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Lieutenant-Colonel-Christensen-dies.aspx2/16/2017Early Nebraska National Guard aviation pioneer laid to rest
Lt. Col. christensen
AirLt. Col. Kevin Hynes

The Nebraska Air National Guard lost one of its early aviation pioneers, Feb. 12, when retired Lt. Col. Clarence Christensen Jr., died at the age of 94.


Christensen, a World War II veteran who flew B-24 bombers in the European Theater of Operations, served in the Nebraska Air National Guard from 1949 until his retirement from the organization in 1978 as the director of operations. He was buried with full military honors on Feb. 16 in Valparaiso, Nebraska.


According to his published obituary, Christen was born on a farm in Hooper, Nebraska, and helped his father with the farm until the Depression when his family moved to Fremont. There he helped support the family by delivering newspapers.


In his teens, the Christensen family moved to Dwight where Clarence helped his father in the family's machinery repair shop. During high school, they moved to Valparaiso where the future aviator attended Valparaiso High School.


As a teenager, he built a ham radio, secured a license and communicated with ham radio operators around the country, even serving as an operator for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). Christensen worked with his family at Christensen Implement in Valparaiso where they repaired and sold farm equipment. There he was able to purchase a ride with a barnstormer pilot, launching his love for flying.


Christensen volunteered for the Army Air Corps to train as a B24 pilot. At 22, he flew 35 combat missions over Europe during WWII, and brought his nine member crew home safely to conclude their tour. He earned two distinguished Flying Crosses for his bravery.


After the war, Christensen joined the Nebraska Air National Guard where he not only served as an aircraft instructor, but also worked as an aircraft maintenance officer earning and honoring the respect of the aircraft mechanics; finishing his career with the military as a director of operations. Christensen bridged the gap between propeller airplanes of the 1940s such as the B24 (and his favorite, the P51), finishing his career in the supersonic RF4.

 

None of Christensen’s personal achievements surpassed his winning the prestigious Ricks Trophy Race in 1958. Representing the Nebraska Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron, "Chris" Christensen flew his F-86D Sabre jet over the 850-mile course between Jacksonville, Fla., and Dallas, Texas, in one hour, 48 minutes and 20 seconds.


While that accomplishment was one that would give him lasting fame, for those who worked with him, Christensen will be forever remembered as an outstanding leader, skilled pilot, extremely knowledgeable maintenance officer and complete gentleman.


Retired Chief Master Sgt. John Bailey, a long-time Nebraska Air National Guard maintenance sergeant, first got to know Christensen shortly after he enlisted into the Nebraska Air National Guard in 1972. At the time, Bailey said, the unit was transitioning between the RF-84 “Thunderflash” jet and the much more advanced RF-4C “Phantom II.”


According to Bailey, Christensen was one of a handful of World War II veterans still in the unit.

 

“We really looked up to them,” said Bailey. “Those (Airmen) were really invaluable to us.”


As a crew chief on the RF-4, Bailey said he and the other unit aircraft maintainers quickly grew to listen closely to Christensen’s suggestions.

 

“He knew the airplane so well to the point that, as a maintenance crew chief, if he asked you something about the aircraft that you didn’t know, you’d be well served to look it up because he already knew the answer," Bailey said. "Even though we were just transitioning into the airplane, he already knew it so well. His leadership, his skill in the aircraft, plus his knowledge of aircraft maintenance made him invaluable during that transition.”


The level of admiration was to such a level that, when Christensen retired from the organization in 1978, the members of the maintenance unit presented him with a chrome wrench, making him an honorary crew chief. It was only the second time that the maintenance unit had done that up to that point, Bailey said.


“I remember that it was a pretty emotional presentation for him because I think he really thought highly of the maintenance community,” Bailey said.


Christensen would later be inducted into the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame in 1993.


According to Bailey, Christensen leaves a lasting legacy within the Nebraska Air National Guard.


“He was just one of the most complete leader I ever met,” Bailey said. “Plus, he was just an outstanding gentleman.”

  
Organizational-Awards.aspx2/15/2017Nebraska Air National Guard Headquarters Staff receive national recognition
Ribbon
AirTech. Sgt. Drew Nystrom

The Nebraska Air National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters staff recently received the U.S. Air Force Organizational Excellence Award by the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council Awards and Decorations Branch, for the period of Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2015. This marks the third straight time that the Air Guard headquarters has received the prestigious award, which was officially presented to the organization on Feb. 11 during an early morning ceremony.

 

According to Brig. Gen. Keith Schell, Nebraska Air National Guard assistant adjutant general, the award is recognition of the quality of work that the members of the Nebraska Air National Guard headquarters staff are doing.

