Today, more than three dozen former Marine Reservists enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard. Idaho’s newest Citizen-Soldiers all served in Company C, 4th Tank Battalion, which was deactivated in August as the Marines look to divest its armor battalions.
“Marines make excellent Soldiers,” Brig. Gen. Farin Schwartz, commander of the Idaho Army National Guard said. “They each have the potential to make an immediate impact to their new unit and have already proven to be successful in the military.”
New recruits can take six to eighteen months to train before they can reach their assigned unit and once there, must continue to train and learn their new job before they can fully contribute to their unit’s mission. Most of the Marines who transferred into the National Guard will have similar positions when possible, Schwartz said.
Marine 1st Sgt. Craig Wilcox said more than a third of the company’s Marines transferred into the Idaho Army National Guard for one of two reasons: to continue to serve their country locally or to continue to work on or in tanks. Company C operated the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank while the 116th Brigade Combat Team of the Idaho Army National Guard operates the updated M1A2 Sep v.
“I looked at all of my options and I knew I wanted to stay in Idaho because my family is here,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Dycus, one of the Marines who transitioned into the Idaho Army National Guard. “Initially, I wanted to stay within the tank community but decided to look for a more real-world option for my future and I chose the information technology field. I am looking at this from a positive aspect and I am thankful for this new opportunity. Change can often be a good thing.”
The majority of the Marines who enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard are tankers, maintainers and other support individuals.
“We tried to match their Marine skill sets to an Army military occupational specialty as much as possible,” Schwartz said. “And we’ll continue to pay them special attention for the foreseeable future to ensure their transition is as smooth as possible.”
Wilcox said Marine Reservists were given the option of transferring to a new job and unit in the Marine Reserve, to transfer to a new branch or join the Individual Ready Reserve. An additional 10 Marines joined National Guard units in other states.
The number of Marines to transition into the Idaho Army National Guard increases the total strength of the organization by more than a percent.
In 2019 the Marines began divesting its tanks and reducing its artillery cannon battalions to focus on developing light mobility options to get around island chains with the assistance of unmanned systems and mobile anti-ship missiles. The efforts are part of Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s plan to modernize the corps to become a lighter and faster force.
The Marines also plan to reduce its number of infantry battalions from 24 to 21, artillery cannon batteries from 21 to five and amphibious vehicle companies from six to four.
Locally, Wilcox said that a small number of Marines will remain on Gowen Field to maintain the Marines’ connection to the Treasure Valley until a decision is made regarding future units being assigned to Gowen Field. In the meantime, Marines will continue to engage in community relations events, host their annual Toys for Tots program and conduct funerals and honors for Idaho’s Marine veterans.
By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
Approximately 40 Idaho Citizen-Solders are now equipped with the knowledge and training to fight wildland fires, as the Idaho National Guard hosted its first wildland firefighting training course at Gowen Field, Idaho, June 15-19 and June 22-26.
Although Gowen Field and the Orchard Combat Training Center fire departments have qualified wildland firefighters, this is the first time the five-day courses have been offered to non-firefighter Guardsmen, enabling them the opportunity to earn an Incident Qualification Card, commonly known as a Red Card certification.
As Soldiers become certified by Idaho Department of Lands, they are prepared to assist firefighting efforts in the event the governor declares a state emergency. Additionally, it allows the Guardsmen the opportunity to learn a new skill they can use for job opportunities within the military or the civilian workforce.
“The Idaho National Guard is proud to offer our Soldiers the opportunity to participate in this entry-level firefighter course,” said Brig. Gen. Russ Johnson, director of the joint staff. “It enables us to enhance our capability to respond to local, state and federal calls with trained and qualified wildland firefighters.”
The Soldiers who were willing and able to complete training standards for this course are also willing and able to volunteer for state activation during the fire season, Aug. 1 through Nov. 30 of this year, if requested.
“We want to train and Red Card certify as many as 200-300 Guardsmen over the next several years,” said Lt. Col. Tony Vincelli, director of strategic plans for the joint staff. “It’s part of our overall strategy that the Idaho National Guard be prepared to support any domestic emergency.”
The week consisted of two online introduction courses leading into 32 hours of training in the Basic Firefighting and Wildland Fire Behavior courses and the demonstration of individual physical fitness by completing a pack test consisting of a three-mile ruck march carrying a 45-pound pack in less than 45 minutes.
