Kentucky Air National Guardsmen don combat patch
Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Ashlee Lolkus, Combined Joint Task Force
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Service members with the Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team III conducted their combat patch ceremony, a tradition held by the U.S. Army signifying the recognition of a soldier’s tour-of-duty in a combat zone, on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 14.
The patch ceremony was unique in that the U.S. Air Force airmen assigned to the ADT also donned the combat patch, even though it is an Army tradition. To maintain uniformity, airmen of the of ADT wear the Multicam-patterned Army combat uniform with all the same patches as the Army except on the left-side of their chest they wear “U.S. Air Force” instead.
Because Kentucky ADT III is a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, an Iowa National Guard unit, while in Afghanistan, they are authorized to wear the 34th Infantry Division’s “Red Bull” combat patch, which now is fixed to their right shoulder.
“It’s interesting to hear the lineage of the patch and the unit that it comes from,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Stanley, a Waddy, Ky., native, and Kentucky ADT III security forces noncommissioned officer. He said he was proud to be a part of the unit and its history.
Stanley is on his second deployment; his first was in 2002 to Turkey with the 20th Fighter Wing out of Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. This was his first combat patch ceremony and the first time he deployed with Army soldiers.
“It’s definitely different learning the Army way,” said Stanley. “The way that they do things is a little bit different, but our teams have come together. We’ve meshed well. We’re almost like brothers and sisters now, so it makes things a lot easier as far as learning new things.”
“Patching ceremonies are always a great experience,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Kathleen Gallagher, a medic from Lexington, Ky., with the ADT. “It’s especially wonderful to watch people experience it for the first time.”
Gallagher said this is her second deployment; her first was to Iraq in 2008-2009.
“I am very excited to be here in Afghanistan and expect good things from the year ahead,” she said.
Much of the unit seems to share the same expectations of the deployment. Gallagher said most of the service members volunteered for the mission so the enthusiasm is usually very high.
“There are 12 Airmen, seven females and the rest are [male] soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard all across the state from different units, different battalions, commands, brigades,” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gordon Blair the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Kentucky ADT III, from Redfox, Ky. “We have probably one of the finest organizations I have ever worked for in my 31 years.”
Blair, who joined the active duty Army in 1980, and has since transferred to the Kentucky National Guard works full time for the Guard as a shop supervisor at a field maintenance shop in Jackson, Ky. In Afghanistan he is the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the ADT and takes care of the soldiers and airmen while they conduct operations throughout Parwan, Panjshir and Kapisa provinces.
Their mission is to help facilitate the agricultural community in those provinces, Stanley explained. The ADT helps the Afghans by sharing information, providing resources and helping establish connections between the people and their government.
The unit prepared together, as a team, since August 2010 and completed their pre-mobilization in both Kentucky and Indiana, which Stanley said helped build the team.
“They’ve come together over the last 10 months,” said Blair. “As a team and a family, they are going to do great things.”
“It’s an honor just to be on this team and be the NCOIC of this operation,” he said. “It is a good moment for me to wear this patch and to do great things for the great people of Afghanistan. I just look forward to the next [few] months here and build on what ADT II did … and help these people out.”