131st Transportation Company holds special ceremony
Barnes retires, Baker promoted
By Rebecca Zemencik, Managing Editor • firstname.lastname@example.org
ANNVILLE – Members of the 131st Transportation Company gathered at Fort Indiantown Gap for a special ceremony Sunday morning.
The company was awarded the meritorious unit command for its service in 2011 when it secured and distributed supplies on the battlefield. The unit gave selfless service and displayed courage.
The Company also witnessed the retirement of their First Sergeant Michael Barnes of Hegins and the promotion of Master Sergeant Glenn Baker, Tower City.
As family, friends and fellow soldiers watched, First Sergeant Barnes retired from his service.
First Sergeant Barnes began his
military career in June of 1974 by enlisting in the United States Air Force under the delayed entry program. He entered basic training in January 1975 at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. After six weeks of training he was transferred to Lowry Air Force base, Denver, Colorado, for specialty training as a weapons mechanic. Upon graduation in June he was reassigned to the 56th Special Operations Wing, Nakhon Phanom Thailand, then to the 432nd Munitions Maintenance Squadron in Udorn, Thailand. In December of that year, he was reassigned to the 18th Tactical Combat Fighter Wing, Kadena Air base, Okinawa, Japan. In June of 1976, he was reassigned to the 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force base, Glendale, Arizona. He remained there until his discharge in 1978.
In July, 1986 First Sergeant Barnes enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, 131st Transportation Company, Williamstown. He entered as a Specialist E4 for his prior service. He was promoted to Sgt. E5 in September 1989 and assigned as a Team Leader. In October of 1990, the unit was activated for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm/Desert Farewell. He served as a transport operator, logging over 14,000 miles in support of the campaigns. In May of 1991, the unit was released from active duty. In May 1992 he was promoted to Staff Sergeant and was assigned the duty position of Squad Leader in Second Platoon. For the next several years he continued to serve in his capacity as squad leader for several state emergencies.
In February 2003, the 131st Transportation Company was again called to active duty for “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” First Sergeant Barnes was put in the position of Platoon Sergeant.
In March 2004, he was promoted to Sergeant First Class. In 2006 First Sergeant Barnes attended the Total Army Instructor Course and was selected for an instructor for the 166th Regiment 88M10 MOS-T program. He served as an 88M instructor until August 2008. In August he was selected to be NCOIC of a Transportation Team, hauling for USPFO, Ft. Indiantown Gap. His team hauled over two billion dollars of equipment, supporting units throughout the state and in support of Pennsylvania Guard units mobilizing through Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
In January, 2010 First Sergeant Barnes was promoted to First Sergeant of the 131st Transportation Company. During that year, the unit was again mobilized in support of “Operation Enduring Freedom.” First Sergeant Barnes spent the remainder of the year aiding in the planning and readying of the 131st for its deployment to Afghanistan.
In November, 2010 First Sergeant Barnes led the ADVON team in to Afghanistan. As part of the Units’ Command Team, First Sergeant Barnes maintained order and discipline, ensuring soldiers of his unit maintained their physical fitness, situational awareness and professionalism throughout the deployment. After redeployment in November 2011, First Sergeant Barnes was selected to be a part of the Pennsylvania PTAE. (Premobilization Training Assistant Element.) In his role as a team leader, First Sergeant Barnes provided the mandatory training requirements for deploying soldiers, captured the results, and provided a spreadsheet report for their command. In April 2013 First Sergeant Barnes was again selected to be NCOIC of a Transportation Team supporting the RESET mission at Ft. Indiantown Gap, lasting until October 2014.
In November of 2015, First Sergeant Barnes was selected to be NCOIC of a Tactical Operation Center for an Overseas Deployment Training with HQ USAEUR in support of Trident Juncture 2015, a multinational Deployable Force exercise involving 36,000 personnel from more than 30 Allied and Partner nations.
“At this moment I’m filled with mixed emotions,” said First Sergeant Barnes, as he addressed his company, friends and family. “For the past 30 years, this company has been an integral part of our lives, 360 weekend drills, 27 annual trainings, three deployments, 11 Commanders, eight First Sergeants, and hundreds of soldiers coming and going. Many things have happened over my tenure with this unit, but the one thing that has never changed is the quality of this company and its’ Soldiers. Soldiers of the 131, you are the reason this unit excels. Each and every time this unit was tasked with a mission or called to duty, you performed magnificently. From the deserts of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan, to the highways of our United States, your professionalism, enthusiasm, and ethics to do a good job shined through. You took bad situations and found the positives, adversity and turned it into a learning tool, and sorrow and loss and used it to bond together and become stronger. As the First Sergeant for the past six and a half years, I could not be prouder. Because of your professionalism, enthusiasm and loyal support, I leave on a mountain of pride, respect and honor to have served you.”
During his speech, First Sergeant Barnes shared some funny stories and also spoke of the sadness and grief when the company lost three of their own, Sgt. Edward Koehler, 47, of Lebanon, Sgt. Brian Mowery, 49, of Halifax, and Staff Sgt. Kenneth VanGiesen, 30, of Kane, McKean County.
Mike expressed his gratitude and appreciation to his son Travis and his wife Kim and his grandchildren Gabrielle and Madison and his friends, Danny, Joe, Sheila and Sally, for being there for Claire during his deployment.
“I truly believe that a deployment is much harder on the one staying behind, left to manage everything,” said Barnes. “For you to take time from your own busy schedules to stop in to check on her and make sure everything was ok at the house, or take her for lunch or even just a phone call to see how she was doing, is a debt I can never repay. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support.”
Barnes also addressed Claire, “Claire you are everything to me,” said Barnes. “You supported my military career, often sacrificing your own needs for mine… I remember when I hit my 20 years you said, ‘Don’t you think now it’s time to get out?’ I remember saying not yet, I still enjoy it, I’ll know when that time comes. You never said another word about it and continued to support me for the next 14 years. Well, the time has come. Now it’s our time or should I say, your time. It’s time for me to make the sacrifices for you and place your needs above my own. Over the past 30 years, we’ve weathered more than most people ever will in a total lifetime; three deployments, the loss of two sons and bumps in the road of life. Somehow, through persistence and sheer will, we made it. I love you more than ever. Thank you for loving me.”
Barnes who is affectionately known as TOP to his fellow soldiers, said he is often asked what he is going to miss most.
“To be honest, it’s simple, I’m going to miss wearing the uniform,” said Barnes. “There is no other profession that garners the respect of the American people more than someone in a military uniform. With that respect, comes the heavy responsibility to the Soldiers that I leave behind. Do not forget the sacrifices of those that went before you, who died wearing the uniform you proudly wear today. Your nation is watching. It’s been an honor and privilege to serve my country and where better to serve than the 131st Transportation Company. Be true to yourself, live the Army Values, and remember our fallen, BLOOD, SWEAT, GEARS!! This is Roadrunner 7 signing off.”