“I have always been one to just go for it and volunteer for everything,” said Spc. Tatiana Campbell from Bravo Company, 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion. “As one of the few females signed up for the course, I was pretty impressed with the physical challenge of it. Physically it wasn’t too hard on me, but if you are physically fit, it’s going to be easier on you.”
National Guard Bureau provides funding for specific wildfire prevention and protection activities. These courses were offered at Gowen Field at no cost to the Idaho Guardsmen. When available, this funding is provided annually to Idaho and other western states prone to wildland fires.
“Wildland firefighting is something I have always wanted to do,” said Sgt. Nolan Myer from the 148th Field Artillery Regiment. “Within 45 minutes of getting the email that there was a wildland firefighting course being offered, I sent an email immediately back and signed right up.”
The IDL and the OCTC firefighters taught the course and at the end of each of the weeklong courses, the IDL certified those individuals who met the qualifications and issued their Red Cards. Every year those individuals can recertify to maintain their skills and Red Card certification.
“This unique training compliments the existing levels of specialized capability that currently exist in the Idaho National Guard,” said Johnson. “And it further reinforces our commitment to serving and protecting our great citizens.”
Story by Crystal Farris
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
Idaho Army National Guardsman Pfc. Kolten Jordan needed a bit of direction in his life after graduating high school. Working full time in the construction industry just to make ends meet, he decided to find a more enjoyable career and a way to help pay for college.
“I really wanted to go to school to get a degree,” said Jordan. “After hearing that I could receive an enlistment bonus and college tuition benefits through the guard, I knew it would be a good direction to take in my life.”
Jordan enlisted as a cannon crew member with the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team’s A Battery, 148th Field Artillery Regiment in November 2018. Upon joining, he received a $20,000 enlistment bonus, the Montgomery GI Bill Kicker of $350 per academic month and the ability to earn an additional $8,000 in annual federal and state tuition assistance.
Since returning from basic and advanced individual training, Jordan has started using his school tuition assistance to pursue an associate degree in fire science at Boise State University and has received $10,000 of his enlistment bonus.
“Receiving my bonus was one of the biggest reliefs I’ve ever had,” said Jordan. “The money has so far helped me pay for college, enabled me to give my girlfriend a good birthday and is still helping to keep me on my feet with bills while I focus on school.”
The Idaho Army National Guard is one of approximately five other states national-wide to offer a $20,000 non-prior service enlistment bonus as part of a new pilot program that began in October 2018. The organization has since signed 93 enlistees under the bonus.
“The bonus program is just one example of how the Idaho Army National Guard helps Soldiers accomplish whatever they want in their civilian life,” said Brig. Gen. Farin Schwartz, commander, Idaho Army National Guard. “The benefits of our organization make the Guard an easy first choice for Idahoans who want to serve their country while remaining close to home.”
The bonus incentivizes Soldiers to maintain good standing throughout their commitment by changing the way it pays over the course of six years compared to previous bonuses. Previous bonuses paid service members half their entitlement after completing advanced individual training and the remaining half in even allotments every two years for the remainder of their contracts.
While the new bonus also pays out half after AIT, service members now receive the second half in even allotments dispersed annually on the anniversary of their AIT graduation, but only if they are in good standing.
By issuing payments every year, the bonus gives service members money they can count on more frequently, said Sgt. Preston Hair, Idaho Army National Guard recruiter. It’s an added benefit to fulfilling requirements service members are already expected to meet regardless of a bonus, added Hair.
“I’ve always been someone who wants to get a job done well but the bonus payments definitely help motivate me to maintain good readiness standing with the guard,” said Jordan. “It’s always nice to receive a payment, especially for doing something that I absolutely love being a part of.”
To qualify for the enlistment bonus, individuals must meet various initial entry requirements, including: no prior military service, score above a 50 on the ASVAB and have either a high school diploma or a GED in combination with 15 or more college credits.
Additionally, enlistees must sign for six years and chose from a list of the organization’s 10 to 15 qualifying military occupational specialties.
The organization also offers educational incentives to those qualifying under the new pilot program bonus, including the Montgomery GI Bill Kicker of up to $350 per academic month and a student loan repayment program that pays up to $50,000 in previously acquired academic loans. This is in addition to $4,000 in federal educational assistance and $4,000 in state educational assistance service members are already entitled to per year.
The Idaho National Guard sent approximately 400 Soldiers to Washington D.C. today to assist with guarding federal monuments, buildings and other property. The Soldiers will augment the D.C. National Guard and serve in support of the United States Park Police and Metropolitan Police Department.