 

“Receiving the Air Force Organization Excellence Award is a significant accomplishment for our Airmen because it recognizes the dedication, the climate of inclusion and service of all members of our team,” Schell said. “We take great pride in answering the call of duty and are ready to serve wherever and whenever we are needed in Nebraska or anywhere else around the globe.”

 

Brig. Gen. Wendy Johnson, Nebraska National Guard Joint Staff assistant adjutant general, echoed those sentiments.

 

“Our Airmen, as part of the joint team, support and accomplish a variety of local, state, federal, emergency management and homeland security missions every day while staying positively engaged with the local community,” Johnson said. “This award was earned, not given, and each Airman played an integral role by putting our core values – ‘Integrity First,’ ‘Service before Self,’ and Excellence in All We Do’ – into action.”

 

The award specifically recognized the work Nebraska Airmen did conducting groundbreaking domestic preparedness training events that culminated in the first-ever full-scale Joint Force Headquarters Continuity of Operations exercise. That exercise saw nearly 300 personnel relocate to alternate operating sites enabling the continued performance of essential functions.

 

Additionally, JFHQ-assigned Airmen achieved successes in recruiting, retention, professional development programs and Civil Support Team agency assistance while increasing State Partnership Program engagements. JFHQ Airmen also provided support to numerous community outreach events including media support for domestic operations training events, the National Guard marathon team trials and the State Games of America.

 

Schell said he fully believes that the numerous contributions made by the Citizen Airmen leading to the recognition would not have been possible without the steadfast and unwavering support of their families and friends.

 

The Secretary of the Air Force authorized the AFOEA on Aug. 26, 1969, to recognize the achievements and accomplishments of U.S. Air Force organizations or activities. It is presented to Air Force internal organizations that are entities within larger organizations. They are unique, unnumbered organizations or activities that perform functions normally performed by numbered wings, groups or squadrons.

 

Airmen assigned to the element for at least one day during the qualifying period are authorized to wear the AFOEA ribbon.  

  
Educator-Flights.aspx2/13/2017Army Guard seeks to expand recruiting reach, educates teachers
ArmyTech. Sgt. Jason Melton

Eleven educators from seven Omaha-area schools climbed aboard two Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and flew from Millard Air Field in Omaha to the Lincoln Air National Guard Base, Feb. 11, to participate in a learning event designed to increase awareness of the Nebraska Army National Guard.

 

“The purpose of this educator flight is to develop centers of influence with area high schools by informing educators about the National Guard and how we can partner with them in education,” said Lt. Col. William Prusia, commander of the Nebraska Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion.

 

He said the Nebraska National Guard has done orientation flights with coaches during the Nebraska Coaches Association Coaches Clinic, but said he believes it is the first time briefings were presented following the flight.

 

Maj. Kristen Augé, executive officer for the Nebraska National Guard’s RRB, said this particular effort was designed to build relationships and partnerships with Nebraska educators so they can be an added resource in schools to identify students who are suited for the National Guard.

 

The participating Omaha educators spent the morning listening to a series of presentations by Nebraska Army National Guard leaders who highlighted the benefits offered to Guard members including education and health benefits, and the variety of career opportunities.

 

Brig. Gen. Kevin Lyons, Nebraska Army National Guard land component commander and an educator himself, spoke about how the National Guard had prepared him to be an education administrator. “The leadership skills I learned in my military training helped me bring a more strategic mindset to education administration,” Lyons said.

 

In addition to member benefits, National Guard presenters discussed programs offered to Nebraska Public Schools free of charge. These include well-known programs like the Junior Officer Training Corp (ROTC) and other lesser-known school programs such as the Help Everyone Achieve Respect (HEAR) and You Can programs. According to Prusia, both HEAR and You Can programs are designed to educate potential Guard members, but also teach important life skills to students who may not be interested in joining the military.

 

HEAR was developed in partnership with nationally renowned subject matter experts at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The program helps students explore the topic of bullying in relation to the National Guard’s core values and teaches ways to minimize bullying by strengthening respectful behavior in their schools.

 

The You Can program includes award-winning, dialogue-driven programs for more than 30 issues relevant to young adults including subjects such as leadership, paying for college, diversity, communication and substance abuse avoidance. For many of the educators in attendance, this was their first real exposure to the National Guard.

 

“I knew very little,” said Greg Tiemann, principal at Millard West High School who said the new relationship is mutually beneficial. Tiemann said he recently talked to recruiters and became more interested in the programs as a result. “We are trying to instill some of the leadership and climate of anti-bulling within our school and the Guard is helping us tremendously by setting up that [HEAR] program for us.”

