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At Fort Drum training in N.Y., these Granite Staters serve with pride


July 22. 2013 9:32PM
The 3rd Battalion of the 197th Fires Brigade takes part in an annual two-week training exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y., Monday. (JOE MCQUAID/New Hampshire Union Leader)

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Told that a missile in the New Hampshire National Guard arsenal could be launched from Fenway Park and hit Yankee Stadium, Gov. Maggie Hassan looked interested Monday, but demurred.

"The Red Sox took care of the Yankees last night," she quipped.

Gov. Hassan was here to show support for and learn more about the varied missions of the New Hampshire National Guard. As governor, she serves as commander-in-chief. Its 3rd Battalion of the 197th Fires Brigade is in the midst of an annual two-week training exercise at this venerable, and dusty, fort.

Fittingly, Hassan and a state contingent of business and media representatives flew here on two of the N.H. 157th Air Refueling Wing's KC-135 refueling tankers. Not quite as old as Fort Drum, perhaps, but the two were built in 1961 and 1962.

The tankers aren't scheduled to be replaced by a new model until 2018. Hence, Maj. Gen. William Reddel III's apology for the lack of air conditioning onboard.

"No problem," said state Sen. Sharon Carson of Londonderry. "We work at the State House."

State Sen. Nancy Stiles of Hampton nodded in concurrence.

Part of Maj. Gen. Reddel's mission as adjutant general of the New Hampshire National Guard is to stress how efficiently the Guard works with the regular military and with civilians. The visitors included the New Hampshire Employer Support for Guard and Reserve (ESGR). Those employers include the state of New Hampshire and many cities and towns.

For instance, a refueling mission on the return flight had Gov. Hassan "incredibly impressed" with the skills of tanker boom operator Sgt. Chris Storm. The governor should be impressed. Storm works for the state, too.

When he isn't refueling fighters at 22,000 feet and flying at 360 mph, Storm is a New Hampshire state trooper, patrolling the Spaulding Turnpike out of Troop A, Epping. He was on that job last weekend when he had to respond to the Rollinsford head-on fatal crash that took the life of a new bride on her honeymoon.

Working the Guard job, Storm said, helps take his mind off such things.

The tiny Town of Tamworth also has an employee on Guard duty. Fire Chief Rich Colcord, the only full-timer on the Tamworth squad, is a medic with the 3rd Battalion. He caught up on hometown news with fellow firefighter Jim Bowles, who came along with the Hassan group.

Gov. Hassan said a law passed several years ago provides preferential state hiring to military veterans. A further study committee was voted in the most recent legislative session; Hassan said she is all for looking at more such opportunities to hire veterans.

Monday, it was Gov. Hassan's turn at Guard duty. She gave the order engaging one of the 3rd Battalion's HIMARS (High Mobility Rocket System) batteries in a live-fire exercise.

Aides to the four-member congressional delegation also went on the trip, including Josh Denton, who is Rep. Carol Shea-Porter's veterans liaison. Denton knows something about the HIMARS. He is a U.S. Army veteran who once oversaw such a battery.

Maj. Gen. Reddel stressed to visitors the far-flung nature of the New Hampshire Guard's coverage. It provides refueling services from Guam in the Pacific to Qatar in the Gulf. One of its units just returned from a five-month humanitarian mission to El Salvador. And Reddel noted that it has also taken part in the cyber-ops challenges of the 21st century.

As if on cue, as Gov. Hassan's group landed at Fort Drum, a Predator drone from the New York National Guard came taxiing down the runway.

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