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That-Yellow-Jacket.aspx5/15/2017That Yellow Jacket: National Guard Soldiers, Airmen from across nation compete for berths on prestigious All Guard Marathon Team
JointAirman 1st Class Jamie Titus

After a long, hot 26.2-mile race, Army and Air National Guard marathon runners from across the nation gathered in the Embassy Suites in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, May 6, for an award ceremony honoring the National Guard winners of the 40th Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon and Half-Marathon.

The crowd was eager to hear the results of the marathon and to learn who had earned a spot on the elite All Guard Marathon Team. Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Sterns, National Guard Marathon coordinator, announced each first, second and third place winner by age group, followed by an announcement of each member joining the 2017 All Guard Marathon Team.

Out of about 13,500 total runners who participated in the marathon and half-marathon, 150 were National Guardsmen who represented 39 states and two territories. Along with the individual races, the Guard runners were also seeking spots on the prestigious All Guard Marathon Team, which consists of 60 to 65 runners: 40 males, 15 females and five masters runners, aged 40-years-old or older.

In order to qualify for the All Guard team, males must have a run a marathon with a time of 4 hours or below, while females must have a run time of 4 hours and 30 minutes or below within 12 months of the Lincoln marathon.

 According to Sterns, the individual Soldiers and Airmen are extremely motivated to make the All Guard.

“For the runners, it’s very prestigious; they love the yellow jacket,” said Sterns, referring to the yellow windbreaker only members of the elite All Guard Marathon Team get to wear. “One guy is retired and wants to buy one of them, that’s how important it is to them to be on the All Guard team and to get that yellow jacket.”

The All Guard Marathon Team participates in races across the country, while also helping with National Guard recruitment and promoting physical fitness awareness.

“We go all over the United States,” Sterns said. “Last year we had 10 different races. We went to Hawaii, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Kansas, Missouri; we go all over the place. The way we pick our races is we take a snapshot in the middle of the year of how recruiting is nationwide and then we usually pick the bottom 10.”

At each race, the National Guard will have a recruiting booth set up allowing All Guard Marathon Team runners to talk to potential recruits about the National Guard Marathon Team and the National Guard in general.

“Our overall purpose is recruiting and retention,” Sterns said. “The other thing that we do is health and fitness welfare. So, one of the things we require if you’re on the team is in your local state, you go to colleges and high schools and you talk about the health and fitness of the Guard and why they run, while they recruit.”

Nebraska-Team-takes-on-40th-Annual-Lincoln-National-Guard-Marathon.aspx5/10/2017Nebraska Team takes on 40th Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon
JointTech. Sgt. Drew Nystrom

Approximately fourteen thousand people of all ages and walks-of-life took to the streets, trails, parks and, eventually, Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska on Sunday, May 7, to compete in the 40th Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon.

Among the runners, who faced warm temperatures and strong breezes along the 26.2 mile course, were 150 members of the Air and Army National Guard, representing 39 states and two territories, including three members of the Nebraska National Guard marathon team.

Capt. Amanda Homes of Gretna, 1st Lt. Travis Kirchner of Omaha, and 1st Lt. Joe Kumor of Bellevue made up the Nebraska National Guard marathon team and took ninth place out of the participating Guard teams, with an average time of three hours 28 minutes and 40 seconds.

For Homes, originally a Lincoln-native and currently a survey team leader with the 72nd Civil Support Team, participation in this event holds a special place in her heart.

“This is a very special race for me,” Homes said. “It was my first half-marathon; first full marathon; and first Boston Marathon qualifying race. To come back every year and run with fellow Guard members makes it so meaningful for me. The spirit and comradery among the team members on the course, particularly the second half, provides so much motivation when you need it the most.”

Kirchner, who is originally from Ogallala, Nebraska and is assigned to the 110th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, is a former University of Nebraska-Kearney cross country team. For him, running is more than just a hobby as evidenced by this event marking his ninth marathon completion.

“I enjoy running because I can control every aspect,” Kirchner said. “I can control the pace, the distance and it is a way to free my mind.”

While the first two runners relatively experienced, the final member of the 2017 Nebraska team was held by Kumor, who was competing in his first-ever full-marathon.

“I ran because I wanted to see if I could do it,” said Kumor, a chaplain assigned to the 126th Chemical Battalion. “Kirchner talked me into it and I think others should try it because it is great physical and mental training in discipline and perseverance.”

The Nebraska National Guard Marathon team, as the host state, is looking to recruit more runners to build upon their team and, according to Homes, it is a worthwhile endeavor to try.

“This race is such a unique opportunity for members of the Nebraska National Guard Team,” Homes said. “We get to show our fellow Guard members who come to race how awesome our community is and how much they support us. At the same time, we get to show off some of the many talented Guard members we have serving throughout the country in diverse roles in both their military and civilian capacities.”

