer, was selected to present the flag to the child.
"On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army and our grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service," said Haiss. These words are the same words that are spoken to each recipient of a folded flag.
"He didn't even look at me. He knelt down and put the flag on her little legs, and held it there. He spoke straight to her face, He looked her directly in the eyes and spoke to her," she said.
The Maine Military Funerals Honors Program has performed over 8000 ceremonies since its inception in 2003. Nearly 900 have been done this year alone, and Haiss himself has participated in nearly 200 since joining the program last year. For Haiss this is just one way he can show respect and honor those who have come before him.
"It is an honorable service to be part of, it is the last thing the family is going to remember of their loved one. We strive to always look our best, perform our best so that this last service is memorable, so that we honor the people properly," said Haiss.
"She may not remember the ceremony, but she will have the flag at least," said Haiss of Allyssa being so young. "We have to make sure they are not forgotten. They took part in something that not many people take part in.'
Hutchins is determined to make sure her daughter knows everything about her late father. She scrolls through pictures on her laptop, and tells stories of the childhood sweethearts. Her family and Andrew's family are also a constant presence in the young child's life.
"He wanted to be a dad, and being a parent was a very important thing to him, to who he was," said Hutchins. "And even though he's not here, he wanted to be a parent to her. I just want to make sure she knows who he is when she sees his picture. I want to make sure she has respect for who her parent is, even if he can't be here as a physical presence in her life."
Allyssa sat quietly on her mother's lap, very well behaved throughout the entire ceremony, said Patten.
After the last fold was creased, Haiss walked the folded flag over to the young girl. He had specific instructions from Hutchins to let the young girl take the flagfrom his hands, as is the custom. This was the first ceremony where Haiss had presented a flag to a child so young. Hutchins hopes his presence honored her husband and her daughter at the same time.
"The Soldier could not have done a better job with handing her that flag," said Hutchins.
While the ceremony provided some closure to the Army, and Hutchins, it will never be out of her mind.
"She is trying to carry on Andrew's name, his memory. Everything is for Alyssa, until she is old enough to do it herself, " said Patten.
Highest Ranking Enlisted Soldier to Ever Visit Maine
U.S. Army Forces Command
23 June 2012 » By SGT Jessica J. Wood
Pvt. 1st Class Joel C. Thomas, 262nd Engineer Company meets with Command Sgt Maj. Darrin J. Bohn from US Army Forces Command, June 19 at the Skowhegan project site.
Command Sgt. Major Darrin J. Bohn from U.S. Army Forces Command visited Soldiers from the Maine Army National Guard, 133rd Engineer Battalion at several of their project sites during their annual training in June.
"This is what it is all about, getting the Soldiers out here to train and giving them experience in the military occupational specialties they were trained for," said Bohn.
The 133rd consists of units with Soldiers who are qualified as engineers, electricians, carpenters, plumbers and masons. Throughout the annual training, units will exercise those skills through community outreach, just as if they were deployed overseas.
During the two week annual training units are working on ten different community projects overall from Caswell to Casco.
Two of the sites Bohn visited were in Augusta and Ellsworth where Soldiers from the 262nd Engineer Company, who fall under the 133rd, were working to build access roads for the local communities.
These Soldiers are all dedicated and motivated to complete the mission at hand explained, 2nd Lt. Jonathan D. Bratten from Portland, the officer in charge of the Augusta site. "We will do anything to take care of them and complete this mission," said Bratten.
Staff Sgt. Heath J. Bouffard from North Waterboro, non-commissioned officer at the Ellsworth site noted, "we are working to ensure our Soldiers perform both safe and proficiently."
Bohn, the highest ranking enlisted Soldier to visit Maine, observed another big focus for the 133rd annual training, professional leader development. Bohn attended a Non-Commissioned Officer Developmental Program at the Maine State Police Training Academy in Vassalboro.
The 120th Regional Support Group hosted the NCODP for the 133rd, lead by Command Sgt Maj. Richard L. Hannibal from Recruiting and Retention, MEARNG, the agenda was for enlisted leaders to discuss goals to enhance professional leader development.
During the NCODP Staff Sgt. Mary A. Quirion, 133rd Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, explained the importance of non-commissioned officer evaluation reports.
It is our jobs as leaders to accurately represent each Soldier as an individual and the NCOER is a big factor in their military career, she said.
In addition, Hannibal stressed the urgency to encourage Soldiers to sign-up for a required online training course called Structured Self Development. There are four phases that consist of educating a Soldier on their MOS that must be completed before moving on to the next level of leadership throughout their military career, said Hannibal.
