By Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner
The year 2012 will forever be remembered in the Missouri National Guard as a year where we made great strides both as Soldiers and Airmen serving around the world, and as leaders at home and abroad.
This year, our Guardsmen deployed around the world including Afghanistan, Qatar and the Sinai Peninsula. I would especially like to single out the Soldiers of the 548th and 1138th Transportation Companies who braved the world’s most dangerous roads to deliver supplies to our troops in the field. Their bravery and sacrifice has ensured that as we prepare to finish combat operations in Afghanistan, that nation is prepared for its future.
In 2012, Missouri’s Agribusiness Development Team concluded its mission. Since 2007, joint Army and Air National Guard teams have been helping Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province rebuild its agribusiness infrastructure. What began as an effort to show our allies a better way forward concluded with our allies showing us that they are ready to control their own destiny.
Our commander-in-chief, Gov. Jay Nixon, recently had the honor of visiting our deployed Citizen-Soldiers in Afghanistan and Kuwait. This was Gov. Nixon’s third visit to Afghanistan. As a key member of the president’s Council of Governors, he said these trips are indispensible to making sure he and his peers are supporting our Guardsmen, their mission, and their Families.
But Afghanistan wasn’t the only place your Missouri Guardsmen helped our friends. Missouri played a lead role in U.S. Army South’s Beyond the Horizon missions in Honduras and Guatemala. There, our Soldiers built schools and clinics, provided medical and dental care to local people and went above and beyond to take on any job that could help the residents of those nations.
We also sent a team to Tanzania to meet with representatives of 10 African countries during Operation Eastern Accord. The purpose of the conference was to improve our understanding of extremist threats in the area, and build partnerships with friendly nations in the region. By sowing the seeds of peace today, we hope to ensure our children do not have to endure the challenges our generation has.
Even as our Soldiers and Airmen showed what motivated Missourians can do abroad, we took on greater leadership roles at home.
Gen. Frank Grass, a Missouri National Guardsman, pinned on his fourth star and took his place as director of the National Guard Bureau and a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His ascension reflects the skill and professionalism that the Missouri National Guard values in all of our Soldiers and Airmen.
In Missouri, we named our first full-time state command chief and a new state command chief warrant officer. It is worth noting that State Command Chief Laura Clark and State Command Chief Warrant Officer Michelle Struemph are the first women to fill those positions. They have already laid out their visions for their respective offices, and I look forward to them accomplishing those goals.
On a personal note, I was honored, this year, to be elected as chairman of the National Guard Association of the United States. I want to bring the resiliency programs that have been so successful in Missouri to a wider, national audience. Our Soldiers, Airmen and civilians who run our family and warrior support services are setting the standard for troop care and family support. As chairman, I want to make sure every Guardsman, regardless of the patch on their arm, has that same high level of support.
The holiday season is a good time to reflect on what is important to us. I speak for all of our Soldiers and Airmen when I say there is nothing more important than our families. Our spouses and significant others understand our service and selflessly sacrifice to ensure we can fulfill our military obligations. Our children remind us why we serve and what we fight for. On behalf of all of our Soldiers and Airmen, I would like to say ‘Thank you’ to all of our Families throughout the state.
As good as 2012 was, we know 2013 will be even better for the Missouri National Guard. We look forward to continuing to serve you and this great nation.