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Guardsmen honored as military, civilian leaders

NEW CASTLE, DELAWARE -- Guardsmen honored as military, civilian leaders 

By IRA PORTER · The News Journal · February 9, 2009 

For exemplifying the best in both of their dual roles - citizen and soldier - two members of the Delaware National Guard were honored Sunday.

Delaware Army National Guard Staff Sgt. John French, 36, of Wilmington, and Delaware Air National Guard Technical Sgt. Shemekia McEachron, 26, a former Delaware State University student now living in New York, were announced as recipients of the annual Col. S.B.I. Duncan Leadership Award during a ceremony at the Duncan Readiness Center in New Castle.

"It has a heritage to it," Technical Sgt. Benjamin Matwey said of the award, which was started in the mid-1960s by Duncan's family in recognition of his extensive volunteerism and leadership in both the civilian and military worlds. "All of the people selected for this award have gone on to bigger and better levels of senior leadership and that's proof in the pudding right there." 

French, a military policeman with the Guard's 153rd Military Police Company, completed two tours in Iraq with more than 100 combat missions, and helped train Iraqi community militia forces. He also spearheaded the security planning and oversight for the largest Iraqi police-recruiting drive held in the Arab Jabour area, during which more than 2,000 Iraqi civilians safely applied for positions. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions in Iraq. 

Stateside, French responded to Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and works as a state probation and parole officer in the Domestic Violence Unit. 

"This is the highlight of my military career," said French, who attended the event with his wife and parents. "Col. Duncan did a lot of great things during his time of service, and for me to even be thought of on the same level is truly an honor." 

McEachron, who joined the Delaware Guard while attending DSU, was recognized for her work in dining services and food accounting and praised for her excellent work in mentoring junior enlisted Guard members.

In 2003, during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, she was deployed to the United Arab Emirates, from which she helped establish a working base in Southwest Asia from bare-base conditions, setting up tents and other facilities needed to maintain the health and welfare of several thousand U.S. Army soldiers as combat operations intensified. 

In civilian life, McEachron was cited for her volunteer work in her community in New York, where she mentors youth and works with nonprofit organizations. 

"It's a great honor," McEachron said. "This is a great example how my group, which is a small group, is small in size but great in form." McEachron attended the service with her sister and niece, who are both in the armed forces. 

She serves the 166th Service Flight as the assistant dining hall supervisor. McEachron, who commutes monthly from New York to Delaware, is an auditor for BDO Seidman LLP. 

French and McEachron were honored in memory of Col. S.B.I. Duncan. Duncan was 14 when he started helping the Delaware State Militia in 1908 by doing chores and setting targets on rifle ranges. He enlisted in the First Delaware Infantry at 17 and went on to serve along the Mexican border in 1916, Europe in World War I, the European and Pacific Theaters in World War II and various calls to duty in Delaware. In total, he served for 35 years and in eight campaigns. His wife, Elmira Newell Duncan, created the foundation. His sons, Newell and Lt. Gen William Duncan, presented the awards. 

Contact Ira Porter at 324-2890 or iporter@delawareonline.com.