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    2022: A year of milestones and achievements for Pa. National Guard

    Pa. Guardsmen seek selection for Ranger and Sapper schools

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Shane Smith | Spc. Patrick Kusik, an indirect fire infantryman assigned to 1st Battalion, 111th...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. 1st Class Zane Craig 

    Joint Force Headquarters - Pennsylvania National Guard

    FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – It was another historic year for the Pennsylvania National Guard in 2022.

    Throughout the year, Soldiers and Airmen of the Pennsylvania National Guard deployed around the world, responded to numerous domestic missions – including COVID-19 support missions and extreme weather – and conducted their usual readiness training.

    “It was truly a historic year for the Pennsylvania National Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general. “We live here, train here and serve here, thanks to the unwavering support of the families and employers of our great service members.”

    In 2022, approximately 850 Pennsylvania National Guard members deployed in support of ongoing contingency and force protection operations in Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Romania, among other locations.

    The Pennsylvania National Guard also supported domestic operations, mobilizing approximately 150 personnel in Pennsylvania to assist local authorities with the COVID-19 pandemic response and extreme weather events.

    Fort Indiantown Gap continued to play a major role supporting National Guard activities as the Pennsylvania National Guard’s headquarters and primary training site. The installation hosted 129,885 personnel in fiscal year 2022 and was once again among the busiest National Guard training centers in the country.

    Domestic Operations

    The Pennsylvania National Guard faced comparatively few extreme weather events or civil disturbances in 2022, while more than two years of COVID-19 response missions came to an end. 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 continued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic into 2022. The year began with the appointment of Brig. Gen. James McCormack in Jan. as dual status commander to provide command and control of federal COVID-19 response teams, including an active-duty Air Force medical response team in York, Pa., and a medical assistance team in Scranton, Pa.

    While the Pa. Guard’s public vaccination mission ended in June 2021, Guardsmen continued to provide support to long-term care facilities throughout the commonwealth facing staff shortages, with approximately 180 on orders from early February until March 23.

    After two years and six days, the Pennsylvania National Guard’s COVID-19 response mission ended on March 23. In all, more than 1,400 Pennsylvania National Guard members supported COVID missions across the commonwealth. Some of them were on orders multiple times, and some were on orders for months at a time.

    Pennsylvania National Guard members provided: staffing support to 161 long-term care facilities totaling 16,683 shifts, over 7,566 hours of work during 106 days of voluntary COVID mapping support, training in personal protective equipment fitting and testing and advised on infection control practices to 3,760 long-term care facility personnel, Point Prevalence Testing for over 32,499 residents and staff of long-term care facilities, support to over 20 COVID-19 vaccination sites and personally administered about 82,400 vaccines, general staffing support to five Skilled Nursing Facility Regional Decompression Sites, totaling over 718 shifts, and more.

    “Over the past two years, Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have risen to the challenge and demonstrated unwavering dedication to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Pennsylvania Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler. “I am truly proud of their dedicated service and sacrifice during this unprecedented time.”

    In support of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania State Police, more than 100 service members with the Pennsylvania National Guard prepared for possible winter storm assistance missions at multiple locations around the commonwealth Jan. 16.

    A helicopter crew from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Site located a group of lost hikers on May 24. The incident occurred at about 9:30 p.m. after Muir Army Airfield’s operations tower was contacted by Dauphin County emergency dispatchers, who stated that three hikers were lost on the Rattling Run Trail in northern Dauphin County near Fort Indiantown Gap’s training area.

    Overseas missions

    In 2022, the Pennsylvania National Guard continued to play a key role in supporting the overall U.S. military mission overseas.

    More than 150 Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed in support of Multinational Force and Observers, an international peacekeeping organization that helps supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. They were split across several locations within MFO’s footprint, which is primarily in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The Soldiers departed Pennsylvania March 4 and returned Dec. 21, just in time for Christmas.

    Approximately 250 Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery Regiment, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade deployed to Lithuania in support of Defender Europe 22 and NATO exercise Flaming Thunder in May.

