The Nebraska National Guard had earned several significant national awards in recent months and I would like to talk more about these awards as well as several other significant events involving the men and women of our Nebraska National Guard.
Members of the Nebraska National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters air staff learned they had been awarded their second-consecutive U.S. Air Force Organizational Excellence Award while the Nebraska Air National Guard’s 155th Air Refueling Wing had been awarded its 11th Outstanding Unit Award since its founding in 1948.
These are both very significant awards because they represent an acknowledgement by the U.S. Air Force of all that our Nebraska Airmen have accomplished in support of our nation’s overseas commitments as well as their work closer to home in support of homeland defense missions, community activities and during the historic flooding of 2011.
This is a significant accomplishment by both these Air National Guard units and the entire state should take enormous pride in them. Only a tiny fraction of U.S. Air Force units are selected to receive these national awards each year.
Along with these two unit awards, I also had the opportunity to recognize a number of Nebraska National Guard Soldiers and Airmen for earning national awards in their particular areas of expertise. Those honored include:
· The Nebraska National Guard’s Prairie Soldier newspaper was named the top tabloid-sized newspaper of the year in the entire Army National Guard for the fourth straight year. It then went on to earn its fifth U.S. Army tabloid-sized newspaper of the year award since 1995.
· Sgt. Heidi Krueger, Odell, of the Nebraska Army National Guard 111th Public Affairs Detachment was named the Print Journalist of the Year for the entire Army National Guard. Krueger won the Army National Guard’s Photojournalism Competition and then went on to earn a third place award in the U.S. Army’s Keith L. Ware Print Media Competition’s Photojournalism Category.
· Staff Sgt. Koan Nissen, Lincoln, of Joint Force Headquarters placed second in the Army National Guard Personality Feature Article Competition.
· Sgt. Jason Drager, Lincoln, of the 111th Public Affairs Detachment placed third in the entire Army National Guard in the News Article Competition.
· Senior Airman Mary Thach, Lincoln, of the Nebraska Air National Guard’s 155th Air Refueling Wing placed second in the Air National Guard Sports Article Competition and third in the News Article Competition.
· And Maj. Kevin Hynes, Murdock, Joint Force Headquarters, placed second in the Air National Guard Sports Photography Competition and third in the Feature Photography Competition.
· The Nebraska Air National Guard’s 155th Medical Group Dental Clinic was named the best in the entire Air National Guard. Members of the clinic staff are Lt. Col. Raymond Shaddy, Omaha, Lt. Col. Michael Burbach, Lincoln, Maj. Jennifer Hasslen, Omaha, Staff Sgt. Patrick Lillis, Bellevue, and Senior Airman Lori Watts, Doniphan.
· Tech. Sgt. Shaun Tebo, Bellevue, of the 155th Medical Group was named the Air National Guard Outstanding Base Bioenvironmental Engineer Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
Along with announcing these significant awards, I also had the opportunity to welcome home two Nebraska Army National Guard units from deployments to Afghanistan. Additionally, ten members of the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard begin their deployment that will ultimately take them to Afghanistan.
Those welcomed home include the members of the 43rd Operational Support Aviation Detachment, which spent the past nine months providing a variety of aviation-related support in Afghanistan, and the Nebraska National Guard’s Afghan Agribusiness Development Team No. 3, which spent a year helping Afghan agricultural officials and local farmers redevelop their agricultural capabilities.
Those departing for Afghanistan were members of the Guard’s Afghan Agribusiness Development Team No. 4, which will be performing a similar agricultural mission in Afghanistan.
These are all significant moments in the history of our Nebraska National Guard, which has been called upon to do much over the past decade, both overseas and here at home. These Soldiers and Airmen, most of whom are part-time Guardsmen with full-time jobs or educational pursuits, have done much to make each and every one of us proud. They are the very best that this state has to offer.
I join all Nebraskans in commending these dedicated individuals for a job well done.