At its first ever open house, the Army National Guard units based at the Great Bend Expo Complex showed military equipment, building facilities and held some fun activities for children. The facility in Great Bend shares two units, an artillery-radar unit, and a transportation unit for large trucks.
A Black Hawk helicopter, which can transport 10-11 troops or six litters of injured soldiers, and its flight crew were on hand on a cool, windy day, giving civilians a close-up view of the interior.
The Guardsmen who are assigned to the copter were unanimous about one thing- they love their jobs. While they have been deployed to such countries as Iraq, Kuwait, Kosovo and Afghanistan, the knowledge, the skills gained, and the camaraderie of close friend, keeps them in the Guard.
“I love being in the military,” said Lt. Col. Martin Fries, battalion commander of the 1st Battalion 161st Field Artillery Battalion Kansas Army National Guard. He used to be a banker and originally started out as an enlisted soldier.
Now, he works part-time for the Army National Guard and full time as a civilian for Army Operational Knowledge Management Proponent Office, which managers how to share knowledge among the forces.
“I have more friends wearing this uniform than I don’t,” said Lt. Col. Fries. But, “not everybody wants to do it.
“Some soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
Lt. Col. Fries explained that the National Guard has a long military history, having been around since 376 years. It started out as the militia in 1636.
While the Guard does employs some full-time employees, many of the soldiers have other full-time jobs.
Staff Sergeant Frank Zamarripa works full-time for a company in Great Bend. However, he values his Guard experience. “It’s always exciting. I learn a lot by being this unit,” he said.
He has done jobs ranging from generator mechanic to radar operator. However, there has been some adjustments for his family.
“There are just some things I can’t talk about,” Sgt. Zamarripa said. He also has had tours that took him from home.
The reason behind the open house is that the Guard wants to give back. “The unit in Great Bend is part of the community,” said Lt. Col Fries. They already participate in veteran’s parades, funerals and fairs.
The traveling vehicle for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs was also present. They have a counseling room where former military and families can meet with a psychologist to discuss military related issues. They travel to rural areas of the state. For more information, call 316-265-0889.
Sergeant First Class Kevin Hammeke is the recruiting officer for Great Bend. He can be reached by calling 620-792-2224 or cell620-202-0463. The office is located at 9751 B 29 Hwy, Great Bend.
The Soldiers Creed
I am an American Soldier.
I am a warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.