    Approximately 200 Soldiers with the 252nd Quartermaster Company, 728th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 213th Regional Support Group departed Pennsylvania June 5 to deploy to the Middle East. The 252nd Quartermaster Company’s mission includes providing both perishable and semi-perishable general supply, retrograde support, petroleum supply, water supply support and shower and laundry services to supported units.

    Seven Soldiers with the 192nd Firefighting Detachment, 337th Engineer Battalion, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade were honored during a ceremony at Fort Indiantown Gap June 28 before deploying to Europe.

    More than 500 soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 28th Infantry Division were honored during a deployment ceremony Oct. 9 at the Zembo Shrine Auditorium in Harrisburg, Pa, before leaving for a year-long deployment to the Middle East. They are serving in support of Operation Spartan Shield and U.S. Central Command’s mission of increasing regional security and stability in support of enduring U.S. interests.

    More than 250 Soldiers from the 1067th Composite Truck Co., 228th Transportation Battalion, 213th Regional Support Group returned from a deployment to the Middle East in October. The 272 Soldiers departed Pennsylvania on Nov. 30, 2021, to begin a month of pre-mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas, before deploying in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.

    Training for Excellence

    The Pennsylvania National Guard is constantly training to be always ready, always there in support of our warfight abroad, domestic operations at home and our partnerships with allies and government agencies at all levels.

    Combat medics with the Pennsylvania National Guard participated in the TC8-800 medic sustainment course Feb. 17 to March 3 at Fort Indiantown Gap. This course gave the 17 participants the opportunity to train together with other medics outside their home units without taking up time during drill weekends where most training is conducted.

    More than 20 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard joint staff along with partners from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency piloted a three-day staff-training course March 7 to 9 led by trainers from U.S. Northern Command. The trial course is part of the Joint Staff Training Course, which updates, trains and evaluates staff on emergency preparedness contingencies and crisis action planning through a series of notional scenarios using Joint Publication 5-0 as a framework.

    More than 45 Penn State University students competed in a Pennsylvania National Guard Wi-Fighter Cyber Challenge event March 16. The concept of the cyber challenges, which are conducted by the Pa. National Guard’s Defensive Cyber Operations Element Team, is to build the community’s understanding of ways to protect themselves and the agencies they work for. Soldiers from the DCOE built and developed the challenge to improve the skills and understanding of the individuals who participated in the challenge.

    The Pennsylvania National Guard became the first National Guard in the country to field the new Tactical Dismounted Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence system. Eight Pa. National Guard Soldiers trained at Fort Indiantown Gap March 13 to 17 on the TDEWS, which filled a major gap in the training of Soldiers in the intelligence Military Occupational Specialties.

    Thirty Soldiers and Airmen attended the Ranger and Sapper Assessment Program (RSAP) from April 21 to 24 at Fort Indiantown Gap. The purpose of RSAP is to assess service members who want to attend the Army’s Ranger or Sapper schools and prepare them for what they will face when they get there.

    On May 17 and 18, in what was believed to be the first airborne training conducted at Fort Indiantown Gap in about 10 years, tactical air control party specialists from the 148th Air Support Operations Squadron joined active-duty TACPs from the 14th ASOS from Pope Army Airfield, N.C., as they jumped out of CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade.

    Over 4,500 service members with the 56 Stryker Brigade Combat Team completed a month-long rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., June 16 to July 15.

    Pennsylvania National Guard members joined numerous military and civil agencies for a large-scale Dense Urban Terrain exercise in Philadelphia. The exercise, which ran from July 25 to 29, was conducted by Task Force 46, a 600-personnel chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) response element, comprised of National Guard units from states across the country. The exercise continued a series of planning and execution exercises designed to coordinate and rehearse emergency response actions in the event of a CBRN attack in a dense urban environment.

    Soldiers from the scout platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, conducted live-fire, air assault training at Fort Indiantown Gap on August 3. The Soldiers began with a four-mile ruck march uphill to start their mission.

    Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers received training Nov. 8 and 9 on a new robotic system that allows them to remotely investigate potential hazards. Four Soldiers each from the 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team and 876th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team received training on the newly fielded Common Robotic System - Individual, or CRS-I, a 32-pound, tracked robot with multiple cameras and an extendable arm that is “man-packable” and can fit into a medium ruck sack or an assault pack.

    Nearly 400 Pennsylvania National Guard members in the state’s Homeland Response Force conducted a collective training exercise Nov. 17 to 20 at Fort Indiantown Gap. Soldiers and Airmen from Army and Air National Guard units from across the state participated in the exercise, which included a mission command element and a field element at Fort Indiantown Gap’s “rock pile.” The scenario for the exercise was a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear, or CBRN, event in a large city.

    Strengthening Partnerships

    The Pennsylvania National Guard maintained its many partnerships in 2022, including the partnership with the nation of Lithuania through the National Guard’s State Partnership Program; numerous partnerships with local, state and federal agencies and other military components; and partnerships civil organizations.

    “It is remarkable to reflect on the incredible bond and friendship that has formed between the service members of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the Pennsylvania National Guard,” said Maj. Dustin Wolfgang, State Partnership Program Director. “As we approach the thirty-year milestone of mutual cooperation through the State Partnership Program, we can see examples of this same bond expanding beyond military-to-military cooperation and into civilian-to-civilian cooperation. The future looks bright for continued close cooperation between Pennsylvania and Lithuania and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

    The Pennsylvania National Guard and Lithuania have been partnered through the National Guard's State Partnership Program since 1993.

    Pennsylvania Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler and Senior Enlisted Leader Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Worley visited Lithuania to meet with Lithuanian military leaders and visit Pennsylvania National Guard members deployed there May 17 to 21.

    Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler met with President Gitanas Nauseda of Lithuania at the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry armory during Nauseda’s visit to Philadelphia July 2.

    The Lithuanian Armed Forces liaison officer to the Pennsylvania National Guard met with Pennsylvania Air National Guard engineers and senior leaders Aug. 24 at Fort Indiantown Gap. Maj. Mantas Kazakevičius, Lithuanian Land Forces Headquarters operations officer, met with 193rd Regional Support Group commander Col. Susan Garrett and the commanders and leadership of the 201st RED HORSE Squadron; the 201st RED HORSE, Detachment 1 (from the 111th Attack Wing); the 193rd Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron; 271st Combat Communication Squadron; and the 193rd Special Operations Wing chief of wing plans during an engineer capability exchange meeting.

    Brig. Gen. Arturas Radvilas, who assumed command of the Lithuanian Land Force in July, visited Fort Indiantown Gap and attended a 28th Infantry Division departure ceremony Oct. 9 in Harrisburg. Radvilas was joined by Brig. Gen. Modestas Petrauskas, Lithuanian defense attaché to the United States and Canada, and Command Sgt. Maj. Darius Masiulis, Lithuanian Land Force command sergeant major.

    Pennsylvania Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler visited Penn State’s Student Veteran Center on Sept. 16. The center, located in the university’s Ritenour Building, opened in November 2019. It includes a student veteran lounge, a student veteran study area, a conference room and multi-use rooms that provide space for student veteran organizations, support groups and programming.

    The Pennsylvania National Guard held its annual “Guard Day at the Capitol” Sept. 20 in Harrisburg, Pa. to showcase the mission and capabilities of the Pennsylvania National Guard to state legislators, staff and visitors through numerous displays. House and Senate resolutions proclaimed September 20, 2022, to be Pennsylvania National Guard and Veterans Day in Pennsylvania. This year’s theme is “Together We Serve,” highlighting the close cooperation among the Pa. Guard, the Pa. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and other state agencies.

    A group of elected officials from surrounding communities visited Fort Indiantown Gap on Oct. 18 to learn more about what goes on at the installation. The group included 12 officials from Dauphin, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties. After receiving briefings at the Community Club, they visited the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, where some of them had the opportunity try a helicopter simulator. The briefings covered numerous topics, including the installation’s facilities and capabilities, the different types of training conducted here, environmental stewardship and an update on the access-control point construction project.

