SALT LAKE CITY --
A sea of military uniforms filled the University of Utah's football field September 13 as more than 6,000 Soldiers and Airmen marched into Rice-Eccles Stadium
for the 2008 Governor's Day parade. With helicopter and KC-135 flyovers, a booming marching band and cannon fire, the audience cheered as members of the Utah Army and Air National Guard paraded around the stadium for the annual event.
Since before World War II, the Utah NG has held Governor's Day to provide an annual forum for the state governor to fulfill his statutory requirement of reviewing his troops. Up until this year, the parade has been held at Camp Williams
, but due to road construction issues it was moved. Governor's Day was originally organized to kick off the Utah NG's summer camp training, but has evolved into a family event to recognize the dedication of Utah military members and their families.
Although Governor's Day focuses on the state governor, it's not the reason Utah Gov. Jon. M. Huntsman Jr. enjoys the event.
"I love Governor's Day, not because it's named for the governor...but because it is a day where we recognize all of our Soldiers and their families," said Governor Huntsman. "Life's greatest honor is to serve with the men and women in uniform."
During the governor's speech, he stated the Guard has achieved a lot of great milestones over the year, including 21 Bronze Stars, one Silver Star, 10 Purple Hearts, and currently has more than 600 members deployed around the world. Several service decorations were presented, as well as awards for the Utah Army and Air Guard annual winners. The list included:
- Noncommissioned Officer of the Year: Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Lauritzen, 169th Intelligence Squadron
- Senior NCO of the Year: Master Sgt. Regina Campbell, 151st Operations Group
- Airman of the Year: Senior Airman Michael Crosby, 169 IS
- First Sergeant of the Year: Senior Master Sgt. Steven Schiele, 151st Mission Support Group
- NCO of the Year: Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Butler, 640th Regiment Regional Training Institute
- Solider of the Year: Specialist Jeremy Whipple, 1/211th Aviation
- First Sgt of the Year: 1st Sgt. Eric Anderson; 141st Military Intelligence Battalion
Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Butler was selected for Utah NCO of the Year for the Utah NG and was very humbled by the selection.
"I've been in the Guard for 18 years...I love serving in the military and serving my country," she said. "Receiving this award is a humbling experience...I never expected it."
Senior Master Sgt. Steven Schiele, who has been in the military for almost 30 years and served as the 151st Mission Support Group's first sergeant, received the award for the Utah ANG's First Sergeant of the Year.
This award is really a combination of serving as a first sergeant, and being noted for taking care of people, he explained. The first sergeant's main purpose is taking care of the unit's enlisted people.
The event concluded with a special thanks from the state's commander-in-chief.
"I just want to thank our Guard for being among some of the very best units in the entire country," he said. "This is your day...and God bless the U.S., you and your families."