FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Tennessee and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers stood proudly in their formations as senior leaders of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) placed the 101st Abn. Div. patch on the left shoulders of nearly 300 Guard members.
As part of the Army's Associated Unit Pilot Program, Soldiers of 2123rd Transportation Company of the Kentucky National Guard and 1176th Trans. Co., of the Tennessee National Guard replaced their unit patches during ceremonies on Oct. 22 on Fort Knox, Kentucky, and on Oct. 23 in Smyrna, Tennessee, respectively.
The ceremonies served as a symbol of the Guards members partnership with 101st Abn. Div. Sustainment Brigade "Lifeliners."
The U.S. Army released an announcement earlier this year stating that the program was established to maximize deployment readiness among Army active-duty, Reserve and National Guard units by training, forming partnerships and potentially deploying together.
Additionally the announcement stated, "the pilot program will last for three years and after that time an assessment will be made to decide how the program could expand."
"It was an exciting opportunity," said Col. Stanley Sliwinski, commander of the 101st Abn. Div. Sust. Bde., 101st Abn. Div., about the ceremonies. "It was a proud moment for the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, the 101st Airborne Division and the Lifeliner Brigade."
Maj. Gen. Terry Haston, adjutant general for the Tennessee National Guard, spoke during 1176th Trans. Company's ceremony.
Haston expressed how proud he was of the Soldiers of 1176th Trans. Co. and how resilient they have been during the initial phase of the pilot program. He also thanked the 101st Abn. Div. for welcoming the transportation company to the division.
Sliwinski added that when the public sees the 101st Abn. Div. patch, they hold those Soldiers to a higher standard and the newly patched Soldiers are expected to achieve the "air assault" standard that comes with wearing the patch.
First Lt. Logan Weiler, commander of the 2123rd Trans. Co., said he and his Soldiers understand the responsibility of wearing the 101st Abn. Div. patch.
"The biggest change for us is the change in culture, as we are now part of the 101st Airborne Division," Weiler said. "I feel a lot of responsibly to maintain the standard the 101st has set, [as they] have set the bar extremely high."
Weiler added that his company currently has two air assault qualified Soldiers, one whom was a former 101st Abn. Div. Soldier, but hopes to add more air assault Soldiers to his formation through this partnership with the 101st Abn. Div. Sust. Bde.
"Aside from air assault, this partnership will open opportunities in training," Weiler said. "We will be able to train in new places, under a new unit and guidance, and we are excited about our upcoming drills at Fort Campbell in the near future."
According to Sliwinski, who will oversee the training conducted by the units, both National Guard companies will be partnered with similar units within the 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Abn. Div. Sust. Bde. The brigade is planning to integrate both National Guard companies into the brigade and battalion field training exercises next year.
Sliwinski added that the brigade's plan is to have Lifeliner Soldiers train with 2123rd Trans. Co. and 1176th Trans. Co. Soldiers during every drill weekend in order to learn from each other and build readiness from both the reserve and active component.
"Eighty percent of our logistic capabilities for the entire Army is in reserve components," Sliwinski said. "In order to enable success in a deployed environment, we have to train with our reserve component partners in the garrison environment as well."
Weiler, who took command of the 2123rd Trans. Co. 10 months ago, said he and his Soldiers are excited to be part of the 101st Abn. Div.
"[The Soldiers] have tremendous esprit de corps," explained Weiler. "They are proud to be part of a historic unit that is known all over the world and we are eager to go wherever the 101st will send us."