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Montana Veteran's News
Officials activate Billings-based Army National Guard unit
By BECKY SHAY
Of The Gazette Staff
http://billingsgazette.net/articles/2009/05/03/news/local/16-guard.txt

Montana's newest Army National Guard unit was activated this morning.

The 1063rd Support Maintenance Company was put into service during a ceremony at the Billings Armed Forces Reserve Center on Gabel Road. The observance also included the assumption of command by Capt. Chase Ragen of Townsend.

Among the more showy portions of the ceremony was the unfurling of the company's guidon, the crimson flag that identifies the unit. It was passed to Ragen to show leadership's trust in his command and then Ragen passed it to 1st Sgt. Jason Ludwick of Cody, Wyo., as a symbol of his reliance on the non-commissioned officer.

The ceremony was attended by ranking military officers, who also recognized the VIPs made up of Ragen and Ludwick's families. Their wives were each presented a dozen red roses. In his first address to his company, Ragen asked the soldiers to attend drill, work hard and wear their uniforms with pride.

"When we put on this uniform, we must always remember those that never returned to their loved ones, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice," Ragen said.

The 1063rd will be headquartered in Billings with detachments in Dillon and Harlowton. It will include 158 soldiers, including 103 based in Billings, 43 in Dillon and 12 in Harlowton. The soldiers will spend most of the next two years training and equipping the unit.

The 1063rd has already served more than 41 years in Montana, through several iterations since its creation in September 1950, according to Lt. Col. Donald Emerson. It was reorganized in 1975 and then deactivated between 1989 and 1996 and disbanded in 1999. Emerson is commander of the 190th Combined Sustainment and Support Battalion, headquartered in Billings and the unit over the 1063rd.

"I say welcome home to the 1063rd Support Maintenance Company," Emerson said.

The company platoons' work includes automotive, ground support equipment, missile and electronics repair as well as an attached test, measurement and diagnostic equipment section.

The adjutant general of the Montana Army National Guard, Brig. Gen. John Walsh, said activating the company here speaks to the Guard's status in Montana. The National Guard would have instituted the company in any state, but Montana is best able to recruit and retain qualified members, including women, he said.