Homes finished as the third place female for her age group. Homes and Kirchner’s times in the Lincoln National Guard Marathon earned them a spot on the All Guard Marathon Team for 2017.

If interested in running for the Nebraska National Guard marathon team, contact Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Sterns, National Guard Marathon coordinator, at 402-309-8313.

National-Guard-Marathon-2017.aspx5/8/2017Pennsylvania, District of Columbia National Guard runners dominate Lincoln National Guard Marathon
National Guard Marathon 2017
JointTech. Sgt. Jason Melton

The Pennsylvania National Guard Marathon Team successfully defended its national title – its third title in four years – while National Guard runners from the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania cruised to individual victories during yesterday’s at the 40th Annual Lincoln National Guard Marathon.

The Pennsylvania National Guard Marathon Team – including qualifying runners Troy Harrison, Matthew Stern and Emily Shertzer – won its second consecutive team crown with a combined average time of two hours, 54.01 seconds, barely defeating National Guard runners from Puerto Rico, which registered a combined average time of 2:45:50 over the 26.2-mile Lincoln, Nebraska, course. The Indiana National Guard Marathon Team finished third with a combined average time of 2:57:17.

Finishing first in the National Guard men’s division and eighth overall with a time of 2 hours, 42 minutes, 47 seconds was 1st Lt. Kenneth Rayner, commander of the District of Columbia’s Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 74th Troop Command.

I am really excited about running on the All Guard Team again this year,” said Rayner who secured a position on the team for the fourth time. “I was hoping for cooler temps, but I’m used to this weather,” he said citing similar weather at the Boston Marathon he competed in three weeks prior.

Staff Sgt. Javier Torres Rolon from the Puerto Rico Army National Guard finished second in the National Guard men’s division and 12th overall in 2:47:23.

Winning the individual Guard women’s title and finishing third in the Lincoln Marathon’s overall women’s division was Staff Sgt. Emily Shertzer, an instrumentalist with the Air National Guard Band of the Northeast, with a time of 2:55:24 putting her well ahead of the second place finisher, 1st Lt. Meg Landymore from the Maryland Army National Guard, who finished with a time of 3:11:28 and 10th overall in the women’s category.

“I did better than I thought,” said Shertzer, who made history in 2014 by becoming the first female Guard Member to win the overall women’s division. “I actually thought I was running the half [marathon] when I came out, but my team guilted me into running the full. I feel good now that I am done. Normally I don’t like running in the wind, but this year it actually helped.”

More than 13,500 marathoners registered for this year’s marathon making it the largest yet in its 40-year existence. Among those athletes, 150 marathoners from the Army and Air National Guard representing 40 states and two U.S. territories pounded pavement for 26.2 miles in 80-degree weather to compete for one of the 61 position on the All Guard Marathon Team.

The Lincoln National Guard Marathon has a long history of Guard and local community cooperation, said Maj. Gen. Daryl L. Bohac, the adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard.

“It’s a good opportunity for the Guard to interact with the community and get our brand out there,” Bohac said. “It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. It has grown from a handful of runners in 1978 to over 13,000 today. That’s an amazing journey to be on.”

Cyber-Shield-2017.aspx5/3/2017Nebraska National Guard participates in major cyber exercise
Cyber Shield 17
JointSpc. Lisa Crawford

Eighteen members of the Nebraska National Guard – including 14 Army and four Air Force – joined more than 800 other participants at Camp Williams, Utah, for Exercise Cyber Shield 17, the National Guard’s premier cyber defense training event, April 23 – May 5, 2017.

The exercise includes members of the National Guard from 44 states, the U.S. Army Reserve, state and federal government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private industry. It is designed to assess participants’ ability to respond to cyber incidents.

“This is a great opportunity for our teams,” said Maj. Alex Zeller, Nebraska National Guard Cyber Plans Officer. “Nebraska is currently setting up a Defense Cyberspace Operations – Element and a Cyber Protection Team, so this training provides a lot of insight for Guardsmen moving into those teams.”

By working closely with interagency partners and the private sector, the National Guard seeks to strengthen network cybersecurity and the capability to support local responses to cyber incidents. Cyber Shield 17 is part of the National Guard’s ongoing effort to improve Guard ability to respond to real-world cyber incidents. This is the sixth iteration of this training exercise.

Nebraska participants came from the state’s Joint Force Headquarters, the 234th Signal Company, 209th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) and the 155th Air Refueling Wing. The exercise is divided into two phases: the first week offers participants the opportunity to hone their skills through academic instruction covering everything from the legal aspects of cyber operations to the nature of cyber threats to hands-on technical training. Equally important, the Soldiers and Airmen are learning their roles as part of the larger cyberspace defense community.

Exercise participants emphasized that the threat cyber attacks pose makes this challenging training crucial.

