State Spotlight: North Carolina

Right Place, Right Time, Right Training

MORGANTON, N.C. – Within minutes of a single-engine plane crash, North Carolina Army National Guard SGT Charles Roper was pulling the pilot from the burning cockpit.

The Sergeant was on his way to pick his children up from school on Feb. 6 at about 4:30 p.m. when he noticed a plane flying very low, almost at treetop level.

“The plane took a nosedive like it was doing a crazy stunt. It never came back up.”

SGT Roper saw the plane crash, and immediately put his truck into four-wheel drive, driving through ditches and farmland to get to the crash site.

“When I pulled up, I saw the plane, and it was on fire with plane parts in trees, the propeller in the field, and the pilot was in the plane, just lying there,” he said. “It all happened so fast, I didn’t even have time to call 911. I rushed out of my vehicle and ran to the burning plane.”

SGT Roper, a full-time mechanic at the North Carolina National Guard’s Lenoir Field Maintenance Shop # 2 and a 31B Military Police Officer in the 210th Military Police Company, said he yelled at the pilot to get out of the plane, but the pilot was motionless.

“Fire was all around him, and he was strapped in with the same type of seatbelt harness we use in the Guard,” he said. “I reached in and pulled the quick release, then I pulled him out of the plane. All I could think of was it exploding, so I (dragged) him away from the plane. He was moaning and grunting, and I told him to hang on.”

SGT Roper is no stranger to helping rescue people in dangerous situations. He was a Morganton public safety officer for six years and responded to many car wrecks, house fires, and other adrenalin-pumping emergencies. 

SGT Charles Roper

SGT Charles Roper


Others came to assist SGT Roper and helped him pull the pilot farther away from the burning wreckage and on to the back of a pickup truck.

The pilot was safe, but SGT Roper’s assistance was now needed by the first public safety officer to reach the crash site.

“Kim Davis, a Morganton public safety officer, arrived with a fire truck, and asked me to help pull the hose close to the plane while she turned the water on,” said SGT Roper. “I manned the hose and helped get the fire under control. Soon after that, I could hear more EMS pulling up to the scene.”

SGT Roper said that once the firefighters took the hose from him it was the first time he could take a breath and relax. He noticed his arms and jeans were bloody.

“I got with an EMS worker, grabbed a lot of baby wipes, and cleaned off my arms as well as I could,” he said. “I told EMS I was leaving. I didn’t want to stick around. I was just glad I could play the part of a guardian angel.”

SGT Roper got into his vehicle and continued on his way to pick up his children before local news made it to the crash site.

According to local authorities, the pilot, who was taken to a Charlotte hospital, received lacerations to the face and was “bruised and banged up,” but expected to recover fully.

SGT Roper’s training as a member of the National Guard and as a civilian first responder allowed him to act quickly and decisively. His actions are the embodiment of Citizen-Soldiers living and serving in the communities they have sworn to protect.

So, if you have the desire to protect your fellow citizens and your Nation, find out more about joining the Army National Guard. Most Guard members serve part-time, allowing them the flexibility to earn a degree or certification using the Guard’s education benefits. The Guard also trains Soldiers for careers in more than 150 fields. Visit our job board to explore careers and contact a recruiter for more information.

From an original article by LTC Matthew Devivo, North Carolina National Guard, which appeared in the news section of in February 2017.


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High Flying Career Starts with the Need for an Education

SGT Tom Harrington, a crew chief with B Co., 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, waves to B Co. (Battlehard) and D Co. (Wolfpack), 3-187th Infantry Regiment, Soldiers to approach the UH-60 Blackhawk to kick-off an air assault exercise at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, January 7, 2015. (Minnesota Army National Guard photo by SPC Jess Nemec/Released)"

SGT Tom Harrington, a crew chief with B Co., 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, waves to B Co. (Battlehard) and D Co. (Wolfpack), 3-187th Infantry Regiment, Soldiers to approach the UH-60 Black Hawk to kick-off an air assault exercise at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, January 7, 2015. (Minnesota Army National Guard photo by SPC Jess Nemec/Released)"

Working his way through college wasn’t working out so great for Tom Harrington as the U.S. economy started to crash in 2008.

The Lexington, Ky., native needed a better way to pay for school. He had considered other branches of the Armed Services, but found that joining the Army National Guard offered several advantages. He could serve part-time near the college he was going to attend, the Guard had openings available in the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) he wanted to pursue, plus this particular MOS made him eligible for the GI Bill Kicker, which meant a little extra money could be put toward earning his degree in aerospace management.

Now a sergeant with the Kentucky National Guard, Harrington is a 15T UH-60 Utility Helicopter Repairer. The UH-60 is better known as the Black Hawk, which is the Army’s most versatile helicopter. It is used in combat situations, search and rescue operations, firefighting, and transportation of people and supplies.

Sgt Tom Harrington keeps his eyes on a wildfire to release water from a Bambi bucket attached to a UH-60 Blackhawk in southeastern Kentucky, Nov. 5, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Robert Brumfield)

SGT Tom Harrington keeps his eyes on a wildfire to release water from a Bambi bucket attached to a UH-60 Black Hawk in southeastern Kentucky, Nov. 5, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Robert Brumfield)

Not only does SGT Harrington repair and maintain the helicopters, he gets to fly on them as well.

