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NEWS | Nov. 13, 2017

Kentucky Guardsmen complete pivotal overseas mission

By Capt. Desiree Dillehay The 149th Military Engagement Team

The 149th Military Engagement Team transferred authority to the Georgia National Guard’s 648th MET during a ceremony held, here, Sept. 6, 2017, signifying the successful completion of the Kentucky National Guard’s mission.

“As the command team of the 149th MET, Col. Joe Gardner and Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Withers have done an exceptional job leading the team through a difficult and pivotal mission,” said Maj. Gen. Terrence McKenrick, U.S. Army Central deputy commanding general, who presided over the ceremony. “Through their tireless efforts, professionalism and tremendous leadership, the MET mission has been and will continue to be a great success.”

The 149th MET based in Richmond, Kentucky, arrived to the Middle East in December 2016 for a nine-month tour supporting USARCENT’s shaping operations. The team is the eighth engagement team to mobilize in the region.

“We have one goal in mind and that is to further the theater security cooperation and the vision of the end state for ARCENT,” said Col. Joe Gardner, commander of the 149th MET. “It is definitely the best mission set in ARCENT.”

We accomplished the mission through enduring presence and persistent partnerships, he added.

During the deployment, the team conducted more than 230 military-to-military engagements, subject matter expert exchanges, senior leader engagements and exercises with 12 partner nations in the Greater Levant, Arabian Peninsula, and Central and South Asia regions. Collectively, members of the 149th MET traveled more than 100 thousand miles across USARCENT and other regions.

Gardner said the team built many friendships throughout the numerous countries and left a “lasting impact on the operational environment.” Members of the team could not have agreed more.

“The greatest reward I’ve been given as a result of this mission is the cultivation of relationships with our host nation partners,” said Capt. Don Lewis, operations officer with the 149th MET. “On a professional level, we have engaged with partners at national and strategic levels and have observed not only our impact in the region, but the fruits of our predecessors.”

On a personal level, we have made friends in a fight against a common global enemy,” Lewis said. “At the end of the day, the Soldier-to-Soldier relationship transcends race, culture and creed.”

These relationships will continue to thrive with future engagement teams through what Col. Gardner referred to as the MET brand.

“Through dozens of engagements, the MET has increased partner interoperability and continued to lay groundwork for future bilateral events. The team consists of some of the most adaptable and agile leaders in the Army,” added McKenrick. “Col. Gardner and his team have done an outstanding job over the last nine months, exceeding expectations in all areas.”

Gardner expressed gratitude to his Soldiers for their hard work, calling them an A-team from Kentucky.

“I don’t think we could have filled a better team, and I’m proud to serve with you,” said Gardner. “We represented not only U.S. Army Central Command, but the U.S. Government. And I think we did that with honor and with pride, and I want to thank each one of you for that.”

The 149th MET also prepared the 648th MET for their deployment by sending two theater subject matter experts to their mission readiness exercise in August, and developing several military-to-military engagements for their first 30 days on ground.

“I want to thank Col. Joe Gardner and Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Withers, and more importantly the rest of your team, for setting the example for what the military engagement team should be,” said Col. Kevin Hamm, commander of the 648th MET. “Our goal over the next year is to conduct more targeted engagements within ARCENT’s countries and build on the great work of the 149th.”

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