“Cyber threats are real,” said Capt. Joshua Hull, Nebraska National Guard Joint Force Headquarters. “They are already all around us and they affect every aspect of our daily interactions.”

During the first phase of the exercise, participants belong to one of several cells. Red Cell members play the role of adversary hackers. Members of the Blue Cell, such as Hull, attempt to defend against the Red Cell’s attacks. Members of the Gold Cell support the Blue Cell with coaching and mentorship, while White Cell members evaluate the Blue Cell’s performance.

Hull said he is confident his team will be able to succeed in warding off the Red Cell attacks thanks to effective collaboration he has observed among his comrades.

“We have very good team cohesion,” Hull said. “We have a very good flow of information and we’ve pulled our best and brightest. They have a good understanding of how network operations work.”

During the second phase of Cyber Shield, exercise participants from cyber protection teams and face off against trained antagonists, who simulate online adversaries. The teams try to defend their networks and mitigate the effects of attacks in a free-wheeling clash of cyberspace acumen.

“The Soldiers and Airmen are working with tools, systems and networks they’ll be using in the future,” Zeller said. “This exercise prepares us for when we do partner with local civilian organizations in an event regarding an issue of cyber security. We’ll be able to provide them with better support and expertise in the field.”

The National Guard’s dual state-federal character makes it uniquely positioned to help civilian agencies and critical nongovernmental entities, such as public utilities, if an incident occurs. Because of their status as a state military force when not under federal mobilization orders, Guard units are available to respond to state-level emergencies at their governor’s discretion.

“As a governor would call up the National Guard…for a state disaster, such as a hurricane, it’s no different for a cyber event,” said Louisiana National Guard Lt. Col. Henry Capello, the exercise commander.

Moreover, the National Guard’s long-standing connections with state and local governments and private industry, combined with its familiarity with the cyberspace environment in which these organizations operate, make it an ideal partner.

“Being a Citizen-Soldier, and being able to work in the communities in which I live, is a little bit different. It means a lot more to me and I’m able to help them because I understand their problems better,” Capello said.

The Nebraska Army National Guard is currently seeking applications from highly qualified personnel interested in an opportunity to perform duties in traditional technology positions in the Defense Cyberspace Operations - Element and the Cyber Protection Team. All interested personnel need to apply for consideration no later than May 12 in order to fulfil unit manning and mission requirements. For questions regarding these positions, contact Zeller at 402-309-8348 or

(This article is a collaboration by Lt. Col. Wayde Minami of the Maryland Air National Guard, Sgt. Michael Giles of the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, and Spc. Lisa Crawford of the Nebraska National Guard.)

Airman-of-the-Year-Award.aspx4/18/2017Focused on the next step, Nebraska Guardsman's hard work pays off
Senior Airman Ryan Dalton Award
AirAirman 1st Class Jamie Titus

Senior Airman Ryan Dalton, a Waverly, Nebraska native who now serves as an aircrew flight equipment technician with the Nebraska Air National Guard’s 155th Operations Support Squadron, was recently named the United States Air Force Outstanding Aircrew Flight Equipment Award 2016 Air Reserve Component Airman of the Year at the 155th Air Refueling Wing in Lincoln.


This award adds to a growing list of accomplishments that includes receiving the Outstanding Airman of the Year for the 155th Operations Group, the 2016 Air National Guard Aircrew Flight Equipment Airman of the Year along with completing Airman Leadership School and graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation as a Cum Laude Honors Graduate recipient.


Dalton was also recognized for spearheading the project to install nuclear flash blindness goggles into helmets, making his shop one of the first to have their helmets nuclear ready.


Additionally, when an order came down to install a new piece of equipment into the 20-men life rafts on our jets, Dalton and his supervisor, Tech. Sgt. Michael Wellman, a noncommissioned officer in-charge of the 155th Aircrew Flight Equipment, decided to test it after installing the new equipment. The test showed flaws in the new equipment, which was then recognized at the national level.


“I don't want our aircrew members to ever have to use any of the life-saving equipment we maintain, that means something terrible has happened. But God forbid that situation takes place, the aircrew and passengers on board can trust that we have done our jobs to ensure that they return home safe,” Dalton said. “I take that responsibility very seriously and treat each piece of equipment as if it were my own, as if I might have to use it. I want that gear to be top of line, and function perfectly.”


Dalton’s hard work ethic and his attention to detail, show others around him what it means to go above and beyond the responsibilities of his job.


“You definitely have to be proactive in your own career, because it’s what you make of it,” Dalton said. “I make a list of tasks to do and keep myself focused on the next step, that’s how I stay motivated.”


This June will mark Dalton’s fourth year in the Nebraska Air National Guard.