“Black Hawks also give you the option, as a 15T to fly and become a crew chief, and that’s what I wanted to do,” he explains.

As a crew chief, SGT Harrington takes care of anything that is transported by the helicopter, from passengers to freight. During a wildfire in his State in November, that meant filling the “Bambi buckets” that attach to the helicopters with water and dousing hot spots. SGT Harrington also documented his Unit’s response to the fires with his camera. He has an additional duty in the Guard to serve as Unit Public Affairs Historian.

SGT Harrington appreciates the variety his MOS affords: “Everything’s different every day, and I’ve been able to do a lot of different things.”

A self-described “proverbial car guy and gear head,” there’s always something to fix in his role as a mechanic. As a crew chief, he’s been a part of counterdrug missions and, during the recent fires in Kentucky, “doing whatever we could to save homes and property. That was a really fulfilling mission.”

Another assignment SGT Harrington is proud of was a deployment to Kosovo in 2009 and 2010. This UN peacekeeping mission gave him the chance to see how everything he learned in AIT (Advanced Individual Training) fit into the big picture in a deployment. His duties included troop transport, VIP operations, and cargo hauls.

“It was a cool cultural experience. I didn’t think at 22, I’d be sitting in Kosovo, former Yugoslavia, working with Germans, Italians, Croatians, Slovenians, Swedish, just to name a few.”

As he looks back on his decision to join the Guard at age 20, he sees how his experiences contributed to his personal growth.

“Going to Basic [Training], going to AIT, coming back, that all gave me a different perspective. Getting deployed and learning how to work with so many different people, so many different cultures, that definitely made me grow as a person.”

His Guard experience also helped him with his full-time career as a civilian contractor who works as a crew chief on Black Hawks for the Federal Government.

“The Guard set me up with a fantastic opportunity for civilian employment and it all, pretty much, directly translates.”

In fact, he credits the Guard for giving him a leg up on becoming eligible to take the test for an Airframe and Powerplant license through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that will allow him to advance in his civilian job.

“There would have been no way I could have had the opportunity to go take the test and do it without the Guard.”

So, if you’re interested in finding out how the Guard can help you with a career, visit our job board, which lists vacancies that can be searched by MOS, job family, keyword or location, or contact a recruiter today who can explain the Guard’s benefits like money for college and low-cost health insurance.

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Guard Spotlight: Illinois

Guard Soldier’s Invention Has Army-Wide Impact

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A Soldier with the Illinois Army National Guard has invented a device that improves Soldier safety and equipment longevity, and has recently been adopted Army-wide.

Sergeant (SGT) Wesley Todd, a machinist with the Illinois Army National Guard’s Combined Support Maintenance Shop at North Riverside Armory in North Riverside, Ill., has designed and fabricated a tool that makes removing a seized howitzer muzzle brake easier and safer for Soldiers when they make repairs or perform maintenance tasks on the guns.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Steve Murphy, armament supervisor at the maintenance shop, said SGT Todd took it upon himself to create the device when he saw Soldiers struggling to remove a seized muzzle brake on a light howitzer.

“It can be very difficult to remove the muzzle brake,” said CW2 Murphy. “They sometimes seize up in varying weather conditions.”

SGT Wesley Todd of the Illinois Army National Guard checks the measurements on a device he invented that makes removing a seized howitzer muzzle brake easier and safer for Soldiers when they perform repairs or maintenance on the guns. The device has been adopted by the Army, and is scheduled to be manufactured and distributed to maintenance organizations Army-wide. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Adams)

SGT Todd’s device allows Soldiers to apply enough force to remove a seized muzzle brake, but in a way that doesn’t damage the gun tube or its rifling grooves.

Soldiers would normally use sledgehammers to free a seized muzzle brake, which often resulted in additional damage to the muzzle brake, and had the potential to damage other parts as well, said CW2 Murphy, adding that just the gun tube of a howitzer can cost more than $265,000.

“Using this device instead of a sledgehammer has and will continue to keep the Soldier safer when working on the equipment,” said CW2 Murphy. “The device has also made the process much faster.”

SGT Todd, who has worked as a machinist at the shop for three years, said he normally repairs damaged parts and makes new parts for military vehicles and equipment.

“It’s an honor to know I improved the Army in a small way,” he said.

After review of the device, it was approved and scheduled for Army-wide implementation by the end of the year.

“This Soldier’s invention will increase safety and save the entire Army hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment parts and repair time,” said Army Maj. Gen. (MG) Richard J. Hayes, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. “These are resources that will now be able to be devoted to other U.S. Army priorities.”

For MG Hayes, it serves as an example of leadership and initiative.  

“SGT Todd has shown how a single Illinois Army National Guard Soldier can improve a process for the entire Army, and his leadership has shown us a great example of how to listen to your Soldiers’ ideas and help them implement positive changes,” he said. 

Despite the invention’s big impact, Todd said it was just another day’s work. 

“Making things is a part of my job,” he said. “This is by far the most impactful thing I have ever made, though.”

So if you’re interested in making an impact as a Soldier, whether it’s to help your fellow Soldiers, help your country or your local community, learn more about Guard careers on our job board, where you will find more than 150 options. Contact your local recruiter for specifics on jobs that interest you, and find out about the benefits of this part-time service.

From original article by Staff Sgt. Robert Adams, Illinois Army National Guard, which appeared in September 2016 in the news section of


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