By Capt. Phil Fountain | Missouri National GuardApril 23, 2019
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - More than three centuries ago, American farmers set aside their plows to defend their homes and communities. Today, a Missouri farmer continues the National Guard's oldest tradition while protecting his state and nation from 21st-century threats.
Spc. Taylen Winchell of Lamar, an intelligence analyst with 35th Infantry Division at Jefferson Barracks, in St. Louis, was awarded the Joint Service Achievement Medal on April 6.
Winchell was recently selected to serve on a temporary active duty assignment at Jefferson Barracks to support the Missouri Army National Guard's Federated Intelligence Program with the U.S. Transportation Command, a Department of Defense combatant command headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
The program, known as FIP, provides Army National Guard Soldiers with the opportunity to provide real-world support to commands. All 54 states and territories are eligible to participate in the program.
"We have Soldiers throughout the National Guard enhancing the mission of combatant commands while facilitating training through our Federated Intelligence Program," said Col. Paul Hessling, the intelligence liaison officer with the National Guard Bureau. "It takes innovative solutions like this to meet today's challenges. Spc. Winchell is a great example of this."
In addition to his National Guard service, Winchell helps operate his family's cattle operation in southwest Missouri, which has been a lifelong passion. He said joining the Guard is a family tradition; his dad retired from the Missouri Army National Guard in the early '90s.
"We're fourth-generation farmers," Winchell said. "It's more of a ranching operation now. We run cattle and maintain the land. We had dairy cows and now focus on beef."
He's committed to the farming lifestyle and supporting his family business, but saw the Guard as an opportunity to do more.
"I joined to better myself and experience new things," Winchell said. "I've always liked analyzing stuff and enjoy working with computers. I've been able to use my computer skills more than I anticipated when I joined."
His computer skills and thinking outside-the-box is what brought Winchell's unique talent to his leadership's attention. While thinking about ways to improve his work-flow, he wrote a program to automate routine tasks. The specialist's supervision took a look and realized the potential. Pretty soon, his ideas were being distributed to other Soldiers and states.
Winchell developed an application called ADAMS, a coded database, which reduced execution time from one hour to 15 minutes. This new standardization has reportedly saved the command hundreds of hours in personnel and $50,000 in labor costs.
"I was just doing my job," Winchell said, not expecting to be formally recognized for his work.
His work was recognized, and through a unique medal not typically awarded to National Guard Soldiers, particularly at the state level.
According to DoD documents, the Joint Service Achievement Medal may be awarded in the name of the Secretary of Defense to service members who make exceptional achievements or perform commendable service while assigned to a joint duty activity. The success or service cannot have been otherwise recognized through a military department's medal, such as an Army Commendation Medal.
"We're proud to see his service recognized," Hessling said. "Spc. Winchell's efforts saved time and labor costs while allowing our Soldiers to remain proficient in their skill set and more efficiently tackle the mission."
Winchell's unit commander, Capt. Carrie Lehmen, also saw his accomplishments as reflecting upon the unique skills and abilities Guard members bring to the fight, often connecting their civilian and military skills to find innovative solutions to overlooked challenges.
"We're not only proud of him, but what Spc. Winchell has been able to accomplish further validates the capability and talent that Guard members bring to the intelligence community and the warfighter as a whole," said Lehman, who is also the reserve management officer and FIP coordinator for the command. "He has shown promise and capability to perform these essential missions."
"This further establishes the need for state's and unit leadership to include the FIP as part of their training regimen. The tasks performed directly line up with a combatant command while providing real training through the commander's mission essential task list. The program keeps skill-sets warm and are at the ready for National Guard all-hazards events, such as state emergencies," Lehmen said.
Winchell, a junior enlisted Soldier with about four years of service, is still looking at long-term career options, but ultimately expects to complete a career as a drilling Guard member while helping run the family farm.
"I like the camaraderie of the Intel community; we're able to solve problems on a different level," Winchell said. "But, I'll probably be a farmer all my life as well."