 

“They are coming to us and we really appreciate that,” he added. “It’s a two-way street,” said Irene Urendowski, a teacher at the Integrated Learning Program School. By incorporating these programs into Omaha schools, she said she hopes to build a relationship between students and the Nebraska Army National Guard. “The Guard programs can teach us all to become better citizens.”

 

Brittany Strong, a teacher in the Native Indigenous Center to Education Program at Bryan, Benson and North High Schools, admitted she did not know much about the programs offered by the Guard prior to the event, but now said she sees them as a tool for upward mobility.

 

“A lot of my students come from homes where they don’t have a lot of opportunities and the Guard is a tool I can use to help them get out of the situation they are in,” she said.

 

After a morning of presentations, participants took a break for lunch where they had the opportunity to talk with members of the National Guard. Educator Flight participants were also asked to fill out evaluation forms measuring the usefulness of the day’s events. Nearly all of them said they would share the benefits of the National Guard with their students.

 

Following lunch, each participant was presented with a framed photo of the group in front of a Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and given backpacks filled with useful information to share with their colleagues and students. They were then taken back to the flight line where they climbed aboard two helicopters and flown back to Omaha.

 

The effectiveness of this first education flight event cannot be immediately realized, but Lt. Col. Prusia said he expects this event, and more like it, to increase the number of National Guard applicants because of an increased presence in high school classrooms.

  
Dermann-passes-away.aspx2/12/2017Former 67th Brigade commander, assistant adjutant general dies
Brig. Gen. Dermann
ArmyLt. Col. Kevin Hynes

“He was a person you would follow through hell because you just had so much faith in him.”

 

That’s how retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Bill Nelson described the late Brig. Gen. Kenneth Dermann, a former 67th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) commander and Nebraska Army National Guard assistant adjutant general who died Feb. 7 at the age of 89.

 

A World War II veteran who served in the Pacific Theater Operations as a U.S. Navy Sailor aboard an American minesweeper ship, Dermann would go on to serve in the Nebraska Army National in a variety of leadership roles that culminated in his assignments with the 67th Infantry Brigade and as the Nebraska Army National Guard assistant adjutant general in the mid-1980s.

 

According to those who served with Dermann, the retired brigadier general was a consummate professional military officer and caring gentleman.

 

“He was a great leader,” said retired Brig. Gen. Dayle Williamson, who followed Dermann as commander of the 67th Infantry Brigade in 1983. According to Williamson, he first met Dermann in the mid-1950s. “We had a number of World War II veterans when I came in and we used to kid Ken because he had served in the Navy. But, we were extremely lucky to have gotten him into the Nebraska Army National Guard. He was really a Soldier’s Soldier. He would talk to anyone and he truly took the time to get to know people and to get to know the issues closely.”

 

Dermann was born on June 15, 1927, on his family’s farm near Talmage, Nebraska. After graduating from Nebraska City High School in 1944, he attended the University of Nebraska where he lettered in football before enlisting in the U.S. Navy on April 28, 1945. He served in the Pacific Theater aboard the USSS Harrier minesweeper until July 18, 1946, and then served in the U.S. Navy Reserve until May 1, 1947.

 

Dermann’s National Guard career began on June 10, 1947, when he enlisted into Nebraska City’s Company A, 134th Infantry, as a private first class. Between 1947 and April 1951, Dermann served in various capacities within the unit, ultimately reaching the rank of platoon sergeant before being appointed as a second lieutenant in Co. A.

 

During the next decade-and-a-half, Dermann served in a variety of leadership roles both within Co. A, as well as Beatrice’s Co. C and the 2nd Battalion, 134th Infantry, headquarters.

 

Along with his military career, Dermann worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service for 26 years before finally taking a fulltime position with the Nebraska National Guard in 1973.

 

According to Williamson, who believes he first met Dermann while he was working at the Soils Lab, the future general was an impressive person to be around.

 

“I probably got to know him best when he served as our company commander,” Williamson said, adding that the Nebraska Army National Guard of the 1950s was vastly different than the Nebraska Army National Guard of 2017. “The Guard at the time was poorly supported.”

 

Williamson said he was amazed at the old equipment and manuals that the Nebraska Soldiers were using when he returned to the state following his stint with the active Army, and this continued to be a problem throughout the 1950s and early 1960s.

 

“Between the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Pentagon lost interest in the Guard,” Williamson said, adding that members of the Guard simply had to do the best they could to keep up to date on current tactics or weapon systems.

 

Retired Brig. Gen. James Murphy, who would one day succeed Dermann as the Nebraska Army National Guard’s assistant adjutant general in the late 1980s, echoed those comments.