    Leaders from the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense and Embassy of Lithuania met Pennsylvania National Guard leaders and cyber professionals Oct. 27 and 28 at Fort Indiantown Gap and at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania, to discuss strategic planning, cyber defense and areas of future cooperation. Lithuanian Vice Minister of Defense, Margiris Abukevičius, and his advisor, Tadas Sakunas, joined Monika Koroliovienė, Defense Counselor, Embassy of Lithuania, and Master Sgt. Valdas Kačerauskas, Deputy Defense Attaché, Embassy of Lithuania, during the visit to tour cyber defense facilities.

    About 20 foreign military officers, who serve as defense attaché for their respective countries, toured Fort Indiantown Gap facilities Nov. 16. The group received an overview of the Pennsylvania National Guard, with a special emphasis on its partnership with Lithuania as part of the State Partnership Program, as well as the unique roll the National Guard plays in serving the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation. The visit was part of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Fall 2022 Operations Orientation Program to highlight opportunities to foster partnerships and cooperation.

    The Prime Minister of Lithuania, Ingrida Šimonytė, called the partnership between the Pennsylvania National Guard and the Lithuanian Armed Forces a “true friendship” during a visit Dec. 5. Šimonytė, as well as Lithuanian officials including Audra Plepytė, the Lithuanian ambassador to the U.S., received a quick tour of Fort Indiantown Gap and a briefing on the capabilities of the Pennsylvania NG. Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, hosted the visit which included a flight in UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from soldiers with the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site.

    Achievements and Milestones

    Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and units earned recognition for their many successes and achievements in 2022.

    Just a few months after returning from a year-long deployment to the Middle East with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, Sgt. Dominic Caccese was named one of the best collegiate rugby players in the nation. Caccese was picked to be a captain of the rugby club at West Chester University at the end of his sophomore year. During his recent senior season, his team made it to the D1AA National Championship, he was selected to play for the Mid-Atlantic All-Star team and Goff Rugby Report listed him as one of the top men D1 players of the fall of 2021.

    Two Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers earned spots on the National Guard’s All Guard Endurance team. Lt. Col. Deborah Fisher of Joint Force Headquarters and Sgt. 1st Class Erich Friedlein of the 166th Regiment Regional Training Institute qualified for the team after a competition in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 15.

    Staff Sgt. Andrea Whelan, a Soldier with the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, was inducted into the Lebanon County Women’s Hall of Fame during a luncheon at the Fairland Church Fellowship Hall March 23. According to the Lebanon County Commission for Women, each year they recognize the voices, work and contributions of outstanding women in their community, often ones who are unsung heroes. Whelan was recognized for her military service and was the recipient of the Military Award.

    Sgt. 1st Class Amadou Traore of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion was named the Army National Guard Director’s Recruiting and Retention Noncommissioned Officer of the Year at the Director’s Strength Maintenance Awards Competition April 1 in St. Augustine, Florida. Traore, a native of the Republic of Mali in West Africa, barely spoke a word of English when he came to the U.S. in 2009.

    Lily Palfrey was recognized as one of the National Guard Bureau’s best volunteers of 2020 and was presented her award during a ceremony at the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade’s armory here, April 10. Lily is the daughter of 1st Sgt. Frank Palfrey, the senior enlisted leader of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 28th ECAB. She was named the winner of the 2020 National Guard Bureau Youth Volunteer Award while her father was in the middle of a year-long deployment to the Middle East.

    Fifteen Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers from around the state competed in the 2022 state Best Warrior Competition April 11-14 at Fort Indiantown Gap. Spc. Brandon Mitchell, with the 337th Engineer Battalion, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, won the best Soldier portion of the competition. Staff Sgt. Jesse Picklo, with the 1-109th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Combat Brigade, won the best noncommissioned officer portion of the competition. Sgt. 1st Class James Cummings, with the 166th Regiment Regional Training Institute, won the Command Sgt. Maj. Jay H. Fields NCO Leadership award.

