Skelton tours units, says Missouri National Guard ‘is truly phenomenal’
By: Michelle Pippin/Missouri National Guard Public Affairs
Congressman Ike Skelton
(Feb. 10, 2010) — In a whirlwind, 400-mile round-trip tour, Rep. Ike Skelton visited with soldiers at a half-dozen Missouri National Guard armories throughout the state at their February drill.
During his journey, the congressman had the chance to speak with a wide range of Missouri’s citizen-soldiers.
“The Missouri National Guard is truly phenomenal,” Skelton told soldiers with Company E of the 1/135th Aviation Battalion, in Clinton. “You don’t have to be here. You’re the best in the service, and I thank you for your service.”
Skelton presented each unit he visited with an American flag that had been flown in the Missouri Guard’s honor at the U.S. Capitol.
“It was an honor to receive it,” said 1st Sgt. Paul Durr, of Headquarters Company of the 3/135th Aviation Battalion, in Lebanon. “It means a lot — especially with someone like Ike Skelton coming out and seeing the troops and meeting and greeting with the junior enlisted.”
It was a sentiment shared by soldiers across the state, as Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, informally spoke with soldiers about a wide range of issues.
Skelton was particularly concerned about funding and equipment issues. At every stop, Skelton asked soldiers if their units had previously deployed to either of today’s war theaters, and asked if they took with them their own equipment, if they brought it back or left it behind for the military units replacing them, and if they were still today lacking any necessary equipment.
Capt. Kenneth Neubert, commander of Jefferson City’s 138th Forward Support Company of the 1/138th Infantry Battalion, discussed the process of standing up a new unit with the congressman. Neubert told Skelton that because his unit is so new, it is still in the process of procuring equipment like tactical vehicles.
“We’re acquiring equipment on a daily basis,” Neubert assured him.
Skelton told soldiers the acquisition of such equipment is made possible by an additional $900 million in federal funding that the Armed Services Committee procured for National Guard equipment across the country. Skelton said the U.S. military — and, in particular, the Missouri National Guard — is near and dear to his heart for their service and their many sacrifices.
“I don’t know of any unit in the Guard that has been deployed more than you,” Skelton told soldiers with the rear-detachment of the 1139th Military Police Company of Harrisonville. The unit is currently on its fourth deployment to Iraq.
Skelton has visited Missouri Guardsmen overseas more than a half-dozen times Iraq, Afghanistan and even Kosovo, where more than 1,000 Missouri Guardsmen deployed on a peacekeeping mission in 2008.
“I was in Iraq with the 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, of Kansas City, in 2006 when Congressman Skelton visited,” Staff Sgt. Erica Hoss of Joplin said. “As a soldier, it’s nice to be acknowledged, whether you’re stateside or deployed.”
Regarding the deployment, however, Hoss, of Company A of the 311th Aviation Support Battalion in Nevada, added how important it was that the country’s leaders recognize the citizen-soldier.
“Given the National Guard’s heavy involvement is such controversial wars, it’s good to know that we still have the support of our government and its officials,” she said.
Skelton’s concern and caring for the Missouri Guardsmen was not a sentiment lost on any of the Soldiers he visited with throughout the weekend. His conversational style and personable approach welcomed soldiers’ praise and criticism of the work he and his congressional colleagues are doing to meet the needs of Guard units and regular military units across the country.
“It is good to know that people in his position do care about the soldiers on the lower level,” Sgt. Joseph Costley of Lamar said.
“It shows that he cares about the Army, and he cares about what we do,” said Pvt. Cody Dexter, of Liberty.
Skelton said he couldn't think of a better way to spend a weekend then meeting Missouri’s finest donning the military’s uniform.
“I am very, very proud of the men and women in the Missouri National Guard,” Skelton said. “They do superb work that no one else can do. They bring something special to the military as citizen-soldiers, fulfilling a long, American tradition of service, and they should know that they are important, special people, and that they are appreciated.”