A New Chapter

1SGT Kurt Bies (front right) receives his promotion in rank and as the top non-commissioned officer (NCO). The new commander, 1LT Michael Heuer, stands back right and was also recognized for in the change of command ceremony.

Gathered for the first time since their deployment, Bravo Battery was greeted this past weekend by two new unit leaders.

It marked two major transitions at the same time for the Yankton-based unit with the 1/147th Field Artillery of the South Dakota National Guard.

The incoming commander, 1LT Michael Heuer, said he was hitting the ground running in getting know the leadership and battery.

“This is the first time I’ve had a chance to talk with First Sergeant (Kurt) Bies,” he told the Press & Dakotan.

Bies agreed, saying the two leaders spent the weekend discussing the unit and getting to know each other.

“It’s unique,” he said. “It’s not how they usually do it. They try staggering (leadership), but this is the way the timing worked for it.”

In Sunday’s ceremony, the unit honored the outgoing battery commander, CPT Dan Lamaack, and welcomed Heuer, who will assume the duties of Bravo Battery commander effective March 1. With his new command, Heuer will receive a promotion to lieutenant.

Lamaack had served as commander since October 2017. He led the battery during its 10-month deployment to Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The unit played a key role with its Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) skills.

In the other ceremony, the unit honored outgoing 1SG Dusty Kiner and welcomed Bies, who had received a promotion from master sergeant and was recognized during a pinning ceremony. Bies assumed his new role last Friday (Feb. 7) He now serves as the battery’s top non-commissioned officer (NCO).

Kiner is retiring this year, which in turn moved up Bies’ promotion and role.

Lt. Michael Hill will provide continuity for the unit leadership.

For both Heuer and Bies, the Bravo Battery command marks a return home of different types.

Heuer, a Watertown native, served 3½ years in the U.S. Army at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Last October, he transitioned from active duty to the National Guard.

“If I had stayed another six months (in active duty), I would have been a captain,” he said. “But I have a wife and a 2-year-old daughter, and it was just too much time away from my family.”

Heuer currently works as the head brewer and tap room manager for Watertown Brewing Company. He is also a member of the Watertown City Council.

His wife, Jordan, is currently pursuing her degree as a registered nurse.

For Bies, the new leadership role represents a homecoming in two ways.

“I’m from Salem, and I was serving full-time National Guard with the Joint Force Headquarters in Rapid City,” he said. “I enjoyed it, but it’s good to get back home. I began my National Guard career 32 years ago enlisted with Bravo Battery when it was located at Salem”

The Yankton unit was formerly Charlie Battery before reorganization.

Bies holds another special bond, pointing to his father in the audience. “My dad enlisted 62 years ago with Bravo Battery in Salem, so it was special having him here today,” he said.

Bies has been married to his wife, Tami, for more than 20 years, and they have three children.

As for their new leadership roles, Heuer and Bies are working together on the transition and getting to know the unit. They are drawing up their plan for command of the unit and its goals.

“We’ll decide our focus for the coming year,” Heuer said. “We’re working on a new training plan (for our soldiers). We’re working to facilitate their talent and make them the best version of themselves.”

Heuer and Bies already share a common belief in leadership and what they expect of those under their command.

“I don’t believe in micromanaging people. We establish expectations,” Heuer said. “And with the National Guard, these soldiers hold a diverse set of talents that they bring to their (military) service. They bring the professional skills and the personal experiences from their outside lives, and that’s incredibly valuable.”

Heuer also spoke of the strong bond among unit members, which was deepened by their deployment to Europe.

“You look to your left and you look to your right — no one is left behind,” he said. “If something goes wrong, you just pick up and keep going.”

Bies agreed on those points.

“I believe in empowering our NCOs, the platoon sergeants. I believe in giving them a task and letting them go at it,” he said. “I allow them to know the task and to carry out the plan.”

Yankton has shown tremendous support for its National Guard unit, and the battery has maintained 104 percent troop strength, Heuer noted.

“These are citizen soldiers, and they’re the backbone of what they’re doing here,” he said. “They’re performing selfless service.”

Bravo Battery will continue its strong bond, Bies predicted.

“This is a pretty tight-knit group of soldiers,” he said. “They have deployed together, and they’ll stay friends for life.”

Follow @RDockendorf on Twitter.

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