Kentucky Guardsmen assume military engagement role in Middle East

By Capt. Desiree Dillehay, 149th Military Engagement Team

Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Howell, command sergeant major of the 116th MET, Col. Todd Hubbard, commander of the 116th MET, Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general of operations for 3rd Army/U.S. Army Central, Lt. Col. Joseph Gardner, commander of the 149th MET, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Withers, command sergeant major of the 149th MET, take their place on stage as the official party during the Transfer of Authority Ceremony Jan. 9 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Desiree Dillehay)

Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Howell, command sergeant major of the 116th MET, Col. Todd Hubbard, commander of the 116th MET, Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general of operations for 3rd Army/U.S. Army Central, Lt. Col. Joseph Gardner, commander of the 149th MET, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Withers, command sergeant major of the 149th MET, take their place on stage as the official party during the Transfer of Authority Ceremony Jan. 9 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Desiree Dillehay)

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — The 116th Military Engagement Team transferred authority to the 149th Military Engagement Team during a Jan. 9 ceremony at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general – operations of U.S. Army Central, presided over the transfer of authority ceremony.

“I said this to the last MET and I’ll say it to this one too. The MET punches above its weight,” said Hickman. “I mean it really is a small group of leaders, but their impact is felt across the AOR (area of responsibility) on a weekly basis.”

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During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Joe Gardner, commander of the 149th MET, and Col. Todd Hubbard, commander of the Virginia National Guard’s 116th MET, changed the positions of the Kentucky and Virginia state flags to signify the transfer of authority from the 116th to the 149th. This act marked the 149th MET’s arrival and assumption of a leadership role in support of U.S. Army Central.

“This mission fits, not only the Kentucky National Guard, but Guard nation in general because we know that we are able to handpick every team member for this mission with a myriad of experiences, (occupational specialties, and) mobilizations,” said Gardner.

He added that the team was committed and looking forward to the next nine months.

The team spent the first two weeks in theater observing their 116th MET counterparts, asking questions, taking notes and learning new responsibilities. The 149th MET moved into the right seat after Jan. 1 and began running the mission with minimal support from the 116th.

Soldiers of the 149th MET also began building relationships with host nation partners and attended various meetings throughout the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

On Jan. 9, the Virginia flag was lowered, and the Kentucky flag was hoisted up the flagpole to fly over the MET building on Camp Arifjan.

“The 149th MET is strong, capable and a ready force prepared to further this MET brand,” Gardner said.

And the 149th has already started doing just that. Since their arrival in the Middle East in mid-December, members of the team have already developed missions and engaged with counterparts in partner nations.

In early December, two Soldiers traveled to Shaw Air Force Base to attend an initial planning conference for Steppe Eagle, an annual training exercise featuring units from the United States, the United Kingdom and Kazakhstan.

Another Soldier also departed mobilization station in Texas early to attend a sustainment seminar in Lebanon with Soldiers from the 116th MET.

In late December, prior to TOA, two Soldiers from the 149th MET attended an information exchange with the Kuwait Armed Forces to discuss roles and responsibilities within a combined operations/intelligence center, while two more attended a noncommissioned officer development engagement in Jordan.

The 149th is scheduled to operate in the region until Fall of 2017.

 

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