 

According to Murphy, who served as an aide to a former brigade commander, Brig. Gen. William Bachman, during the 1960s, attitudes about the Guard began to change with the designation of the 67th Infantry Brigade as “Selective Reserve Force.”

 

In 1965, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara created the Selective Reserve Force (SRF), which allowed him to focus on preparing a core group of 150,000 Guardsmen for immediate overseas deployment, if needed. SRF organizations were to be authorized at 100 percent strength and receive priority training funds and modern equipment. Nebraska’s 67th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) and Kansas’ 69th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) were part of the SRF.

 

Training increased from 48 two-hour training periods per year to 72 four-hour drills, six per month. Some companies began holding back-to-back drills on weekends (where the term Multiple Unit Training Assemblies or MUTAs was born.)

 

Nebraska’s SRF units’ strength rose from 50 to 80 percent. Training opportunities, supplies, new facilities such as the old Atlas missile sites at Mead and Arlington, and more realistic training opportunities were all benefits of the SRF.

 

The SRF era also saw a change in the organization’s annual training program as the 67th Infantry Brigade shifted its focus to Fort Carson where it worked alongside active Army Soldiers.

 

“That’s when the active Army started taking a lot more interest in us,” Williamson said. “We became attached to the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson and they would assign mentors who were people of equal ranks to the ones in the Guard that were receiving mentorship. They would come up and spend a lot of time with us at drills and throughout annual training.”

 

“I got to know (General Dermann) during the SRF era,” Murphy said, adding that as a general’s aide, he had a chance to be around many of the organization’s senior and up-coming leaders.

 

“He was the kind of guy who never got in trouble. He taught me a lot about how to treat people,” Murphy said about his interactions with Dermann. “I think it went back to the fact that he had started out as an enlisted Soldier, so he knew to treat people at every rank because he had done many of the jobs that they were now doing. It was just a pleasure to watch how he spoke to people and how he treated them.”

 

Murphy added that Dermann’s leadership was always present.

 

“He was definitely squared away from his uniform to his conduct,” Murphy said. “He was very important to the role of the Guard in that day. You could tell which units were squared away and his were always at the top of the list.”

 

Following an assignment as commander of the 2nd Battalion, 134th Infantry, Dermann was reassigned to the 67th Infantry Brigade as the executive officer, then deputy commander. After several additional assignments within the state headquarters, Dermann returned to the brigade as its commander on Feb. 15, 1980, and was promoted to brigadier general on Aug. 31, 1980.

 

By this time, the SRF era had ended, but the brigade, now a “separate” brigade, still had a significant relationship with Fort Carson and the 4th Infantry Division.

 

According to both Murphy and Williamson, Dermann was the perfect commander for that period of time.

 

“It was extremely important that General Dermann served in the position that he did,” Williamson said. “We didn’t want to be overcome by the active Army; we wanted to be on equal footing with them.

 

“General Dermann had the ability to go in and speak with the active leaders on equal footing,” Williamson said, adding that this particularly the case with one Brig. Gen. Colin Powell, 4th Infantry Div. assistant commander, who worked closely with Dermann during annual training. “He had developed a lot of respect and that was really important in the development of the brigade.”

 

Murphy agreed.

 

“He was as near to perfection as you get. He was always honest, direct and always in control. He was a superb officer. He was an unusual straight arrow in that he really knew his stuff and he really knew how to treat people.”

 

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Bill Nelson was one of those Soldiers. As the brigade’s fulltime unit support specialist, Nelson had frequent interactions with Dermann.

 

“He was a no-nonsense leader, but he also gave everyone the latitude to do what they needed to do,” Nelson said. “He wasn’t a micromanager. He would back you 100 percent, but if you made a mistake he always made sure that he would counsel you in private instead of in front of other Soldiers.”

 

That level of professionalism, Nelson added, went a long way in developing the relationships that Dermann created with the active Army leaders he came into contact with.

 

Dermann left the brigade on Nov. 1, 1983, when he became the Nebraska Army National Guard’s assistant adjutant general. Once again, he left his mark on the organization.

 

“Probably one of the most significant things he did was really putting focus on making sure that people were recognized for their accomplishments,” Nelson said. “Up until then, we didn’t put in many people for military awards. I think he deserves a lot of credit for changing that focus.”

 

Williams said that Dermann also continued to be a role model for the Soldiers he led.

 

“Everyone really looked forward to talking to him. He was just so thorough and knowledgeable about the issues we were dealing with,” Williamson said. “He was really a good leader in that he excelled as a tactician, as an administrator and as a strategic thinker. Often you find people who are really good in one area, but not so good in the others. General Dermann was extremely good in each of those aspects.

