The Kansas National Guard’s Battery C, 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery Regiment, 130th Field Artillery Brigade received the Alexander Hamilton Award for 2019 during a ceremony at the National Guard armory in Newton Sept. 12. This annual award recognizes the most outstanding National Guard field artillery unit in the country.
Col. Paul Schneider, 130th FAB commander, congratulated the unit’s efforts, which resulted in a Kansas unit winning the award for the first time.
"This has been an outstanding past couple of years," Schneider said. "It's great to see the hard work pay off and be recognized as the 2020 Hamilton Award winner." Units considered for the award are reviewed on physical readiness, safety, soldier care, unit strength, weapons qualification and other readiness and training achievements. The Hamilton Award is named after the famed Continental Army artilleryman, Maj. Gen, Alexander Hamilton, who was known for his military leadership, appointed as aide-de-camp to Gen. George Washington and helped frame the U.S. Constitution.
Capt. Joseph Kinsey, 1st Sgt. Wesley Poell, and Sgt. 1st Class Brian McKinney were the battery commander, battery first sergeant, and readiness non-commissioned officer and rear detachment commander, respectively, at the time the unit submitted their packet to be considered for the award. They were confident when they assumed these leadership roles in the summer of 2017, but none of them expected to be recognized as the best in the country.
Many achievements can be listed that led to this award to include the battery participating in multi-national partnerships throughout the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield and in security force missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Battery C participated in Table XVIII gunnery qualification while overseas. The unit also achieved numerous readiness milestones including meeting 119% of their reenlistment mission; 100% Army Physical Fitness Test take rate; 88% APFT pass rate; and 100% qualification on personal weapons.
Battery C’s rear detachment, led by McKinney, also excelled by supporting defense support of civil authorities activities during multiple periods of state active duty. Battery C participated in ceremonial salutes and wildland firefighting efforts as well as providing stranded motorist assistance response teams during winter inclement weather.
Battery C’s deployment was unique for multiple reasons, one of which was completing a transfer of authority replacing a task force from Italy.
"This proved to be challenging in our unit taking over the area of operations, but it defined a level of resiliency that cannot be matched," recalled Kinsey.
Later in the deployment Kinsey worked on an engineering mission with Italian forces while in a different location from Poell.
"I couldn’t tell you how much I appreciated leaning on him having a battery spread across six different installations in four countries," Kinsey said. "Having a first sergeant who maintained personnel accountability...it definitely set the tone within the battalion."
The unit has a reputation of achieving greatness and retaining quality Soldiers.
"No one wants to leave Charlie Battery; everyone wants to come to Charlie Battery," said Poell, who has been a member of the battery for 18 years and the battalion for 22 years. "That’s my family," he continued. "I have been in Charlie Battery since 1998 and we have always been the best in the battalion. They used to call us Charlie Battalion because we were the best and it makes me proud."
A recurring theme among the command team was that teamwork and collaboration with higher headquarters was critical to achieving so much.
"I tried my best to create the culture of thought that it isn’t my unit- it’s our unit," McKinney said. "Small tasks to the live-fire exercises all mean something. Every single person contributed to making this happen. I hope that the future members of our unit don’t forget how we earned this award."
"We’re just the command team," Kinsey emphasized. "Winning this award was a team effort. It couldn’t have worked if we didn’t have teamwork within the organization. I am humbled by the fact that I had the support of multiple tremendous leaders throughout the experience."
Battery C demonstrated incredible resolve and professionalism earning the Hamilton award, which brings great pride to the state of Kansas and the Kansas National Guard.
"The future of the profession is strong in Kansas with field artillery men and women like this in our ranks," said Schneider.