Best-Ranger-2017.aspx4/11/2017Nebraska Guardsmen compete in U.S. Army’s grueling 2017 Best Ranger Competition
Finish Line
ArmySgt. Jason Drager

Imagine an extremely physical competition that lasts for over 60 continuous hours, requiring competitors to travel nearly 100 miles on foot – at times carrying up to 80 pounds of equipment – without any scheduled sleep and a limited food supply.


Sound brutal?


That is exactly what three Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers faced, recently, when they were selected to compete in the U.S. Army’s 34th Annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition, April 7 – 9, at Fort Benning, Ga. The grueling three-day event included 52 two-Soldier teams competing to be named Best Ranger. Out of the eight National Guard Soldiers selected to compete in the prestigious competition, three were from Nebraska.


“This is a world class competition,” said Lt. Col. Tom Golden, commander of 1-134th Cavalry, which sent the three Nebraska Soldiers to the competition. “The fact we sent three individuals says a lot about the caliber of Soldier in the Nebraska Army National Guard.”


This year actually marked the second time that the Nebraska National Guard has sent Soldiers to compete in the Best Ranger competition. In 2016, the Nebraska Army National Guard had two soldiers selected to compete in the event. Unfortunately, due to an injury, only Staff Sgt. Luke Katz, of the Mead Training Site-based Detachment 2, 165th Quartermaster Company was able to compete.


Katz, a native of Fairbury, Nebraska, ultimately finished in 17th place.


This year, Staff Sgt. Nathan Neuvirth, West Point, Nebraska; Staff Sgt. Jose Torres-Garcia of Lexington, Nebraska; and Katz, all with the Mead Training Site’s Company E (Long Range Surveillance), 1-134th Cavalry, set out to Fort Benning in hopes of being named Best Ranger.


In preparation for the Best Ranger Competition Neuvirth, Torres-Garcia and Katz spent three months at Fort Benning training with the other National Guard selectees. The three months of training gave the Soldiers the opportunity to hone their Ranger skills and abilities, and prepare them for the competition, which is designed to simulate battlefield conditions.


Prior to the competition, the National Guard representatives were broken down into four teams. The teams were designed so one Soldier would complement his teammate’s strengths and skillset. Coincidentally, Neuvirth and Torres-Garcia were teamed together while Katz was teamed with Sgt. 1st Class Troy Conrad of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.


The first day of competition began at 6:15 a.m. at the famed Camp Rogers, one of the main training sites for the Rangers. The day’s events included a swim across Victory Pond, a physically intense obstacle course, a body armor run, an urban assault course, and a “stress shoot” that was designed to test the Soldiers’ ability to engage targets with their weapons while under physical duress. To top it all off, the Soldiers then completed a nearly 20-mile foot march at the end of the day.


The only rest competitors might have received was in between events and that was only for the few lucky ones who finished an event quick enough before the next event started. Otherwise, there was no scheduled rest.


“It was a very humbling experience,” said Torres-Garcia, a 2002 graduate of Lexington High School who currently works as an intensive care unit nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney. “There were a lot of talented, tough guys out there.”


Unfortunately, Neuvirth and Torres-Garcia were medically dropped from the competition during the foot march event. At about Mile 10 of the march, Neuvirth said his hip locked up, which caused him to stop every 100 – 150 feet to stretch it out. In doing so, a lot of other teams started to pass them. Neuvirth said he knew he wouldn’t be able to make it the rest of the way.


“This is definitely one of the toughest things I’ve ever done,” said Neuvirth, a 2004 graduate of West Point Central Catholic who currently works in concrete construction and foundation repair. “It’s meant to determine who’s the best of the best.”


The foot march rolled right into the next day of competition. Once each team finished the march, they then started the “Night Stakes” events, which were essentially a series of tasks and skills the competitors were required to complete in the dark. The rest of the day was comprised of a “Spartan Race,” “Day Stakes” and night orienteering.


Again, the last event of the day continued into the next day of competition.


Once each team finished the night orienteering, competitors had to conquer the “Darby Queen” obstacle course. Once completed, the competitors then performed a helocast into Victory Pond that required the teams two swim to shore and then perform combat water survival assessments.


Finally, the last event of the competition was a buddy run to Camp Rogers, where friends and family cheering welcomed the competitors.


By the end of the three-day competition, Katz and his teammate, Conrad, made their way to a 10th place finish. Although the 10th place finish was not as high as Katz had hoped, it was a seven-place improvement over the previous year’s finish.


All three of Nebraska’s competitors stated they hope to return and compete again in 2018.


“I’m very proud of all three of them,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Marty Baker, Nebraska Army National Guard state command sergeant major. “It’s an honor to know them and the entire state is proud of them.”


“More importantly, the real winner of this competition is these three Soldiers’ unit,” Baker added. “They are going to take the skills that they learned at the Best Ranger competition and make their organization better.”

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