Operation Tribute to Freedom

Faces From the Front for July 26, 2010 - Sgt. 1st Class Michael Horner

Sergeant First Class Michael Horner

Current Unit: 1108th Explosive Ordinance Disposal
Current Position: Operations Sergeant
Component: New York National Guard
Current Location: Kuwait
Hometown: Clifton Park, N.Y.
Years of Service: 18

When he enlisted in the National Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Horner always envisioned deploying with his unit somewhere overseas to support his country. But over the course of his years of service, the opportunity and timing never coincided. Now in his 18th year in the Guard, Horner is not only fulfilling his ambition by deploying to Kuwait, but relishing the opportunity to apply his knowledge and training.

Prior to his deployment, Horner served in New York as the senior Active National Guard Soldier for his unit, a role in which he was responsible for planning and organizing his Soldiers’ drill weekends. While Horner knows that his previous work training fellow National Guard Soldiers filled a critical need, he is pleased to be able to use this deployment to focus on his vocation as an operations sergeant, a job which he has spent years learining.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to do my actual job,” Horner said. “It’s been a steep learning curve sometimes but I’ve enjoyed it.”

Working with an explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) unit, Horner is responsible for overseeing every aspect of his teams’ work. When the Emergency Operations Center calls in reports on where possible explosive threats may exist, Horner assigns the missions out to the appropriate EOD team. From there, Horner is responsible for tracking the EOD team’s results.

“The teams are required to submit a recap of the incident. We have them make it detailed so we can see trends in the incidents and also trends in the teams themselves,” Horner explained. “We want to be able to look over their shoulders a bit to make sure they aren’t getting worn out and making mistakes. We are simply another set of eyes for them.”

In addition, Horner serves as the unit’s safety noncommissioned officer and hazardous materials coordinator, training his Soldiers on all issues related to mission safety and disposing of hazardous materials.

Horner’s unit is unique in that it is comprised of Soldiers from a variety of states, many of whom are currently serving their first tour. While some may find it challenging to quickly mesh with others from such diverse backgrounds, Horner’s unit has come together seamlessly during their deployment.

“The unit is fairly new to the National Guard and consists mostly of Soldiers who have not deployed before. A great number of Soldiers in the unit are actually from other states outside of New York,” Horner said. “It hasn’t been all that difficult having Soldiers from six different states come together here. We all trained together before we deployed so we knew each other before we hit the mobilization station.”

In addition to getting to know the Soldiers in his unit, Horner counts one of his most rewarding deployment experiences as working with his Kuwaiti counterparts. He and his fellow Soldiers trained with the Kuwaiti Army for a few months, during which they disposed of surplus ammunition and explosives, and learned about one another’s procedures.

Horner and his team are proud of the work they have accomplished throughout their deployment and know that they have made a safer environment for their fellow Soldiers.

The Soldier is slated to return home to Clifton Park, N.Y., this fall. He looks forward to spending time with his wife and children, and returning to his work as a volunteer firefighter.

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