IDAHO NATIONAL GUARD SENDS PERSONNEL TO WASHINGTON, D.C. TO ASSIST 59TH PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

IDAHO NATIONAL GUARD SENDS PERSONNEL TO WASHINGTON, D.C. TO ASSIST 59TH PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

Idaho Military Division Public Affairs

(GOWEN FIELD) — The Idaho National Guard will send approximately 300 Soldiers and Airmen to Washington, D.C. in the coming days to assist district and federal agencies with the presidential inauguration. These Guardsmen will augment the Washington D.C. National Guard and serve in support of the U.S. Secret Service, the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating the event.

Personnel will begin departing from Gowen Field in Boise less than 72 hours after Gov. Brad Little approved the mission. The Nation’s Guard response could include an estimated 25,000 Guard members from all states and territories.

“The National Guard has participated in every presidential inauguration in our nation’s history,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho. “It is an honor to be a part of the tradition of ensuring the peaceful and orderly transition of national power; an act that separates us from many other countries across the world.”

Guardsmen will travel to Washington, D.C. via military airlift and contracted aircraft with standard government-issued equipment to perform a number of potential tasks to include security, communications, medical, logistics, and safety support to district and federal agencies. Nearly half of the National Guard task force will conduct security-related duties to include traffic control or by assisting visitors to proper assembly locations as well as entry and exit points.

The Idaho National Guard has planned for more than a month to send roughly a dozen personnel to the region in support of the inauguration. The increase in personnel is part of a new request to provide additional Guard support and represents roughly six percent of the Idaho National Guard force.

This deployment does not involve Soldiers and Airmen already working in their communities as part of the COVID-19 response effort. The Idaho National Guard will continue to maintain its capacity to provide emergency response in Idaho, whether it be a COVID surge, civil unrest, natural disaster or other emergency response function.

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, last summer the Idaho National Guard sent Soldiers and helicopters to fight California wildfires and more than 400 Soldiers to Washington, D.C. to assist with civil unrest response. Additionally, the Idaho National Guard continues to provide state emergency relief here at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soldier becomes Idaho’s first female 19D cavalry scout instructor

Soldier becomes Idaho’s first female 19D cavalry scout instructor

Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur, Idaho Military Division Public Affairs

Sgt. Sarah Field put on the Army uniform for her first time when she enlisted in June 2010, and 10 years later, she puts on that uniform with a little more pride as she is now the Idaho Army National Guard’s first certified female 19D cavalry scout instructor at the 1st Battalion, 204th Regional Training Institute (Armor) at Gowen Field.

Although she grew up in Boise, Idaho, Field started her military career in the Utah National Guard, while she attended college at Utah State University. During her time in the Utah National Guard she served one combat tour in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as a chaplain assistant. Following her initial military training and deployment, Field graduated from USU in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation. After graduation, she transferred to the Idaho Army National Guard to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, to come back to her hometown.

In 2020, she transitioned into the combat arms, wanting to be a cavalry scout, with the seed planted in her mind of becoming a certified instructor. While assigned to the HHC, 2nd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, Field became a more experienced scout team member as a truck commander and Bradley gunner. On Dec. 4, Field became certified to instruct cavalry scouts in the Military Occupational Specialty – Reclassification course (MOS-R) and on Dec. 22, she became certified to instruct the Bradley Commander and Gunner Course (BCGC). Her next goal is to be certified as an instructor for the Advanced Leadership Course (ALC).

“Becoming a certified instructor can be a long process,” said Field. “First you must go through the specific class as a student, then shadow the class, and follow up by teaching specific lesson plans back to the instructors. Once you complete those steps you become a provisional instructor and teach the classes while you are being shadowed and evaluated. I am now certified in two of the three courses in just nine months.”

Field attended the MOS-R as a cavalry scout student in February 2020. She was the only female in the combat arms class of 12 students but she knew she had to get through the challenging course to be considered for an instructor position.