Soldiers departed from Gowen Field, Pocatello and Spokane less than 25 hours after the mission was approved by Gov. Brad Little. Idaho is one of 11 states to send additional support to the nation’s capital.
“The key to being successful in this mission, and it’s a tough mission, is your professionalism,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho and commander of the Idaho National Guard. He addressed the Soldiers before they departed from Gowen Field. “I have all the confidence in the world that this group in front of me, from the leadership down, are professional Idaho National Guardsmen.”
Idaho National Guardsmen are trained to protect life and to preserve property, peace and public safety while respecting the right of the American public to peaceably assemble.
“Whether responding to a crisis in Idaho or another state, the principles of the Idaho National Guard remain the same: to help local jurisdictions, city governments and state agencies ensure public safety,” said Garshak. “Regardless of where we are in the U.S., our role is to support civilian authorities and our personnel are trained to protect life, preserve property and ensure people’s right to peacefully demonstrate.”
The Idaho National Guard has deployed out of state in support of national emergencies in the past. From Hurricane Katrina in 2005, wildland fire suppression in Oregon and Washington in 2015, to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria recovery support in 2017, the Idaho National Guard has provided hundreds of Soldiers and Airmen over the last decade in response to national emergencies. More recently, the Idaho National Guard provided state emergency relief here at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
Story by Capt. Robert Taylor
Idaho Army National Guard
Idaho National Guard Soldiers and Airmen participated in a subject-matter expert exchange Sept. 16–20 at the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations center with members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
The mission was part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program and included a team of four Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers and two 124th Fighter Wing Airmen. Subject-matter expert exchanges facilitate the exchange of ideas, capabilities, training and experience between a host country and a state’s National Guard.
“These exchanges provide a great opportunity for our Idaho Guardsmen to not only train along side Cambodian Soldiers, but to also learn and grow, both personally and professionally,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho.
Garshak and a small team of Idaho National Guardsmen also spent the week in Cambodia meeting with embassy officials and discussing ways to better collaborate across issues of defense cooperation.
Soldiers and Airmen spent the week training with members of Cambodia’s peacekeeping directorate who are preparing to deploy to several countries as part of the National Center for Peacekeeping, Mines, and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance program. More than 70 NPMEC Soldiers made up three groups consisting of engineer, medical and leadership engagements.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goodman. “Their ingenuity is through the roof.”
Throughout the week, Goodman and Lt. Col. Brandon Pieper, explored basic first aid and CPR techniques with NPMEC Soldiers.
Pieper, a traditional Guardsman and dentist from Boise, Idaho, said he volunteered to participate in the exchange to get outside of his comfort zone of providing dental exams during drill weekend. In addition, he wanted to work with members of the Idaho Army National Guard.
He said the experience gave him a similar perspective to deploying with the Army and having to form a team with people he doesn’t normally work with.
Engineer Soldiers from both armies worked together to build a 30-foot beam bridge over a creek to increase their shared understanding of bridging concepts. The bridge will allow future students at the PKO to access the facility’s helicopter pad faster.
“Working with the NPMEC Soldiers left me energized each day with their enthusiasm of learning,” said Maj. Steve Keeton, an engineer officer.
Soldiers also reviewed and practiced troop leading procedures, land navigation and basic leadership skills together.
The exchange occurred during the Cambodia’s Pchum Ben, a 15-day religious festival, which gave Soldiers and Airmen the chance to visit a nearby temple and experience the country’s culture firsthand. Idaho and Cambodia have participated in the State Partnership Program since 2009. Soldiers and Airmen from the Idaho National Guard conduct approximately four subject-matter expert exchanges in Cambodia each year.
Story by Crystal Farris
Idaho Army National Guard
In October, the new Army Combat Fitness Test will be introduced throughout its ranks. Within the following 12 months, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers are expected to complete one not-for-record ACFT before it becomes the official for-record test in October 2020.
To prepare, the Idaho Army National Guard is taking a deliberate but active approach to ease logistical concerns, limit injuries and ensure overall success, said Command Sgt. Maj. Scott White, State Command Sergeant Major.
“Currently we are in the crawl phase of this transition,” said White. “We want to approach this methodically to take the Soldiers’ uncertainty out of it and provide units a comfort level before they even start thinking about running a test.”
Over the last six months, master fitness trainers have demonstrated the new test for units throughout the state. The demonstrations offer Soldiers insight into expectations and how to accurately conduct the six-event test.