    The Pennsylvania Air National Guard selected its annual Airmen of the Year for 2022: Airman of the Year Staff Sgt. Akini B. Cyrus, 111th Attack Wing, Horsham; Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Tech. Sgt. Mike Mullen, 111th Attack Wing, Horsham; First Sergeant of the Year Master Sgt. Katrina M. Wetzel, 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown; and Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Senior Master Sgt. Kristin J. Graby, 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown.

    More than 85 Soldiers and Airmen from the Pennsylvania National Guard took to the range on May 21 for the annual Governor’s Twenty marksmanship competition. The Governor’s Twenty is an event that challenges the accuracy of competitors with a series of M4 Carbine and M17/18 or M9 Pistol. The top 20 finishers earn the right to wear the coveted Governor's Twenty tab on their uniforms.

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf was joined by Pennsylvania Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler and Penn State University President Neeli Bendapudi to celebrate the success of the PA GI Bill during a ceremony July 26 at Penn State. Also known as the Military Family Education Program, the PA GI Bill allows Pennsylvania National Guard members to earn college benefits for their spouse and children. The PA GI Bill was the first program of its kind in the nation when Wolf signed it into law on July 1, 2019. Today, more than 3,300 dependents of Pennsylvania Army and Air Guard members are enrolled for the opportunity to receive free or low-cost higher education.

    Airmen from the 193rd Special Operations Wing transmitted their final broadcast from an EC-130J Commando Solo Sept. 17, bringing to close a 54-year chapter in unit history. The wing is transitioning from the EC-130J to the MC-130J Commando II, which flies clandestine, or low visibility, single or multiship, low-level infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces, by airdrop or airland and air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft, intruding politically sensitive or hostile territories.

    A new helicopter training landing pad at Muir Army Airfield was dedicated to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Ruffner and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jarett Yoder during a ceremony Sept. 17 at Fort Indiantown Gap. The two pilots were killed April 9, 2013, when the AH-64 Apache helicopter they were flying crashed during a flight mission in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. They were serving on a combat deployment with Bravo Company, 1-104th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade during Operation Enduring Freedom.

    Two Pennsylvania National Guard Airmen and a retired Airman received the prestigious Maj. Octavius V. Catto Medal during a ceremony Oct. 1 at the Union League of Philadelphia. This year’s recipients are 2nd Lt. Jaelin Smith of the 111th Attack Wing, Senior Master Sgt. Richard Fanning Jr. of the 193rd Special Operations Wing and Master Sgt. (Retired) Deborah Krall, formerly of the 171st Air Refueling Wing. The Catto Medal recognizes members of the Pennsylvania National Guard who distinguish themselves as leaders through community support and public service.

    The top four finishers of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s summer photo contest were honored during a ceremony at Edward Martin Hall Oct. 23 at Fort Indiantown Gap. Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, personally presented certificates of appreciation to the four soldiers and expressed his appreciation for their contributions in telling their units’ stories.

    Fort Indiantown Gap was once again among the busiest National Guard training centers in the country in fiscal year 2022. During the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, FTIG hosted 129,885 personnel for a total of 688,833 total man-days of training. Man-days are a computation of the number of personnel multiplied by the number of days they trained on post.

    Only Fort Pickett, Virginia, had more man-days, with 1,051,377. However, 638,721 of those days are classified as “Non-DOD/Non-Government” man-days due primarily to Fort Pickett’s mission of housing Afghan refugees. In terms of actual military training, FTIG led the way in FY22 with 655,336 man-days. FTIG was the busiest overall training center in 2015, 2016, 2018, 2020 and 2021 and has been in the top three every year since 2013.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please contact Wayne Hall (717) 861-6254, or e-mail



    Date Taken: 12.30.2022
    Date Posted: 12.30.2022 09:25
    Story ID: 436050

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