Pennsylvania National Guard – War on Terror Era
“I thought it would be best to serve my country and do something special,” he said. “My dad was in the military for 25 years. My family has served forty or fifty years total. They’ve all served overseas.”
So Sgt. Brandon Wentling joined the Pennsylvania National Guard on July 23, 2003.
Sgt. Wentling sees a lot of benefits in serving in the Guard.
“You can get your schooling with one hundred percent tuition paid,” he said. “You’re not away from your family and you still get to play army.”
For the First Battalion 107th Artillery stationed at the National Guard Armory in Hermitage, “playing army” is serious business. To be prepared for deployment anywhere in the world, they must train constantly to operate some very large guns.
“I’ve trained on the Paladin, the triple seven, and the one-one-niner,” Sgt. Wentling said.
The Paladin is a 155mm self-propelled howitzer mounted on tracks, like a tank. It can zip along at 35 miles per hour, stop and fire accurately within 30 seconds at targets ten miles away, then take off again. It can fire a maximum of six rounds per minute, sustained three rounds per minute. Operating it requires precise teamwork among its crew of six. The M777 howitzer is a similar 155mm weapon, but towed rather than self-propelled. The smaller, lighter M119 105mm howitzer can be transported by helicopter and even air dropped via parachute.
All of these systems depend on sophisticated electronics for accuracy.
“We train one weekend a month, usually Saturday and Sunday, but sometimes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” Sgt. Wentling said. “In the summer, we have two weeks of annual training. We must get must get certified before going out to shoot live rounds. Everybody has to work together in order to shoot safely.”
Sgt. Wentling was deployed for one year in Taji Iraq, about 20 miles from Bagdad. He also volunteers his time helping people returning from deployment.
“I help them with their paperwork and such,” he said.
When asked about the greatest benefit of serving in the National Guard, Sgt. Wentling answered without hesitation: “Pride and honor.”
When not serving with the Guard, Sgt. Wentling is a heavy equipment operator with Waste Management.