PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, Saudi Arabia -- New York Army National Guard leaders visited Soldiers from the 369th Sustainment Brigade stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, on March 2, 2023, as part of a visit to New York Guard Soldiers on duty in the Middle East.
Major General Michel Natali, the assistant adjutant general, Army; Brig, General Joseph Biehler, the commander of the 53rd Troop Command, and Command Sgt. Major Marc Maynard, Biehler's command sergeant major, had lunch with Soldiers and toured the base.
Soldiers assigned to the 369th Sustainment Brigade, known as the Harlem Hell Fighters because of the regiment's service in World War I, are deployed at locations across the Middle East supporting the Army's Task Force Spartan.
Currently almost 3,000 New York National Guard Soldiers are deployed in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, or training to deploy at Army bases in the U.S., and is one of the largest deployments by the force in years, Natali said.
He praised the Soldiers for their professionalism and commitment to the mission.
Many Soldiers, he added, came off the state's COVID-19 mission and rolled right into a deployment.
Beihler told the Soldiers that it was important for him and other leaders to visit forward deployed troops to let them know they are not forgotten and their service is appreciated.
Following the luncheon, four Soldiers with the brigade received a challenge coin from Biehler.
The presentation of challenge coins is a way for senior leadership to make clear to Soldiers that they are valued and appreciated for their phenomenal work.
Spc. Matthew Chung, an information technician specialist with the 369th;s 187th Signal Company, said that it made him feel honored to be recognized for his hard work.
Chung was recognized for his work maintaining the networks for the brigade’s Tactical Action Center, said Capt. Brendan Sullivan, the officer in charge of the center. Every time an outage occurred, Chung worked hard to restore the downed network, Sullivan said.
“This kind of recognition makes me want to learn more about my Army profession and further my skills,” Chung said. “When a senior leader is impressed by my work, I feel that I’m on the right track.”
Natali and Biehler made time to speak with as many Soldiers as they could.
The importance of face-to-face conversation with Soldiers is supreme, said Natali.
“We are responsible for readiness, and so we want to make sure that Soldiers have everything they need to complete the mission,” Natali said.
“But more than that, we want to provide career solutions and support for Soldiers for when they return from deployment," he added.
Master Sgt. Jaime Lino, chief ammo sergeant with the 369th support operations ammunition management section, said that the leaders showed genuine concern for Soldier’s opinions and inputs, and questions and concerns.
“These senior leaders have great insight to offer Soldiers about what the National Guard has to offer,” Lino said. “They can provide guidance on what a Soldier can do to advance themselves.”