During a demonstration on Gowen Field August 3, Soldiers with the state’s Joint Forces Headquarters had the opportunity to attempt events and receive feedback on form and ways to achieve better results.
“I think it may have been a shock to some of our Soldiers that there is such a contrast in physical demands between the current Army Physical Fitness Test and the ACFT,” said 1st Sgt. Valerie Walts. “Once we attempted some of the events a lot of them were a bit surprised how draining performing the entire test in a timed setting is going to be.”
The new test events are the three-repetition maximum deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release push-up, sprint-drag-carry, leg tuck and two-mile run. They require different techniques and body mechanics than the current three-event APFT does, explained Staff Sgt. Esteban Gonzalez, the state’s lead MFT. It also requires various types of equipment, unlike the APFT that requires none.
This fall, Idaho will receive approximately 800 lanes of equipment that include hexagon barbells, nylon drag sleds and medicine balls. The fielding will bring the Idaho Army National Guard into its walk-phase of the fitness transition by enabling it to conduct diagnostic tests and certify Soldiers who will be responsible for grading it.
However, there are ways individuals can train on their own now and with little to no equipment. Guidance on exercises, drills and sample training aids can be found at www.army.mil/acft. The website also offers other resources such as the Center for Army Lessons Learned Manual, an equipment list and a testing manual.
It is important Soldiers understand their current physical abilities and start training while there is still time, Gonzalez said. MFTs can provide Soldiers personal training advice and help units prepare by offering training plans and certifying graders.
“We strongly recommend using the MFTs and our demonstrations so that when it comes time to conduct the ACFT Soldiers are comfortable and ready,” he said. “MFTs are one of the best benefits available to Soldiers. As long as individuals are dedicated to showing up, the MFTs are willing to work with them.”
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JOIN the Idaho Army National Guard
Story by Capt. Robert Taylor
Idaho Army National Guard
After three days of intense competition during the Idaho National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition, Sgt. Roy Barrera Jr. and Spc. Colton Crockett were recognized as the Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year.
Throughout the competition, four NCOs and 11 Soldiers from across the state competed in the event held at Gowen Field and the Orchard Combat Training Center Sep. 5-7.
“This competition is about the warrior spirit,” said Brig. Gen. Farin Schwartz, commander, Idaho Army National Guard.
Barrera Jr. and Crockett both serve in the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team. Barrera Jr. is in the brigade’s headquarters company and Crockett serves in the 2nd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment.
Sgt. Andrew Henson, also from 2-116 CAV REG, finished second in the NCO category. Sgt. Jordan Hudson and Cpl. Juan Campos also competed to be the state’s top NCO.
Spc. Alex Amour finished as the runner up for the Soldier category. Spc. Jonathon Ames, Pfc. Rodney Farichild, Spc. Jaslyn Greco, Prf. Connor Hensley, Spc. Isaac Morado, Pfc. Adam Nichols, Pfc. Nathan Rands, Pfc. Benjamin Rudolph and Spc. Dakota Woodwick also competed in the completion.
“These Soldiers are a great representative of the Idaho Army National Guard,” Schwartz said. “Their high level of physical fitness and mental fitness separates them from their peers.”
Competitors were tested on numerous Army Warrior Tasks, including their ability to disassemble and reassemble multiple weapons; land navigation at day and night; ruck marching; shooting; combatives; first aid and the Army’s new Army Combat Fitness Test. Competitors were stressed physically with little sleep to push them to their limits.
FORT IRWIN, CA, UNITED STATES
Story by Capt. Robert Taylor
Brig. Gen. Michael K. Hanifan, deputy commanding general, United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, visited with 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team’s intelligence officers and sections June 3-4, 2019, at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, to see firsthand how the Army’s school for professional training of military intelligence prepares Soldiers to operate in a combat training center environment.
“I saw some sharp leader who knew what they were doing,” he said. “We need to equip them with the correct equipment and training.”
Hanifan said the school, located at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, has recently made three chances to its training requirements to provide Soldiers with effective and relevant training to be successful in their units. Those changes include placing an emphasis on getting away from creating only digital products and enhancing analog skills; shifting away from training on counterinsurgency in favor of decisive-engagement operations; and offering more training in a field environment outside of a classroom
“The changes in our focus has been very affective,” Hanifan said. “We’re headed in the right direction.”