“The MOS-R course is demanding and extremely physically and mentally challenging,” said Field. “It starts off with a 12-mile ruck march, heavy physical demands testing, day and night land navigation and works up to the Gunnery Skills Testing. I was definitely nervous and afraid of failing, but I knew if I didn’t try then I would never know what I was capable of accomplishing in my career.”

The GST consists of testing on ammunition and vehicle identification, small and medium weapons systems and other Bradley platform specific tasks. Despite having little previous combat arms experience, Field went on to graduate the 19D MOS-R in March and the 19D BCGC and the 19D ALC in August, completing all of the courses the 19D instructors teach. She is now certified as the instructor for the two courses and is currently starting the process to be certified as the instructor for the 19D ALC.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity be the first female instructor here at the Regional Training Institute. I feel it is important to have diversity in the learning environment,” said Field. “We all have different experiences and can relate to others in different ways. I have been able to use my gifts and talents to enhance the ways I teach our curriculum at the schoolhouse, helping students overcome their own challenges and learn and grow as Soldiers.”

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Operation Uplift and Serve

Businessmen Troy McClain and Bedros Keuilian support Idaho’s Youth ChalleNGe Academy with a big surprise
By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur

PIERCE, Idaho – One of Idaho’s well-known reality TV show stars and businessman Troy McClain, joined forces with international businessman Bedros Keuilian who is widely known for his influential fitness brands as well as one of the largest health franchise entrepreneurs in the world today. Now, the Idaho National Guard knows him for his act of kindness on Nov. 6 by donating thousands of dollars’ worth of gym equipment to the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy.

McClain focuses on making positive changes in the lives of children around the globe. Today, he honed in locally to show his support to the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy. Inspired by the Adjutant General of Idaho Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak’s passion for giving back to the IDYCA, McClain joined the cause. The IDYCA is a Department of Defense and IDNG collaborative program designed to give second chances to Idaho’s youth who are 16 to 18 years old, and who have either dropped out of high school or are at risk of doing so.

A month earlier, the IDNG invited McClain to visit the IDYCA. Garshak spoke passionately about his commitment to the Idaho program and his commitment to the cadets. During the visit, McClain asked both the students and faculty the question, “If you could have one thing to help support this program, what would that be?” He then repeated the same question to leadership of the IDNG.

McClain said he was awed by each response. In each answer they all simply asked to make the program better for the cadets who follow their footsteps. The cadets collectively identified the need for better fitness equipment; the faculty and staff requested more inspirational and motivational leaders who could engage with the cadets; and the IDNG leadership wanted more exposure for the IDYCA so the public can learn more about this program.

“Armed with my answers and inspired by the thoughtfulness for others I could only identify one single person who would be able to achieve all these requests in one,” said McClain. “I immediately called my good friend and businessman Bedros Keuilian. In such a time of crisis, I knew getting gym equipment; access to motivational speakers; and covering delivery costs would to be limited. I also knew the best way to get ahead is to give back and I absolutely knew Keuilian was the man to call. When I call on friends for help, I vow to ensure it wont be for myself and it will be for a cause that aligns with their values and propose in life.”

Keuilian was an immediate yes for donating the gym equipment and giving his time to visit the academy, and to meet and inspire the cadets. The equipment donated consists of new balance balls, battle ropes, box jumps, jump ropes, kettlebells, medicine balls, pull-up stations and weight-lifting sandbags. To top it all off, McClain and Keuilian created a team of motivated representatives and flew them to Pierce to spend the day with the cadets. Former Navy SEAL, CIA contractor and TV actor Ray “Cash” Care, and U.S. Marine Steve Eckert, were brought along to visit the cadets and instruct a special workout session designed to prove to the cadets that they can endure and overcome difficult challenges. By the end of the workout, each cadet successfully completed the rigorous tasks provided by Care and Eckert.

The IDYCA is administered by the Department of Defense and is a cooperative program between the Idaho Military Division and the National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe Program. The academy provides students the potential to earn up to a year’s worth of credits, to graduate from the program with a high school diploma or GED, or return to their respective high schools to graduate with their class.

