Celebrating heritage in November

Kentucky National Guard Maj. Dayna Sanders (left) and National Guard Bureau Maj. Monica McGrath (right) receive their certification after completing the Phase 2 Cyber Operations Officer course (courtesy photo).

(Frankfort, KY) – She was raised in the Twin Cities (Saint Paul/Minneapolis, MN) and moved to Kentucky in 2012 after completing her second deployment. She started working full time with the Kentucky National Guard in 2013.  Maj. Dayna Sanders, a Native American and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in Belcourt, North Dakota, works in Frankfort in the Defensive Cyber Operations Element.

She joined the Guard in 2007 mainly because of her father.  Her father served in the Air Force as a photographer in Vietnam.  “Growing up he shared his experiences with me through his photography. I admired his loyalty to our country, and was determined to lead others based on his influence,” said Sanders.  “In fact, in high school I was voted most likely to join the military. My father passed away in 2003. After I graduated college in 2006, I decided to carry on his legacy, and enlisted.”

“Maj. Sanders is an exceptional officer and has made a tremendous impact within the G6 and the Guard as a whole. She has taken the lead on the transition process for cyber branch qualifications and is routinely engaged with the National Guard Bureau on cyber related events and solutions,” said Lt. Col John Blackburn, G6 chief information officer. “When she started with the G6 as the information assurance manager, she had to prepare for a Command Cyber Readiness Inspection within her first year.  Her ability to prioritize and manage complex projects not only led to a successful inspection, it also established a benchmark that has improved the overall security posture of the Guard network.”

Sanders says educating others about “American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month,” ensures that her tribe’s traditions are shared and passed to others. It promotes awareness and opportunities for education and sharing.

“My tribe has about 30,000 members. The reservation is located very close to the Canadian border and was originally known as Siipiising, which means creek that sings with life-giving water,” said Sanders.  “The name Belcourt originated from a French Canadian Catholic Priest who served as a missionary in the late 1800s.”

Sanders says she is most grateful that, despite having a college degree, she decided to enlist. Her first three and a half years in the military were spent as an 89B (ammunition specialist) and 92Y (supply specialist). She deployed in 2008. “The experiences I had there showed me what good and bad leadership looked like, and furthermore, it showed me what positive and negative effects leadership can have on the lives of Soldiers.”

The first American Indian Day was celebrated in May 1916 in New York.  In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.”  We now refer to this celebration as “American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.”

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