Hanifan saw the effect of those changes on full display as the 116th CBCT’s intel sections worked to track the enemy on the battlefield using a combination of digital systems and analog products in the most realistic decisive-engagement field training environment the Army provides.
Throughout the simulated battle against opposing forces provided by the U.S. Army’s 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, brigade and battalion intelligence personnel work together to provide commanders at all levels with a common operating picture of friendly and enemy forces’ locations and dispositions.
Information flows up and down echelons across the battlefield to answer commanders’ priority intelligence requirements and to detect, find and destroy enemy assets using available assets, including non-lethal targeting options.
Information collected is analyzed and fed through the brigade’s planning process and current operation cell. Information collected on the battlefield is imperative for commanders and their staffs.
“As elements move forward, we provide the commander with the best enemy picture possible so he can leverage the combat power he has available to make the best decisions possible,” said Capt. William Miller, 2nd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment intelligence officer.
Hanifan, who also serves as the assistant adjutant general, Nevada Army National Guard, believes the National Training Center is the hardest intelligence battle Soldiers will fight, specifically designed to prepare Soldiers for operations in a combat zone. The training provides intel analyst the chance to test their skills against an actual force.
“It’s very realistic,” Spc. Anna Tinseth said. “It’s not notional. What you see on the map is what you’re going to see on the battlefield.”
Tinseth, a 35F intelligence analyst assigned to the Oregon Army National Guard’s 3-116th Cavalry Regiment, said the hands-on experience she is receiving during the 15-day field training exercise is increasing her understanding of her role in a battalion headquarters.
“I’m starting to understand how effective intelligence can be,” she said. “We can better prepare our line units to know what they are going to face on the battlefield.”
The 116th CBCT, one of the National Guard’s five armored brigade combat teams, is completing a National Training Center rotation at Fort Irwin, May 24 – June 20. NTC provides the brigade with the opportunity to train against a near-peer opposing force, challenging Soldiers’ tactical proficiencies and their technical expertise. More than 4,000 Soldiers, including Soldiers from Army National Guard units in 13 states, are participating in the exercise.
FORT IRWIN, CA, UNITED STATES
Story by Capt. Robert Taylor
Two companies from the Kansas Army National Guard’s 891st Engineer Battalion are currently completing a rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, to prepare to conduct future real-world missions during unit deployments.
The 242nd Engineer Company, based in Coffeyville, and the 772nd Engineer Mobility Augmentation Company, based in Pittsburgh, are providing engineer support to the Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team May 24 – June 20.
“Supporting another National Guard unit is what the Guard is all about,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony V. Mohatt, commander, Kansas Army National Guard. “Being able to support another Guard unit is something we’re proud to do as the Kansas Army National Guard and I’m glad we had the opportunity to do so this year.”
The 116th CBCT is one of the National Guard’s five armored brigade combat teams and is comprised of more than 3,000 Soldiers, including roughly 1,800 Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers and 1,200 Soldiers serving in battalions from the Montana, Nevada and Oregon Army National Guard. During the rotation, the brigade is supplemented by units from nine additional Army National Guard states and three U.S. Army Reserve units for a total force of more than 4,000 Soldiers.
The 772nd MAC enhances the brigade’s 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion’s mobility assets with its assault, breaching and counter-mobility equipment, including Assault Breacher Vehicles, the Volcano Mine System and M58 Mine Clearing Line Charges. Combat engineers also provide increased obstacle placement capabilities.
The 242nd Engineer Company provides the brigade with heavy construction equipment to dig anti-vehicle ditches, vehicle fighting positions and other survivability positions. Two of the company’s platoons are currently attached to the 116th BEB’s organic engineer companies.
The rotation provides both companies with the opportunity to execute its wartime missions in a tactical environment in the most realistic training environment the Army can provide.
“The training improves our lethality,” said Capt. Kevin Hubbard, 242nd Engineer Company commander. “We’re ready to deploy anywhere in the world.”
Throughout the rotation the 116th CBCT, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, will engage the U.S. Army’s 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in force-on-force simulated combat operations against a near-pear adversary.
“Coming to a NTC rotation allows for individual Soldier development, leader development and increased unit readiness to be ready for our federal mission when called upon.”
For Spc. Frankie Moore, a 772nd MAC 12B combat engineer, NTC also offers him the chance to spend additional time with his battle buddies.
“I love hanging out with the guys,” Moore said. “The comradery, trust and friendship I have with Soldiers is something I don’t have in the civilian world. I miss it from deployments.”