For motivation, the cadets participated in an extremely challenging obstacle course to build resiliency and Keuilian delivered an inspirational speech about what he endured in his life to get to where he is today.

“I didn’t even make it through high school. What makes me think I could make it through college?” said Keuilian. “How could I own a fitness franchise and a software company? Because I have heart. I am driven and because I know my purpose.”

More than 30 U.S. states currently have a similar cooperative program. Idaho’s program has helped reshape the lives of more than 1,200 Idaho teens since welcoming its first class in January 2014. Each class is a 22-week program and is offered twice a year.

“The Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy’s mission to reclaim the lives of Idaho’s at-risk youth is one of my top priorities,” said Garshak. “The Idaho National Guard is so grateful that these amazing people were willing to donate their time and talent today to help our cadets realize their full potential.”

Cyber warriors train alongside key state partners

Cyber warriors train alongside key state partners

More than a dozen Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers participated in the National Guard’s Cyber Shield 20 exercise Sept 12-27.  Members of Idaho’s Defense Cyber Operations Element were among nearly 600 Soldiers from more than 40 states who participated in the two-week training event.

The defensively focused tactical annual cyber exercise was hosted virtually this year and gave Idaho Soldiers the chance to develop and use their cyber defense skills while building key relationships with the state’s Office of Information Technology Services, its mission partner, during the exercise.

“We ensure the state understands our capabilities and that if called upon, we can respond within the legal bounds of cyber defense,” said Col. Dan Lister, IDARNG Chief Information Officer.

During the exercise, each team worked with a mission partner representing an industry partner. Teams assessed networks for vulnerabilities and assisted in recovery operations after a cyber incident.

“It sharpens the skills of our cyber-warriors, who hone their skills throughout the year and the come here ready to lock and load on their weapon systems, their computers,” said Maj. Eric Burgan, the team’s deputy team chief.

Teams spent the first week of the exercise training on cyber threat analysis, systems analysis, information control systems and information operations. The second week tested Soldiers’ skills while conducting cyber incident response and network defense operations.

In previous years, the exercise focused on a weeklong scenario held in person at a central location, but with teams spread out across the country to accommodate Covid-19 safety restrictions, exercises focused on two vignettes per day, which were designed to test specific skill sets.

Burgan said training alongside the state’s IT office allows the team to build trust at the top level that extends to Idaho’s local cities and counties. Across the nation, National Guard DCOEs work with public partners to asses vulnerabilities and help protect public networks.

Idaho’s DCOE stood up in 2016 with the intent to train with community partners and respond to any cyber emergencies within the state, similar to other emergency missions the Idaho National Guard performs.

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39 former Marine Reservists enlist into the Idaho Army National Guard

Marine to Guard

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.

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Idaho National Guard assists California with wildland fires

Idaho National Guard assists California with wildland fires

The Idaho National Guard sent three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and nearly two-dozen personnel on Aug. 27 to assist in battling the California wildfires. Earlier in the week, the Idaho Army National Guard Aviation Group trained on the specialized bucket equipment unique to helicopters and designed specifically for aerial firefighting.

“California is currently requesting six Type-1 Firefighting Aircraft and we’re one of the only units currently available to fulfill that request,” said Col. Christopher Burt, Idaho Army National Guard state aviation officer. “We are trained, ready and eager to help our neighbors in California.”

The team from Idaho includes pilots and crew chiefs who make up the flight crews, along with essential maintenance and support personnel, as well as two flight paramedics augmenting California National Guard UH-60 MEDEVAC crews. They will work in cooperation with several other states as they battle the massive fires that have already consumed more than 1 million acres across the Golden State.

“Our UH-60s are three of nearly 80 civilian and military aircraft from around the nation supporting this crisis response,” said Capt. Eric Fitzpatrick, officer in charge of Idaho’s team. “Civilian aircraft are the primary effort but they have reached capacity so this is where the National Guard comes in: to help fellow citizens in need, whether back home in Idaho or around the country.”

