We met challenges, persevered through setbacks, surpassed expectations

What a year fiscal year 18 turned out to be. During the first 30 days, we were engaged in seven different state and national humanitarian missions, more than half in response to the devastating havoc wreaked by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. It was a demanding start to what has been another astonishing 12 months of training and achievement for the New Hampshire National Guard.

In my first year as your adjutant general, I witnessed professionalism and compassion at every level of command. We grieved the losses of five soldiers who were just beginning or well on their way to successful military careers — CPT Wesley Keniston, SGTs Christopher Mowen and John “Pat” Petrillo, PV2 Colin Bowden, and PVT Lexi Spartz.

The impact you’ve had on your communities and the state has been immeasurable. At home and overseas, we met challenges, persevered through setbacks, and surpassed expectations in nearly every facet of our Mission Triad: Fight and Win Our Nation’s Wars, Defend the Homeland, and Building Enduring Partnerships.

FIGHT AND WIN OUR NATION’S WARS:

Since summer, four NHARNG soldiers have been deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Last month, the 1986th Contingency Contracting Team deployed to Kuwait in support of Inherent Resolve and Enduring Freedom. The four-person team will be responsible for two large contracts: the first provides base life support to various Army Central Command locations and the second, long-haul trucking support throughout Central Command’s area of operations. This marks the first deployment for the 1986th since the unit was stood up in 2012. The 160th Engineer Detachment capped a busy annual training season that featured 1,100 NHARNG soldiers supporting missions in five states and three countries. The engineers completed two successful construction rotations at a Polish tank base as part of Operation Resolute Castle.

The 157th Air Refueling Wing set new records in FY18 for number of deployed airmen, 463, and total number of days deployed, 40,983. They supported six combatant commanders around the world. The Wing was equally as busy at home. Planners for the Northeast Tanker Task Force executed 90 fighter deployments, delivering 19.2 million pounds of fuel to 695 U.S. and Allied aircraft. The Wing’s alert detachment generated and flew 73 sorties, delivering 2.4 million pounds of fuel to 262 aircraft.

DEFEND THE

HOMELAND:

NHNG soldiers and airmen conducted more than 75 domestic operation missions in support of civil authorities in FY18, highlighted by three search and rescue missions, a fire suppression mission, and two CST responses to CBRNE-related emergencies. Analysts from our Counter Drug Task Force assisted state law enforcement agencies in the seizure of more than $8 million worth of illegal drugs.

Master Sgt. Maria Settle, an airman with the 260th Air Traffic Control Squadron, was a by-name request to augment the ANG Readiness Center’s Crisis Action Team. She played a key role coordinating assets in support of Hurricane Florence disaster relief efforts.

BUILD ENDURING PARTNERSHIPS:

Our military relationships with state partner El Salvador and Canada grew stronger. We conducted nine subject matter exchanges with El Salvador designed to improve interoperability, highlighted by swift water rescue training and a recent cyber security assessment. With our northern neighbors, we conducted seven small-team and company-level tactical training events.

In state, each time one of you volunteered to speak at a town ceremony or school assembly -whether it be for Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day or Patriot Day – you made a lasting impression on a veteran, teacher, or student.

We made great strides in realizing the governor’s vision of centralizing veteran services across the state under the Office of the Adjutant General. We received state fiscal approval to hire two additional veteran service officers – increasing the number of VSOs statewide from six to eight. We integrated the VSO’s with our family assistance coordinators (FAC’s) at five readiness center locations (Littleton, Portsmouth, Concord, Manchester and Nashua) to improve customer service to our veterans who comprise 12 percent of NH’s population.

Our state veterans cemetery in Boscawen continues to be a source of pride for the citizens of New Hampshire. This tradition of excellence is due in large part to director Mike Horne’s leadership for the last 10 years. His steady hand has set the conditions for continued success in the years to come. We wish Mike well in his retirement and welcome Shawn Buck as the new cemetery director.

THE WAY AHEAD:

More than $50 million of new construction is on schedule at Pease in preparation for the arrival of the KC-46A Pegasus sometime in late FY19; a $10 million state-of-the-art field maintenance facility in Hooksett has opened and will be in full swing by November. Around the same time, we’ll christen a $9 million field maintenance shop in Rochester. The Edward Cross Training Site in Pembroke is fast becoming a regional destination for military and law enforcement training.

The key to our long-term health as an organization is the recruiting, retention and growth of our formations. Both services finished the year strong. The NHARNG closed out the year with 1,580 soldiers assigned, which is 100.9 percent of the authorized force structure allowance. The NHANG recruiters finished at 104 percent end strength with 1,138 airmen assigned vs. 1,091 authorized. This was truly a remarkable accomplishment considering the Wing had already grown by 65 positions in FY18, a result of personnel conversions associated with the arrival of the new KC-46 aircraft.

In order to meet the increasing demands of our Mission Triad, we are actively pursuing new force structure for both services. In the NHARNG, we recently acquired a second public affairs detachment (eight personnel) and are about to gain a military police battalion headquarters (60 personnel). This represents almost a 5 percent increase in end strength for the NHARNG. The next NHARNG priorities include a Lakota detachment and engineer company. For the NHANG, we are actively pursuing an aero-medevac mission as well as posturing ourselves for a future space mission.

In FY19, expect the pace to increase. We are an organization that needs to grow to remain relevant and ready. In closing, I want to personally thank you and your families for your dedication and devotion to our communities, state and nation. Life is about choices and your choice to defend this great nation is a testament to your character and values. I look forward to the year ahead, confident that we will build on our past and current successes.

Brig. Gen. David J. Mikolaities is the Adjutant General for New Hampshire.