Before leaving Maine Bohn stated, "We are looking at the Soldier as a whole now and in order for them to succeed we need to provide them with the tools they need to be tactically, mentally and physically proficient... Our job as leaders is to mentor these Soldiers through our own experiences and set them up for success when it comes to completing a mission."
Maine Military Police Build Confidence Training
14 June 2012 » By SSG Peter Morrison
Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Ashley Seiler directs Spc. Stephen Lincoln, both of the 488th Military Police Company, during training at the Ethan Allen Training Site, Jericho, Vermont.
The 488th Military Police conduct mounted and dismounted patrols ath the Ethan Allen Training Site as they prepare for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
Maine Army National Guard Soldiers from the 488th Military Police Company are conducting dismounted patrols through Afghan villages, meeting with Afghan leaders and reacting to roadside bombs without ever leaving New England.
The 488th is at the Ethan Allen Training Site (EATS) in Jericho, Vermont preparing for the rigors of war during two weeks of preparation for deployment to Afghanistan later this summer.
The Pre-Mobilization Training Assistance Element, and the MEARNG use EATS to train the MP's on many of the tasks they might encounter downrange. They are using simulated munitions, employing other Soldiers to act like local Afghans and challenging the "Guardians" at every turn.
Pvt. Tyler Blakney, a military police officer from Headquarters Platoon, 1st Squad feels the realism of the training will help prepare him for the deployment. "It's very realistic. We have simulated rounds and it feels real, especially when everything starts happening. It gets you more prepared for when you're overseas and you are actually going through villages and you hit an IED or you get attacked. You're ready, you're prepared and you know what's going to happen."
During the training Blakney maneuvered a HMMWV through the IED lane constantly scanning the road ahead, carefully following the orders of his team leader and shouting information to the rest of the truck. The teamwork gives him a sense of confidence.
Soldiers dressed as Afghan civilians roam the lane carrying weapons, undistinguishable from those who might try to do them harm. Simulated IED's have been deliberately placed to measure their awareness; no one person could possibly see all of the threats.
"I am very comfortable and I know that my battle buddies will have my back and they know I have theirs in every situation," said Blakney.
For 1st Lt. Ashley Seiler, platoon leader for first platoon, the training was a chance to assess what her Soldiers could do. "It showed who needs to work on what and what people are capable of as squads, there was a lot of team building," said Seiler the former enlisted Soldier from Gorham.
After Seiler led her platoon through a mock Afghan village and met with the town leader, the PTAE group paused the exercise to give feedback to Seiler and her troops about the how they accomplished the mission. Seiler thinks the feedback contributes to their overall success.
"The PTAE have all deployed, probably more than one time. So, all their knowledge is absolutely helpful to what they are teaching us, and what they are trying to get us to understand," said Seiler.
The 488th will finish their training at EATS and will continue to prepare for the demands of war back in the State of Maine. They will have even more time to master their skills once they reach their mobilization station and await movement to Afghanistan.
Blakney, the Winslow native prepares his equipment for the next lane of training and states, "When the time comes, I know I'll be ready to go. There is no doubt in my mind."
For more information contact: Shanon Cotta, 207-430-2151
488th Military Police Trains for War
14 June 2012 » By SPC Jamie Lee Richardson
The 488th Military Police Company trains for War from Maine Army National Guard on Vimeo.
Happy 237th Birthday, U.S. Army!
14 June 2012 » U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Raymond Odierno
Office of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff
Today, we celebrate the 237th birthday of our Army.
For 237 years, our Soldiers, Civilians and Families have been the strength of our Nation in peace and at war.
Today, America's Army is engaged in nearly 150 countries around the world, on 6 of 7 continents, with over 94,000 Soldiers deployed today and 94,000 forward stationed. Our Nation depends on its Army to defend the shores of our homeland, defeat enemy forces abroad, and help with recovery efforts in the wake of natural disasters.
We have the best equipped, best trained, and best led Army in history because of the 1.1 million professional Soldiers who serve in the Active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve, as well as the dedicated service of our Army Civilians. It is our Army's competence, adaptability, moral character, and resolute commitment that defines us as professionals and guarantees our long-standing sacred trust with the American people.
I'm proud of your accomplishments, your sacrifice, and your selfless dedication to our Army and to the Nation. Today, on its 237th birthday, we honor our Army and the remarkable men and women, past and present, who have embraced our Nation's call to service. Army Strong!
Raymond T. Odierno
General, 38th Chief of Staff
United States Army
The Strength of our Nation is our Army
The Strength of our Army is our Soldiers
The Strength of our Soldiers is our Families
This is what makes us "Army Strong!"
Original memorandum can be viewed here [PDF]