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Home : News
NEWS | Dec. 31, 2023

2023: the year in review

By Timothy Koster

From deployments to groundbreakings, 2023 was a busy year for the Connecticut National Guard. It would be impossible to list all the incredible achievements our Guardsmen have accomplished this year, but we’re going to do our best to break down some of the biggest events from the past year.

The Army and Air Guard, as well as the state militias, kicked off the new year hosting Gov. Ned Lamont’s second inauguration at the Governor William A. O’Neill Armory in Hartford. We also hosted the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame class of 2022 induction ceremony in Hartford. This group of veterans included former Connecticut Adjutant General Thaddeus Martin and recognized the service members for their sustained and significant contributions to the military and veteran communities.

The second month saw our first deployment of the year as C Co., 3-126 and C Co. 3-142 Aviation Regiments mobilized to deploy to the Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition’s military operation against ISIS. Two of our Soldiers, Capt. Scott Stone and Sgt. 1st Class Chris Vincent participated in the Edelweiss Raid mountain warfare race in Austria. We also started The Stand Guard Podcast, a show dedicated to discussing the incredible stories of our service members and our nation’s military history.

The 103rd Airlift Wing saw a change of leadership as Col. Stephen R. Gwinn relinquished command to Col. Neil R. Byrne III. We also had our first all-female color guard from the 1109th Theater Aviation Support Maintenance Group participate in the Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament and hosted a Women’s leadership panel with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. Our first partnership with the Special Olympics of the year saw us handing out medals at their event at Powder Ridge. And following his participation in the Edelweiss Raid, Sgt. 1st Class Vincent also served on the United States’ team for the Guerrier Nordique in Valcartier, Quebec.

April saw the start of the 103rd Airlift Wing’s centennial celebrations with a 5k road race at Bradley Air National Guard Base in East Granby. We also hosted a suicide prevention meeting with the American Legion’s National Commander to discuss how we can help lower veteran and service member suicide rates. And we hosted our first ever 92G cookoff challenge at Camp Nett, a friendly competition among all the Connecticut National Guard’s cook and culinary specialists.

This was a busy month for our veterans which started with Brig. Gen. (ret.) Ron Welch taking the helm of the state’s department of veteran’s affairs and then we helped send off a group of veterans to Washington D.C. as part of Honor Flight Connecticut. The Foot Guard participated in the annual Powder House Day in New Haven. We saw a change in state senior enlisted adviser as Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Sicard retired and was replaced by Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur Fredericks. Camp Nett hosted an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage event and Cyber Yankee, the only DoD cyber exercise that focuses on protecting critical infrastructure and key resources outside the DoD network. Staff Sgt. Conrad Sheldon won the regional Best Warrior competition in Maine. And the 246th and 256th Engineer Detachments responded to real-world fires at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

In June we welcomed President Joe Biden to Connecticut as Air Force One landed at Bradley Air National Guard Base at Bradley Airport. We hosted a 2.5 mile Color Fun Run at Camp Nett to celebrate pride month. And Staff Sgt. John Coggshall broke the 600-yard record at the 62nd Annual Inter-Service Rifle Championship.

2023 was a difficult year for recruiting across the Department of Defense. In response, the state of Connecticut launched the CT JEEP program which offers a $500 recruiting bonus to any service member who refers a friend and they enlist in the Connecticut Army or Air National guard. Staff Sgt. Conrad Sheldon competed in the National Best Warrior Competition in Alaska. The 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron helped build houses for disabled Cherokee veterans in Oklahoma. The National Guard celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the State Partnership Program. And we provided a color guard and honors for former Gov. Lowell Weicker’s funeral, he passed away on June 28th and was buried at State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown.

Bravo Company, 2-104th Aviation Regiment kicked off August by participating in Rhode Island’s Leap Fest, and annual exercise which develops the command and control of Army Aviation and Airborne qualified personnel to deliver a maneuver force on the tactical objective with precision and in a timely manner to conduct combat operations. The 250th Engineer Company bridged the Black River at Fort Drum and D Co., 1-102nd Infantry Regiment crossed the bridge as part of the Connecticut National Guard’s “super AT”. We hosted the Tactical Rescue Challenge, a medical challenge for military, police, and rescue forces from around the country, at Camp Hartell. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Emily Frost earned the Rising Eagle Award, an annual recognition for the achievements and dedicated service of Army National Guard Warrant Officers who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, technical skills, and professionalism in their services to country and community. And we helped celebrate our SPP partner Uruguay’s Independence Day in Washington D.C.

We presented the first-ever Military Funeral Honors ribbons to our Army and Air Force Funeral Honors Teams. Our continued support of the Special Olympics saw us helping participants rappel off Mohegan Sun tower as part of the Over the Top program. We hosted suicide prevention awareness 5K runs at Bradley Air National Guard Base and Camp Nett. The 103rd Airlift Wing was selected for modernization to replace their C-130H with the C-130J aircraft. We hosted the Purple Resolve course, a resilience program specially tailored for the National Guard community, at our annual leadership symposium at Camp Nett. And Master Sgt. Jilian Leca became the first woman to complete the Connecticut State Police Motor School.
Bradley Air National Guard Base broke ground on its new Aerospace Support Equipment Vehicle Maintenance Composite Facility which will provide the space and equipment necessary for the Wing to provide exceptional air support to our state, nation, and the world. We helped the state police collect and destroy more than 9,000 pounds of drugs on their DEA Drug Take Back Day. And we built and delivered a Sgt. Stubby display for the National Guard Bureau’s new heritage room at Fort Myer.

Our funeral honors team helped the Department of Veterans Affairs inter the unclaimed cremains of six Connecticut veterans at the state veterans cemetery in Middletown. The Connecticut National Guard Service Member and Support Center hosted an Operation Homefront holiday meal distribution event to give away food for Thanksgiving to those in need. Captain Robin Felder received the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award for her efforts in recruiting. Medics from the 142nd Medical Company completed medical skills training at Hartford Hospital’s Center for Education, Simulation, and Innovation (CESI). And the 103rd Air Control Squadron became the first Air National Guard unit to complete Mission Systems Operator (SMO) conversion training.

Brigadier Gen. Karen Berry, the Connecticut National Guard’s former assistant adjutant general and director of staff, retired after more than 36 years of service. Camp Nett opened a 24-hour Grab and Go mart. We celebrated the National Guard’s 387th birthday at the state capitol. And we hosted the 22nd annual Operation E.L.F. (Embracing Lonely Families) for deployed service members and their families with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.
With 2023 in the books, we’re incredibly proud and humble of everything our Soldiers, Airmen, and civilian employees have done over the past year. We don’t know what the future has in store, but we can rest assured the Connecticut National Guard will be always ready, always there to tackle every challenge and continue to shine as members of our community.