Kentucky Guard plays part in Thunder success

Story by Spc. Brandy Mort, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

130420-Z-GN092-205

Soldiers of the 138th Fires Brigade fire the first of several volleys from their 105mm Howitzers from the Clark Memorial Bridge as part of Thunder Over Louisville, April 20, 2013. With an unique perspective on the event, 23 Soldiers from the unit participated in the cannon firing. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thrilling, exciting, and full of fun are a few of the words Kentucky Army National Guard Sgt. Gary Coffey with the 103rd Brigade Support Battalion used to describe the 23rd Annual Thunder Over Louisville.

Nearly 200 guardsmen worked alongside of more than 1000 Louisville Metro Police Officers for the event, April 20, 2013. An estimated 500 thousand spectators jammed the banks of the Ohio River for the beginning of the two-week long Kentucky Derby Festival.

Coffey had one of the best views in the house, as he worked with Soldiers of the 138th Fires Brigade on the Clark Memorial Bridge over the river. As annual participants, the artillery Soldiers fired their 105mm Howitzers as part of the day’s events and during the fireworks show.

For more photos from Thunder Over Louisville, click here.

20130420-Z-EJ272-002

Kentucky National Guard Military Police Officers work alongside members of the Louisville Metro Police Department April 20, 2013 during Thunder Over Louisville. More than 1000 Police Officers were augmented with nearly 200 Kentucky Guardsmen to ensure public safety. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Spc. Brandy Mort)

The Kentucky National Guard’s largest presence was seen on the streets of Louisville assisting local law enforcement with traffic and security. Soldiers of the 198th Military Police Battalion were charged with this task, watching over the people of the Commonwealth and building their own experiences in uniform.  The Soldiers said they heard spectators say on several occasions how protected they felt at the event.

“Missions like Thunder Over Louisville teach my fellow (Military Police) officers to be aware of our surroundings at all times,” said Pvt. Kayla Dixon with the 223rd Military Police Company. “I think working hand in hand with the LMPD made the public feel safer.”

Military Police Officers weren’t the only Guardsmen among the masses. Members of the Kentucky National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Command were also present at the event with an inflatable tent and vehicle display at Louisville’s Waterfront Park. Soldiers took turns grading and counting push-ups for a contest that was open to the public. The highest record stood at 112 push ups in one minute.

“Large events, such as the Thunder Over Louisville, gives the National Guard an opportunity to inform the public of what being a National Guardsman means while being able to have fun at the same time,” said Cpt. Travis Riley with 2nd Battalion, 75th Recruiting and Retention.

Due to military budget cuts, active military aircrafts were not flown this year as part of the air show. However, the show must go on and a variety of air performances dazzled the skies over the river. And even without the military in the air, the Kentucky Air Guard still had a role in assisting with the coordination of the event.

Kentucky Air National Guardsman Cpt. Josh Ketterer with the 165th Airlift Squadron, has been the director for the military portion of the air show for many years.

“Being able to coordinate the air show has given me the chance to meet plenty of diverse people,” said Ketterer, “Even though the United States military didn’t fly, our German and Canadian counterparts were able to.”

130420-Z-GN092-043

1st Lt. Paul Wilkerson oversees a dress rehearsal by Soldiers of the 138th Fires Brigade prior to firing their 105mm Howitzer cannons as part of Thunder Over Louisville, April 20, 2013. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

As the light started to disappear, the excitement was just beginning. The 23 Soldiers of the 138th took to their cannon as part of the light show over the river.  Many of them pulled this unique duty due in fact to the current deployment of the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery to the Horn of Africa. First timers like Pfcs. Jasmine Johnson and David Adams III enjoyed the opportunity and fell into a synchronized rhythm of loading and firing the cannon to the joys of the crowds below.

For more information on Task Force Longrifles in the Horn of Africa, click here.

While the day might have been fun for most of the Guardsman, the mission gave the Airmen and Soldiers the chance to use their knowledge in an real-world environment.

“The discipline that you learn from the military is a very valuable asset to take with you,” said Capt. Carla Getchell, Command and Control Officer in Charge of the 138th. ”Service members working this event will take what they learn today and use it for the rest of their military careers and lives.”

About kentuckyguard