Arkansas Air National Guardsmen support presidential inauguration

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Roles
  • 189th Airlift Wing

     From Jan. 17 - 18, 2021, approximately 500 Soldiers from the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade out of Northwest Arkansas, were transported to Washington D.C. to provide support during the 59th Presidential Inauguration. Members of the 189th Operations Group, Logistic Readiness Squadron, Civil Engineer Squadron, Wing Staff Agencies, and Maintenance Group shared the responsibility of providing manpower and supplies for the historic event, once again epitomizing the importance of the National Guard and the role it plays throughout our Nation’s history.

     The 189th Logistics Readiness Squadron played a major role in the movement, ensuring an additional 29 pallets of cargo from the regiment were transported and 15 aerialport personnel were ready to process the passengers, build the pallets and load the aircraft. Inside the pallets, were carefully packed supplies for the soldiers being transported such as ammunition, weapons, body armor, riot gear, and enough MREs for each Soldier to be fed for a week. Working alongside the 188th LRS, the two squadrons managed to pull the resources required for the event within 35 hours.

     As aerialporters palletized cargo and prepped the aircraft for the troop movement, the 189th Maintenance Group turned their wrenches to produced nine mission-ready aircraft and ran 24-hour operations throughout the two-day timeframe.

     “The fact that we were able to get our resources together with less than a week’s notice shows the Air National Guard’s capability to drop what we’re doing and answer the call at a moment’s notice,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Watson, the 189th Airlift Wing installation deployment officer. “We are very capable of moving assets and personnel but it wouldn’t have been possible with this type of turnaround without the build-up and teamwork.”

     The wing also provided 11 flights for the troops sent to support the inauguration. For two days, the 189th OG provided 76 aircrew members to transport Soldiers. The mission was simply a testament to what the wing can do when Airmen are empowered by commanders to plan and execute a mission of this scale within a small window. The wing’s maintainers prepped the aircraft for each flight, readying them for the cargo and personnel deliveries in Washington D.C.

     “Only aircrew technical traveled to D.C. to offload troops and cargo,” said Maj. Seth Connell, a 189th Operations Group pilot. “The real work to make this mission happen came from Lt. Watson’s aerialporters who spent days in Ft. Smith organizing and palletizing the loads as well as our chaplain team and Mobile Emergency Operations Center team who provided immense support.”

     Master Sgt. Shawn Engelstad, a 154th Training Squadron loadmaster reflected on the capabilities of the Air National Guard before and during the event and was impressed how well the Army and Air components within the state of Arkansas came together to accomplish the National Guard’s mission.

     “The event and the call for support rule show the capabilities of the Army and Air National Guard,” he said. “Our wing met with the Arkansas Army Guard leadership to develop the airlift plan and we were easily able to provide support. We are much more than a ‘one weekend a month, two weeks a year’ force. There are so many highly capable Airmen able to step up at a moment’s notice when the Nation is in need.”

     Col. Dean Martin, the 189th Airlift Wing commander, mentioned how well National Guardsmen as a whole stand time and again to support the Nation as militia and modern-day Guardsmen.

     "Arkansans have relied on the Arkansas National Guard to provide security and stability since 1804," Martin said. "The framework developed by our founding fathers ensured that our military and militias were focused on the security of our nation and not with issues of the day. Our Airmen have sworn an oath to support and defend the constitution and remain resilient and ready to respond at a moment's notice. We were honored to once again serve along-side the soldiers of the Arkansas National Guard by providing support to all Americans in our Nation's capitol."