Strengthening Bonds and Enhancing Readiness for the Utah Air and Army National Guard

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Perez
  • 151st Air Refueling Wing

The Utah Air and Army National Guard embarked on a five-day joint training trip to Alaska in a remarkable display of collaboration and camaraderie. This expedition not only aimed to foster ties with the Alaskan Air National Guard but also celebrated the Air National Guard winners of Brig. Gen. Daniel Boyack, commander Utah Air National Guard, Shark Tank recruiting initiative along with the top performers from the Utah Army National Guard recruiting as a part of the “Gold Rush” incentive.

The primary objective of the training trip was twofold. Firstly, the Utah National Guard gained valuable knowledge about the Alaskan Air National Guard's operations, tactics, and techniques. Secondly, the trip became a platform to recognize the winners of Brig. Gen. Boyack's Shark Tank recruiting initiative—an initiative that showcased the innovative efforts of the National Guard's recruitment process and the top performing recruiters from the Utah Army National Guard.
The Shark Tank recruiting initiative consisted of each section within the Utah Air National Guard coming up with out-of-the-box ideas to assist with recruiting efforts. Each group presented their ideas to the Utah Air National Guard top leadership for deliberation and, if approved, implementation. The winning members then helped launch their ideas and received the chance to participate in the Alaska training/incentive trip.
Over the past 20 years the Utah Army National Guard holds their annual “Gold Rush” incentive. Recruiters are held to a high standard and to qualify for the incentive, recruiters must achieve 125% of their assigned annual mission quota, top performers can choose between Coronado or Alaska.
The five-day journey took the participants through a captivating itinerary covering Anchorage, Seward, Eagle River, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), and several surrounding areas. Each location presented unique learning opportunities, blending military training with exploring Alaska's breathtaking landscapes.
For several compelling reasons, Alaska was an ideal choice for this joint training venture. Utah and Alaska National Guards share a common refueling mission, making this joint exercise a natural extension of their ongoing partnership. The close ties and collaboration between the two states enabled seamless coordination and fostered a sense of unity and shared purpose during the trip.
The joint training trip brought together 22 personnel, 11 members from the Utah Air National Guard and 11 from the Utah Army National Guard. The diverse team showcased both units' combined strengths and capabilities, fostering an environment for valuable skill exchange and learning.
The participants embarked on a flight aboard the KC-135 to reach Alaska, a critical refueling aircraft often utilized by the Utah and Alaska Air National Guards. This flight was symbolic, underscoring the mission's importance and representing the joint efforts of the two units.
The training exercises predominantly revolved around recruiting strategies and provided a comprehensive mission brief about the Alaskan Air National Guard. The experience allowed the Utah National Guard members to expand their vision, understand broader perspectives, and adapt best practices from the Alaskan Air National Guard.
Brig. Gen. Tony Stratton, commander 176th Wing, provided the mission brief, offered invaluable guidance, and shared his expertise. His leadership inspired participants and demonstrated the commitment of higher-ranking officials to the success of this joint training venture, undoubtedly bolstering the readiness of the Utah Air and Army National Guard. It served as a morale booster and reinforced the importance of inter-state partnerships within the National Guard. 
The joint training trip undertaken by the Utah Air and Army National Guard to Alaska was a resounding success, achieving its objectives of learning from the Alaskan Air National Guard and recognizing outstanding recruitment efforts. Amidst awe-inspiring landscapes, the participants forged stronger bonds, serving as a solid foundation for future training programs, helping the Utah National Guard units to refine their strategies and improve their capabilities. This endeavor further solidified the spirit of unity and collaboration at the core of the National Guard's mission—defending the nation and supporting local communities in times of need.