REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Local heroes step up and get just as much as they give.

From May to August, Soldiers from the Alabama National Guard’s 142nd Battlefield Surveillance Brigade spent time at U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command headquarters at Redstone Arsenal to hone their skills as well as give much needed support to the command.

Earlier in the year, leaders from the Alabama National Guard and leaders from USASMDC/ARSTRAT discussed ways to give the NG Soldiers real-world training as well as filling positions that were not filled at the time. This discussion led to a win-win position for both parties.

“We are finding ways to get the Soldiers’ skill sets up so they can be better trained for their units,” said Maj. Brad Mechen, SMDC counterintelligence officer. “And because the National Guard paid for everything, we got the Soldiers working here at no cost to the command.

“They are doing very well and we couldn’t ask for anything better,” he added. “And now the memorandum of agreement we have with the Alabama National Guard has gone national so we are proud to be leading in this endeavor and it seems to be catching on.”

Soldiers assigned to SMDC worked alongside their military and civilian counterparts and learned from people with experience who can share in the knowledge of their chosen military career.

“This has been a very interesting and a very educational experience for me,” said Staff Sgt. Travis Lopeman, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 142nd BfSB. “Coming straight here from the military intelligence school, it allowed me to dive into the personnel security world and learn how it all functions.

“This is also going to allow me to help the unit become more proficient and maybe get rid of some of our errors,” he added. “Being here has allowed me to see how current operations work and seeing it in real life, and not just being in a classroom, and that is one of the best things I could see happen.”

In their normal duties, Soldiers assigned to battlefield surveillance brigades conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.

The brigades are meant to improve situational awareness for commanders at division or higher so they can focus joint combat power in current operations while simultaneously preparing for future operations.

“It is nice to see how everything happens on the active side,” said Pfc. Dean Jordan, HHC, 142nd BfSB. “Also everyone here has been really nice and taken me under their wings, so that has been good. They have showed me a lot and treated me well and have been very helpful.”

As they talked about how SMDC has treated them and the experiences gained, the Soldiers mentioned how they hoped they were helpful in their brief time at the command. They also talked about the chance for other Soldiers in their units to come back in the future to gain the experiences they were afforded.

“I like to think it has been a good experience for everyone involved,” said Staff Sgt. Oliver Ohrstrom, HHC, 142nd BfSB. “There has been a lot of on the job training and I think we have also eased the SMDC workload. We have a real blending of backgrounds and it has been a great help working with the force protection office here.

“This is a great program and there has been no shortage of respect for all of us,” he added. “I am glad to have served here and look forward to coming back if given the opportunity.”