While Idaho Army Aviation provides this support to the citizens of California, the Idaho National Guard as a whole continues to maintain its readiness to respond to fires, or any other emergencies here in Idaho, if called upon.

Idaho National Guard responds to three search and rescues

lakota helicopter

Article courtesy KIVI Channel 6

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho National Guard has the capability to fly either their Black Hawk or Lakota helicopters into the Idaho backcountry for search and rescues.

On Thursday morning, a team responded to a remote area in the Idaho City area after a person riding an ATV crashed, the other two rescues from the past week included hikers.

The Idaho National Guard used a hoist recovery and flew these three people out of the backcountry to receive the medical care they needed.

“We don’t get the information too much on the why’s or the how’s, we get the approval to go and we are always willing to go help,” said Army National Guard pilot Nathan Spaulding. “It is really rewarding.”

A rescue begins with authorities in rural Idaho calling for extraction, then if crews are available, they start planning out the logistics.

“Location is an important one because we got to get to the right spot and sometimes that can be a challenge,” said Army National Guard pilot Mitchell Watson. “We want to know things like elevation, temperature, how many are injured, and the nature of their injuries.”

While communicating with ground crews, the two pilots assess the situation, in these rescues, the hoist operator lowered the medic down to the injured person.

“Then the medic will typically package the patient, put them in some type of litter,” said Watson. They will call us back then we will hoist out the patient and the medic.”

This four-person crew relies on training to hone their skills to ensure a successful mission in some of the most challenging terrain in Idaho.

“We are making a difference, and that’s why I think I like it,” said Watson.

Impact summer: High school student spends summer at basic training, preparing for future

Amoruso

Capt. Robert J. Taylor
Idaho Army National Guard

Idaho Army National Guard Pvt. Ashlynn Amoruso grew up wanting to be a surgeon.  Over the summer, she took a big step toward accomplishing that goal by completing basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

“I asked my friends, ‘what did you do this summer?’ and they said they didn’t do much because of Covid-19,” she said. “I did a lot of things I never expected I’d do.”

Amoruso enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard in December and is still 17. She’ll start her senior year of high school today and continue both her military and civilian education after graduating in May.

“Being in the National Guard is really cool,” Amoruso said. “I don’t think I’d want to go active duty. My dad’s in the National Guard and has done a lot of things, and I thought that was really cool.”

Like her father, 1st Sgt. Dan Amoruso, Pvt. Amoruso will serve as a 68W combat medic. She said she’s always been fascinated with being either a trauma or neurosurgeon after reading books and watching videos about doctors while growing up. She plans to earn her EMT certificate during the school year, which will reduce the length of time she’ll need to spend at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, training to become a medic.

Amoruso plans to start college at Boise State University after she graduates high school and completes Advanced Individual Training. As a member of the Idaho National Guard, she’ll be eligible for both Federal Tuition Assistance and the State Assistance Tuition Program. Each program will provide up to $4,000 a year in tuition and/or fees. Boise State currently charges $2,766.18 a semester in tuition and an additional $1,263.82 in fees. She is also eligible to use the GI Bill to help cover living expenses while in college, in addition to her monthly drill paycheck.

“I’m proud that my daughter joined the Idaho Army National Guard,” said First Sgt. Amoruso. “I think she saw the positive things the National Guard has done for our family as she grew up, and that influenced her decision to enlist.”

Basic training was Pvt. Amoruso‘s first time visiting somewhere on the East Coast. She enlisted as part of the National Guard’s Split Training Option, which allowed her to attend basic training between her junior and senior years of high school. She’ll attend Advanced Individual Training after she graduates high school.

“It taught me a lot about dealing with other people,” she said. “I met people from all over the U.S. and interacting with them was different than interacting with people here in Idaho.”

During basic training, she repelled from a 40-foot wall, spent weeks learning how to fire the M4 rifle, and learned the basics of being a Soldier, including marching, physical fitness and the Army values. Amoruso said her favorite part was learning to throw a grenade.

“It was super loud and you could feel it,” she said. “You could never pull the pin out with your teeth like they do in the movies.”

