Kansas National Guard battery recognized as best in nation with Hamilton Award

By Capt. Patrick Montandon
130th Field Artillery Battalion
Kansas Army National Guard

Battery C, 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery Regiment, 130th Field Artillery Brigade, Kansas National Guard, was named the Alexander Hamilton Award recipient for the 2019 fiscal year. This annual award recognizes the most outstanding National Guard field artillery unit in the country. This is the first time a Kansas unit has received this award.

Battery C, 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery, conducts an emergency fire mission while en route to the next training area at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, in September 2019. This mission is conducted as part of field artillery table certification. (Photo by U.S Army National Guard Spc. William Polly)

Col. Paul Schneider, 130th FAB commander, congratulated the unit’s efforts.

“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 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, battery commander; 1st Sgt. Wesley Poell, battery first sergeant; Sgt. 1st Class Brian McKinney, readiness noncommissioned officer and rear detachment commander, formed the leadership team. 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.

Capt. Joseph Kinsey of Battery C, 1-161st Field Artillery, conducts multinational weapons familiarization with an Italian soldier February 2019 at the Mosul Dam in Iraq. (Photo by U.S Army National Guard Spc. William Polly)

The battery’s achievements include participation in multinational 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 percent of their reenlistment mission; 100 percent Army Physical Fitness Test take rate; 88 percent APFT pass rate; and 100 percent qualification on personal weapons.

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.”

Battery C’s rear detachment, led by McKinney, supported civil authorities during multiple periods of state active duty. The battery also participated in ceremonial salutes and wildland firefighting efforts and provided Stranded Motorist Assistance Response Teams during winter inclement weather.

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. 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. “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 had the support of multiple tremendous leaders throughout the experience.”

Battery C demonstrated incredible resolve and professionalism in earning the Hamilton award, brining 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.