 

“You were always assured that you would get your questions answered and that they would be the right answers… and that you would be backed up by them when you made a decision.”

 

“He was just a solid individual,” Murphy added. “He was kind of person we need to see more of today.”

 

Following his retirement from the Nebraska Army National Guard on June 1987, Dermann would be inducted into the Nebraska National Guard Military Academy Hall of Fame in 1995.

 

Dermann was also a long-time volunteer at the Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln where he served as a member of the volunteer board of directors. He was also a long-time volunteer at his church and served in numerous other volunteer activities.

 

Dermann was buried at Lincoln Memorial Park with full military honors on Feb. 11. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Shirley; two sons and their wives; three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

  
AOTY2016.aspx2/9/2017Four Nebraska Air National Guard Airmen named organization’s 2016 “Outstanding Airmen of the Year”
AirLt. Col. Kevin Hynes

Four Nebraska Air National Guard Airmen – two from the Lincoln-based 155th Air Refueling Wing and two from the Guard’s 170th Group at Offutt Air Force Base – have been named the Nebraska Air National Guard’s “Outstanding Airmen of the Year” for 2016.

 

The Airmen were selected by Nebraska Air National Guard senior enlisted leaders based upon a variety of criteria that included work the Airmen did over the past calendar year in completing professional military education, civilian education, accomplishments within their prospective work areas or during overseas deployments, and involvement in community or volunteer activities.

 

This year’s selectees are:

 

• Outstanding Airman of the Year: Staff Sgt. Tyler Johnson, an instructor airborne systems engineer with the Offutt-based 238th Combat Training Squadron;

• Outstanding Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Staff Sgt. Natalie C. Nason, an emergency management craftsman with the Lincoln-based 155th Civil Engineering Squadron;

• Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Master Sgt. Clashaud Robbins, a recruiting and retention manager with Offutt’s 170th Group;

• Outstanding First Sergeant of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Brandon L. Viet, first sergeant with Lincoln’s 155th Maintenance Squadron.

 

“These four Airmen are representatives of what it means to be a Citizen Airman,” said Chief Master Sgt. Doug Lierz, Nebraska Air National Guard state command chief master sergeant, who led the board of senior enlisted leaders conducting the Outstanding Airmen of the Year selection process. “These Airmen are just four of many, many Nebraska Airmen who are extremely busy doing great work for our Nebraska Air National Guard and their respective communities while also pursuing both professional military or civilian educational goals.”

 

According to Lierz, the selection process included both nomination packets made by each respective Airmen’s units as well as an in-person interview process that was conducted in January by the selection board. Lierz said those selected represent a wide cross section of the organization that includes units both at the National Guard air base in Lincoln as well as Air National Guard units located at Offutt Air Force Base.

 

“When you think of the words ‘well rounded,’ that is exactly what these Airmen represent,” Lierz added. “These Airmen really are people that you would like to see as models for the rest of our organization.”

 

The Airmen will now compete for national honors in their respective categories in the upcoming Air National Guard “Outstanding Airmen of the Year” competitions to be held later this spring.

  
recruitingaward0209-4614.aspx2/9/2017Nebraska Air National Guard recruiter among best in the nation
AirTech. Sgt. Jason Melton

Senior Master Sgt. Stuart Stofferahn, recruiting and retention superintendent for the Nebraska Air National Guard, was recognized as one of the nation’s best recruiters when he was awarded the Air National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Superintendent of the Year in Region II for fiscal year 2015.

 

Brig. Gen. Keith A. Schell, the Nebraska Air National Guard assistant adjutant general, officially presented the award on Dec. 3 at the Joint Force Headquarters building in Lincoln, Nebraska. The award was first presented to Stofferahn last April during the National Annual Recruiters Certification and Training course in Gulfport, Louisiana.

 

“It was an incredible honor to receive this award and to represent the entire recruiting career field in this way,” Stofferahn said. “It has been a very humbling experience.”

 

The regional Recruiting and Retention Superintendent of the Year awards are a distinction reserved for the top recruiting noncommissioned officers in each of the nation’s five Air National Guard recruiting regions. Region II is a nine-state region which includes Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

 

Stofferahn, Nebraska’s most senior enlisted Air Guard recruiter, enlisted in the South Dakota Air National Guard in November 1986 before joining the Nebraska Air National Guard in May 2002. He has served as Nebraska’s Air National Guard RRS at Joint Force Headquarters for eight years.

 

In his position as the RRS, Stofferahn advises the state command staff on all recruiting and retention issues, providing periodic updates on initiatives and incentives.

  
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