 

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A day in the life of a rescue helicopter pilot

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chad Queen

By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs

Spend a day with Idaho farmer and Guardsman Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chad Queen, one of the Idaho Army National Guard’s rescue helicopter pilots, and feel firsthand what it is like to fly the UH-72 Lakota helicopter and help save lives.

The clunking and puttering sounds of the tractor are too loud and the vibration from the engine on his leg masked the familiar feeling of the phone ringing in his pocket so he missed the call. Not 30 seconds later, his wife is running toward him from the ranch house with a phone in her hand and her arms waving above her, motioning for him to stop, as he is barreling down a row of overgrown hay.

Queen brings the tractor to a halt and idles the engine. He takes the call from his wife’s phone. An Idaho National Guard flight operations officer is on the line. “We have a possible rescue, can you assemble a crew?” A crew consists of the pilot, a crew chief and a paramedic. Today, there are two individuals lost on the South Fork of the Boise River near Elmore County, north of Mountain Home, Idaho.

It is a warm summer day, just after 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Queen leaves his tractor in the field and rushes to change out of his dusty farm clothes and into his flight suit. He calls his crew to help, kisses his wife and gets into his car, all within a few minutes. Queen calls the flight operations officer. “We are 30 minutes out.”

“I am always pleased when I can assist with a rescue mission, it is a great way to serve my local community,” said Queen. “With over thirty years in the Army, I have had a lot of assignments, but none so rewarding as this.”

The previous evening three individuals flipped in their raft on the river. One individual was able to pull himself out of the water safely, walking several hours to find a phone around midnight and call for help. He did not see his two friends get out of the river. Air St. Luke’s flew up and down the river throughout the night, unable to find either of the individuals. Elmore County Search and Rescue set up a command center nearby and started the ground search.

As soon as Air St. Luke’s and the Elmore County Search and Rescue realized the lost individuals could be down in a river canyon and unreachable, they requested the Idaho Army National Guard’s UH-72 Lakota helicopter. They called the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center dispatch, located in Florida, for assistance. The AFRCC approved the mission and called the Idaho National Guard flight operations officer.

Idaho’s two UH-72 helicopters belong to the IDARNG Detachment 1, Delta Company, 112th Service and Support Battalion. They have a unique hoist and lift rescue attachment and are strictly used for domestic operations and rescues.

Queen and his crew arrive at Gowen Field, Boise’s Air Terminal and National Guard base, around 10:30 a.m. and begin preparing the helicopter for its flight. Using a preflight checklist, Queen ensures the fuel amount is accurate for the mission with the weight of the crewmembers and the additional approximate weight of the rescued individuals.

The crew chief ensures the aircraft is ready for the mission and Queen gathers the map, the route and coordinates, weather data and any other information needed from a preflight brief with the flight operations officer.

The helicopter is ready and crew are ready. They grab their personal survival bags, helmets and harnesses. Queen is sitting in the cockpit and taxis the helicopter onto the open space of the flight line. He lifts up on the collective and brings the helicopter a few feet above the ground for several seconds, performing a hover check to calculate power requirements with the combined calculations of weight adjustments, weather, altitude and fuel amount.

Queen performs final radio checks and they take off high into the air, heading east away from Gowen Field, toward Mountain Home.

Queen speaks through his headset. “Five minutes out from the location site.” The crew chief attaches his tether to the tether of the hoist. He tugs on it firmly, going through the motions of several series of operational checks on the equipment. The hoist equipment is ready.

Both the crew chief and the paramedic hang out of the helicopter on the ledge of each side, searching the ground below them, their feet resting on the skid platform of the helicopter. The helicopter blades are rotating loudly above them.

They search deep into the gulches near the river. They fly up and down the river, searching in the water and alongside the riverbanks at a low altitude and low air speed.

Two individuals are spotted walking on a dirt road in a narrow canyon area. Queen lands in a nearby opening. The paramedic jumps out of the helicopter and runs to the two individuals. Fortunately, they are the lost individuals and are only suffering from minor injuries and dehydration.

