A Michigan Army National Guard captain from Portland was one of seven National Guard members awarded the General Douglas Macarthur award at the Pentagon, May 29, 2015. The 28 total awardees were selected from active duty Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve company grade and warrant officers who demonstrate the ideals that MacArthur stood for: duty, honor and country.
Michigan Army National Guard Capt. Richard Sands works full-time as the battalion training officer for 1st Battalion, 119th Field Artillery Regiment based in Lansing and serves as the commander of Alpha Battery, 119th Field Artillery based in Port Huron.
Sands’ nomination package highlighted his many leadership accomplishments which positively impacted the community, the state and Michigan’s partner nation Latvia.
Latvia is Michigan’s partner in the Department of Defense sponsored State Partnership Program which pairs a state’s National Guard members with participating nations in military-to-military engagements to support defense security goals.
“Capt. Sands developed a training plan to train and mentor 32 Latvian soldiers as joint fires observers,” said Lt. Col. Scott Meyers, Sands’ first line supervisor. “The Latvians had minimal experience calling for indirect fire,” Meyers said. “He gathered and influenced a team of JFOs from the Michigan National Guard’s joint tactical air controllers and spent countless hours mentoring and developing the Latvians.”
Meyers continued, “Sands’ leadership and proficiency as a joint force observer and his ability to communicate despite language barriers resulted in 100 percent of the Latvian soldiers graduating from the class he taught.”
This was especially significant due to instability in the Baltic region at a time when Russia was featured in international news as challenging its other border country, Ukraine.
Sands’ selection to receive the award was also based on his leadership as the Alpha Battery commander.
“His lead-from-the-front mentality has earned him the unbreakable trust of his subordinates,” said Meyers. “His eight years of enlisted experience as a NCO is evident in his approach to Soldier-mentorship, development, and his ability to relate to his Soldiers.”
Sands’ community service was also evaluated and put him ahead of his peers. As a volunteer mentor with the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy, Sands serves as a mentor to troubled youths before, during and after their attendance at the 22-week academy. Each youth Sands mentors is a previous high school student who quit school between the ages of 16-18. In his role as a volunteer to the academy, he mentors and motivates the youth to help them re-integrate as productive members of society.
“He meets with the academy four times during the cycle and maintains communication with his student during the training cycle,” said 119th Field Artillery Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Robert Frazier. “Among other things he helps them with school applications; developing resumes; and maintaining constructive employment or entering into military service.”
According to Sands, community participation is essential to democracy.
“Community service is built upon the same foundation that gave birth to the Army values,” said Sands. “As a father and a Soldier, I want my children and the children of fellow Americans to not only be safe and free but also to inherit a democracy that is rich, benevolent and leaves no one behind.”
In addition to Friday’s formal award presentation at the Pentagon by the Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, Sands and other Army National Guard members will be recognized for their achievements by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the state’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais at a memorial and pass-in-review ceremony at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, Aug. 21, 2015.