WASHINGTON – Thirty-one company grade officers from the Massachusetts National Guard participated in a unique officer professional development opportunity in Washington, D.C. this past September made possible, in part, through sponsorship by the National Guard Association of Massachusetts.
An assortment of promising officers from both the Massachusetts Air National Guard and the Massachusetts Army National Guard were selected to travel to the nation’s capital to witness firsthand the hierarchy of institutions their missions support and interact with some of the military’s most senior leaders. The sites visited included headquarters establishments such as the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, the National Guard Bureau, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Guard Memorial Building, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the Army and Air National Guard Readiness Centers.
The event began with a business breakfast at the Grand Hyatt Hotel with opening remarks from Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard. “This is the first such event by the Massachusetts National Guard and gives you, as a future key leader, an overview and insight into the inner workings of the strategic levels of our nations’ defense infrastructure,” said Carter.
Gen. Craig McKinley, Chief of the National Guard Bureau next spoke to the young officers on the importance their role is in the National Guard. “I’d like to commend the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for bringing a wonderful young group of officers to learn about Washington D.C. and how it shapes and influences their lives as members of the Guard and commend Maj. Gen. Carter for being a great leader in helping me do the business of the National Guard and look forward to making this a yearly event,” said McKinley.
Speakers that followed during the breakfast included, Lt. Gen. Harry “Bud” Wyatt, Director of the Air National Guard, Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, Maj. Gen. Peter Aylward, (Massachusetts) Special Assistant to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and Brig. Gen. Dan Nelan, Operational Support Assistant to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
At the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters, briefed the Mass. Guard officers and gave them the opportunity to ask important questions about the military and the Guard.
“I've been in the military just under 15 years and this was one of the most rewarding events that I have [been involved with],” said 1st Lt. Jason Ruth, a company grade officer.
Some of the participants, such as Capt. Stephanie Francis, praised the mission’s broadening of her knowledge of the Guard’s decision-making process, while 1st Lt. Randy Mendoza appreciated the chance to learn about Air Guard operations.
“The professional development trip to DC was an amazing experience. I am especially grateful to have had the chance to see what we do in Massachusetts and how it fits into the "larger picture" of current issues, policies, and politics,” said Capt. Molly Alesch. “It was also gratifying to meet and spend time with my peers and future leaders of the Massachusetts National Guard, an opportunity not often presented due to the geographical nature of our currents jobs and missions,” said Alesch.
At the National Guard Memorial Building, National Guard Association of the United States key leadership, including Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett (Ret.), President of NGAUS, as well as senior leaders and members of Massachusetts’s Congressional and Senatorial delegation gave an in-depth legislative briefing to all participants present.
Capt. John Medeiros stated it was a great experience for company grade officers: “So often young officers see only what is at the company level. This mentorship trip introduced us to a larger world of possibilities within the Massachusetts National Guard,” said Medeiros.
“The most inspiring time I had there was at the NGAUS building. After seeing the history in there and walking through the exhibit, I met Maj. Jay Rose, whom I had not seen in 20 years, since before I joined the Army and we were both cadets in the Civil Air Patrol,” he said.
The company grade officers indicated the most thrilling aspects of the mission were the senior leader briefings. Col. Pete Green, Director of Staff, Massachusetts Air National Guard and a member of the National Guard Association of Massachusetts Executive Board, planned and supervised the execution of this event. Upon its completion Green declared the trip to be a great success and confirmed that Maj. Gen. Carter hoped to replicate the event in years to follow.
In addition to Green, another mentor-in-attendance for the tour was Maj. Nick Macsata, executive officer of the 126th Brigade Support Battalion and a member of National Guard Association of Massachusetts Executive Board.
“The National Guard Association of Massachusetts supports the officer development process, and is particularly vested in ensuring that, as members in the profession of arms, our upcoming leaders of promise understand the vital link that Washington D.C. plays in our Guard's readiness,” said Macsata.
In addition to providing the vision and leadership for the Company Grade Officer Professional Development Tour to Washington through Green and Macsata, the National Guard Association of Massachusetts donated $3,000 and a full complement of matching polo shirts to all participants that attended.
“The National Guard Association of Massachusetts funds . . . were instrumental,” said Green. “Without NGAMA, this event simply would not have gone off; it was very important,” said Green.
Green further elaborated on the event’s significance as a demonstration of cooperation between the officer corps of the Massachusetts National Guard and its primary professional organization – the National Guard Association of Massachusetts.
Leading and funding professional development opportunities for officers of the Massachusetts National Guard are only a few examples of the contributions the association makes to the improvement in capabilities and quality of life for soldiers and officers of the Massachusetts National Guard along with their families.
For more details on the National Guard Association of Massachusetts activities, benefits or membership, please visit www.ngma.org.