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Rockets and refuelers: NHESGR highlights NH National Guard missions

Army Spc. Caulin L. Gagne, a muliti-launch rocket system crewman assigned to the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, answers questions about a weapon system on Aug. 14, 2018 at a traiining site on Camp Grayling, Mich. Peter Dearness, the owner of New England Southern Railroad, visited the 197th FAB during their annual training as part of a tour with the N.H. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Army Spc. Caulin L. Gagne, a muliti-launch rocket system crewman assigned to the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, answers questions about a weapon system on Aug. 14, 2018 at a traiining site on Camp Grayling, Mich. Peter Dearness, the owner of New England Southern Railroad, visited the 197th FAB during their annual training as part of a tour with the N.H. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Bruce Davol, a teacher at Prospect Mountain High School in Alton, N.H., looks out the window of a KC-135 Stratotanker on Aug. 14, 2018. Davol and other local employers flew to Camp Grayling, Mich. to visit their employees who serve as N.H. Army National Guardsmen, who were conducting their annual training. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Bruce Davol, a teacher at Prospect Mountain High School in Alton, N.H., looks out the window of a KC-135 Stratotanker on Aug. 14, 2018. Davol and other local employers flew to Camp Grayling, Mich. to visit their employees who serve as N.H. Army National Guardsmen, who were conducting their annual training. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Sgt. Mackenzie C. Sickel, a HIMARS crew chief assigned to the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, N.H. Army National Guard, gives a tour of the weapon system to Jason J. LaVoie, the chief of the Hudson Police Department, on Aug. 14, 2018 at Camp Grayling, Mich. Lavoie visited as part of a N.H. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve tour during the 197th FAB annual training event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Sgt. Mackenzie C. Sickel, a HIMARS crew chief assigned to the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, N.H. Army National Guard, gives a tour of the weapon system to Jason J. LaVoie, the chief of the Hudson Police Department, on Aug. 14, 2018 at Camp Grayling, Mich. Lavoie visited as part of a N.H. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve tour during the 197th FAB annual training event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Spc. Heather M. Cote, a supply specialist assigned to the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, N.H. Army National Guard, smiles as her civilian employer, John Mercier records a HIMARS rocket launch demonstration on Aug. 14, 2018 at Camp Grayling, Mich. Mercier, and othe employers, visited their citizen-soldier employees during their annual training event as part of a tour with the N.H. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Spc. Heather M. Cote, a supply specialist assigned to the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, N.H. Army National Guard, smiles as her civilian employer, John Mercier records a HIMARS rocket launch demonstration on Aug. 14, 2018 at Camp Grayling, Mich. Mercier, and othe employers, visited their citizen-soldier employees during their annual training event as part of a tour with the N.H. Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Kate Sharpe, an manager at Concord Hospital, asks questions about the KC-135 Stratotanker to Staff Sgt. Hector M. Acevedo II, a 64th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, on Aug. 14, 2018. Sharpe traveled to Michigan as part of an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve tour to Camp Grayling to visit her employee, Maj. Richaqrd LaFlame, a physician's assistant, who also serves as the 197th Field Artillery Brigade surgeon, while he particpated in his unit's annual training event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Kate Sharpe, a manager at Concord Hospital, asks questions about the KC-135 Stratotanker to Staff Sgt. Hector M. Acevedo II, a 64th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, on Aug. 14, 2018. Sharpe traveled to Michigan as part of an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve tour to Camp Grayling to visit her employee, Maj. Richaqrd LaFlame, a physician's assistant, who also serves as the 197th Field Artillery Brigade surgeon, while he particpated in his unit's annual training event. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

A pilot prepares to land a KC-135 Stratotanker on August 14, 2018 at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Mich.(Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

A pilot prepares to land a KC-135 Stratotanker on August 14, 2018 at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Mich.(Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Staff Sgt. Hector M. Acevedo II, a 64th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, gives local employers a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker on Aug. 14, 2018 at Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H. The tour preceded a trip to Camp Grayling, Michigan where their employees, soldiers assigned to the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, N.H. Army National Guard, conducted their annual training. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

Staff Sgt. Hector M. Acevedo II, a 64th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, gives local employers a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker on Aug. 14, 2018 at Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H. The tour preceded a trip to Camp Grayling, Michigan where their employees, soldiers assigned to the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, N.H. Army National Guard, conducted their annual training. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs)

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE,N.H. -- More than 30 local employers from New England traveled to visit the soldiers of the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, New Hampshire Army National Guard, at Camp Grayling, Michigan on August 14, 2018.

The New Hampshire committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve coordinated the visit to increase employer understanding of what their citizen-soldiers do when their military obligation takes them away.
 
The 197th FAB soldiers joined more than five thousand other participants from the Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, as well as coalition forces from the U.K and Latvia to participate in Operation Northern Strike. The joint-training exercise emphasized cooperation while providing a venue for participants to conduct mission command and fires synchronization drills with weapons such as cannons and rocket launchers.

“This is great for the soldiers and the employers,” said Bruce Thompson, the NHESGR state chair. “When we can get employers out to see the incredible things their employees do in service to their country, it makes a world of difference.”

Thompson, who served in the Navy for more than 25 years, recounted part of a speech from the former New Hampshire National Guard adjutant general, retired Maj. Gen. William N. Reddel III.

“He talked about how the key sources of support a soldier needs are like a three-legged stool,” said Thompson, skin weathered by time and experience, eyes bright with enthusiasm. “If they are struggling with their families, communities or civilian employers, it can seriously impact their ability and their desire to stay in the military.”

The day began early in the morning at Pease, where 157th Air Refueling Wing leadership gave an introductory briefing about the multi-faceted mission of the New Hampshire National Guard and thanked the employers for their continued support.

Then, employers toured a KC-135 Stratotanker before their flight to Michigan. They learned about in-flight refueling from 157th Air Refueling Wing and 64th Air Refueling Squadron boom operators.

Upon their arrival to the training site at Camp Grayling, soldiers greeted them.

Sgt. Mackenzie C. Sickel, a section chief assigned to the 197th FAB, led employers through static displays of the unit’s weapon system, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

“We are busy out here,” said Sickel, gripping her tactical vest with one hand and gesturing to the bustle of activity going on around her, skin tanned from the time out in the summer sun. “I’m glad we could take the time to do this with them though. Plus, it’s never a bad day to fire a rocket.”

Employers and guardsmen lined up along the firing range, cameras poised to capture the planned live-fire demonstration of the HIMARS, which was due to happen at any moment. Complete silence filled the air before four rockets launched into the sky, plumes of smoke billowing into the sky.

Maj. Richard LaFlame, the 197th FAB brigade surgeon, works at Concord Hospital as a physician’s assistant. He invited his manager, Kate Sharpe, to visit him.
Sharpe had talked to military members about their experiences before, but had never seen it for herself.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this trip,” said Sharpe. “It has given me a better perspective about what Richard does when he’s away. It’s really inspiring.” 
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