By Sgt. Paul Glover
Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office
At the annual gathering of the 138th Field Artillery Brigade Dec. 13, 2014, officers and enlisted alike gathered at the Saint Barbara’s Military Ball to celebrate Christmas and the completion of yet another year’s worth of missions. Among those missions, few had more of an impact on the overall Army mission than that of the 103rd Brigade Support Battalion, 138th Field Artillery Brigade’s Task Force Summit, which returned home from Afghanistan in April of this year. The unit spent nine months overseas supporting the Special Operations Command’s withdrawal and relocation of mission-critical equipment as Operation Enduring Freedom came to a close.
The 138th took time to acknowledge the overwhelming success of TF Summit’s mission by inducting its commander, Capt. Justin Watts, a non-Field Artillery Officer into the Order of Saint Barbara.
According to the U.S. Field Artillery Association’s website, “the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara recognizes those individuals who have demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character; displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence; served the United States Army or Marine Corps Field Artillery with selflessness; and contributed to the promotion of the Field Artillery in ways that stand out in the eyes of the recipient’s seniors, subordinates and peers alike.”
“It feels incredible to be recognized for something even though I’ve never pulled the lanyard on a cannon,” Watts noted. “To me personally, it is an honor in-and-of-itself just to be given an opportunity as somebody who’s not field artillery to be inducted into such a prestigious organization. I like to consider the type of person who, regardless of what branch sits on the collar of my uniform, I’ll support whoever I’m assigned to support.”
“I’m really not sure of the reasons that I was selected for induction, but I would imagine that it’s after coming off a successful deployment leading a group of 15 Soldiers in Afghanistan, with the great things that those guys did,” he recalled. “I feel that this is an opportunity for me to accept something on behalf of those individuals who served under me and alongside me.”
“Our mission in Afghanistan was pretty straightforward. The drawdown is impending in Afghanistan, based on the President’s directive to get down to 10,000 troops on-ground [by 2015], which means they have a lot of stuff to get out and take it from places from a lot of years prior,” Watts explained. “Because as we’ve seen in the past, things that are military in nature, even Soviet equipment from the 1980s, is used against us.”
“To enable our government and our military to recover as much reusable equipment as possible, it was a big step for us. We recovered about $54 million worth of equipment, moved about 2,000 short-tons, but aside from that … we repositioned it based on where the fight was taking place. In all the regions of Afghanistan, it may come about that certain hotbeds would pop-up in different regions or different areas-of-responsibility, so we shut down camps and moved all that equipment of mission-essential use to other areas,” Watts continued.
For his induction into Honorable Order of Saint Barbara, Watts especially wanted to thank a few individuals.
“I’d like to thank my wife, Ashley Watts for her continued support,” he said. “You know, there’s one thing you can never get back, and that’s time away from her, time of her being away from me and taking that lead to get things done in my absence. You can’t really put words to it.”
“Also, I’d like to thank the fourteen men that served alongside me in Afghanistan. Their contributions to the mission are immeasurable,” he said. “There was nothing about them riding my coattails. It was all them pushing me from behind.”
“Those guys, they did everything I asked for and more,” he explained. “No problem was too complex. They solved it without fail.”
Watts was also selected to represent Kentucky for the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, which is presented annually to the top 28 Army officers who demonstrate the ideals for which MacArthur stood – duty, honor, country.