PIERRE -- The South Dakota National Guard presented several awards for distinguished service to a family, employer, public servant and a state agency during its 2021 Dining-Out at the Ramkota Hotel and Convention Center on Feb. 4.
The annual event brings together National Guard members from across the state for a formal evening to honor the organization's history and to recognize individual achievements from the past year.
The awards presented include recognition of outstanding volunteerism by a SDNG family, outstanding support from a South Dakota Reserve Component employer, lifetime service by a public servant in support of the SDNG mission, and recognition of a state agency for partnership with the SDNG.
The event keynote speaker Gov. Kristi Noem and Maj. Gen. Jeff Marlette, SDNG adjutant general, presented the awards.
The Adjutant General's Family Award recipient is the Johnson family of Madison.
This award recognizes family members who support their service members in a truly exemplary manner while managing family, careers or even hardship, all the while not seeking recognition for their sacrifices.
Allyson Johnson, her husband, Staff Sgt. David Johnson, and their three children are the epitome of a resilient military family. Staff Sgt. Johnson is a full-time member of the 109th Engineer Battalion in Rapid City.
With her husband working in Rapid City during the week, Allyson works full-time as the office manager at Krug Products and cares for their three young girls while living in Madison.
She also dedicates her time to being the lead volunteer for the 211th Engineer Company in Madison. Her husband, a former member of the 211th, transitioned out of the unit; however, Allyson continues to lead the 211th's Family Readiness Group and helps coordinate family events. Her brother, Sgt. Austin Slaughter, is with the 211th.
As the lead family volunteer, Allyson Johnson understands the importance of family and soldier readiness and strives to involve all soldiers, families, spouses, children and significant others in unit events.
As the 211th training requirements have increased over the past few years, so have her efforts, resulting in the mitigation of the additional stress on both the soldiers and the families. She has worked to schedule speakers to talk to the unit and the families and oversees the notification roster and Red Cross message management. She also is heavily involved in the planning and execution of the unit's military ball, focusing on ensuring it is a family event.
"The Johnsons are giving by nature and do so with joy and goodness in their hearts," said Maj. Quenten Johnson, service member and family support program director. "It's never a question of if they will volunteer, it's a matter of what are they going to do next that gives the essential backbone to the 211th Engineer Company."
Living in Madison, the Johnsons also open their house to soldiers every drill weekend, providing the unit members an alternative place to sleep and eat. The opening of their home allows the couple an opportunity to bond with and get to know soldiers within the unit in an informal relaxed setting.
"Their willingness and care for everyone in the unit is unparalleled and is something other families strive to emulate," Maj. Johnson said. "The Johnson family espouses the excellence that has come to be synonymous with the South Dakota National Guard. They are dedicated to supporting service members and their families at all costs, and we are proud to honor their dedication to our organization."
Other awards were presented:
-- The Williamson Militiaman Award recipient is retired Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch of Howard.
-- The South Dakota Department of Health and Gov. Kristi Noem were each presented with a South Dakota National Guard Minuteman statute in recognition of their outstanding leadership and service in support of the citizens of the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.
-- KBJM Radio of Lemmon was awarded the South Dakota Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Pro Patria Award.
The Dining-Out event also includes highlights of the SDNG's service and achievements over the past year. The SDNG had a historic year of service to the state and nation in 2020.
There were 490 soldiers and airmen from five units who supported federal stateside missions or overseas contingency operations. This included successful deployments to three continents and more than a dozen counties across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The organization's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is now the longest sustained, state-supported mission in the history of the SDNG, with nearly 400 soldiers and airmen providing over 35,000 man-days of support. Additionally, about 180 soldiers and airmen provided support to the state in response to several civil unrest events during the year.
The SDNG provided assistance to state and local agencies for support missions including counterdrug operations, wildland fire suppression, and search and rescue, as well as federal missions support for NORAD's Airspace Control Alert mission in California and for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol aerial detection and monitoring along the U.S. southern border.
Finally, the SDNG received a string of national awards in 2020, distinguishing itself as one of the top National Guard organizations in the nation demonstrating operational performance and readiness.
The Air Guard's 114th Fighter Wing received the Distinguished Flying Unit Plaque as one of the five most outstanding Air National Guard flying units in the nation, as well as the U.S. Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptional meritorious service.
The 152nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion received the Maj. Gen. Milton A. Reckord Trophy and the Gen. Walter T. Kerwin, Jr. Award as the most outstanding Army National Guard battalion in the nation.
Company C, 1-189th Aviation Regiment received the General John J. Pershing Plaque and the 235th Military Police Company received the Certificate of Victory, both for excellence in weapons marksmanship.
Spc. Cooper Mueller of the 200th Engineer Company received the U.S. Army Engineer Association's Van Autreve Award for his outstanding skill and performance as a U.S. Army engineer; and Master Sgt. Mathieson Smith of the 114th Fighter Wing was awarded the NGAUS Valley Forge Cross for Heroism while serving in a peacetime status.