The individuals are rescued without the need for the hoist equipment and first aid is performed on them as they fly back to the command center where ground ambulances and a large excited group of family members and friends are waiting, cheering as the helicopter lands.

It is nearing 1:00 p.m. and Queen flies the helicopter back to Gowen Field. He and his crew feel a release of tension to know they successfully helped in the rescue of the two individuals.

Queen and his crew train for daytime and nighttime scenarios and with different rescue agencies such as fire departments, sheriff offices, forest rangers, wildland firefighters and other first responders.

“The crew can respond to assist with several emergency situations like floods, fires and mountain rescues,” said Queen. “We train with local first responders to assure proficiency for when it counts.”

Queen taxis the helicopter toward the hanger at Gowen Field. He and his crew perform the post flight checklist and debrief, positioning the helicopter in the hanger, preparing it for the next rescue.

Queen drives up his gravel driveway hearing the familiar crisp sound of the rock under his tires. It is late in the afternoon now. He quickly eats a sandwich, changes back into his farm clothes and walks up the already swathed row of hay, toward his tractor. He climbs into his tractor and begins barreling down the row that he had abandoned earlier, feeling the warmth of the hot summer sunlight on his face and a sense of relief from the day’s successful rescue mission.

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There’s a snake in my boot – Key military leaders assist with tagging and the study of rattlesnakes

By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs

Although snakes did not end up in anyone’s boots as the popular phrase states, they did end up in key leaders’ hands. Idaho National Guard key leaders held rattlesnakes and assisted the Idaho National Guard Environmental Management Office biologists with tagging, studying and measuring rattlesnakes on July 8, at the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, locally known as the NCA.

Snakes have been an ongoing national and local interest with a legacy project directed by the Department of Defense due to a common snake fungal disease that affected preservation and spread in the United States. Biologists here continue to test and study rattlesnakes for the fungal disease.

“We train to protect our nation’s interests and the preservation of our environment is, and should be, one of our most important national interests,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho. “We don’t take care of the environment in order to train, we train to preserve the environment.”

The Idaho National Guard continues to partner with the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies to protect the NCA’s natural and cultural resources while simultaneously training in what is one of the largest northwest joint combined arms military training sites; the Orchard Combat Training Center.

The OCTC’s 143,000 acres has provided training grounds for the Idaho Army National Guard and air combat training for the Idaho Air National Guard, as well as neighboring states, since 1953.

The current program study, run by Boise State University graduate student, Kristina Parker, is a collaborative partnership between the IDARNG, BSU, U.S. Geological Survey and Northern Nazarene University, funded by the IDARNG. IDARNG biologists have collected data on the environment in the NCA, in accordance with Department of Defense requirements, as part of an ongoing comprehensive study of the land since 1987.

“Our data shows that the base of this environment, which is the vegetation, has had positive effects over this amount of time,” said Zoe Duran, Idaho National Guard Management Office biologist. “This is because of the resources we are able to put into wildland fire prevention and active restoration of the vegetation.”

The NCA is home to one of largest North American populations of breeding raptors, to include hawks, falcons, eagles and owls.

Idaho National Guard biologists conduct studies to ensure a robust and abundant diet for the birds of prey, like snakes, ground squirrels and lizards, which promotes conservation of the overall wildlife and their habitats within the NCA. The Idaho National Guard ensures the land is well-maintained with healthy vegetation to sustain a balanced ecosystem.

“The military has been known for doing a great job of maintaining their natural resources and conserving the natural landscape of their training areas,” said Kevin Warner, the Idaho National Guard’s Environmental Management Office natural resource specialist.

The NCA is a unique place in Idaho that can sustain the natural birds of prey and other wildlife, while sharing the land with livestock, public land use and military training at the OCTC.

Idaho National Guard key leaders and biologists recorded the health of each of the rattlesnakes they studied and tagged new snakes they found. Fortunately, no one ended up with a snake in his or her boot and the ongoing efforts of good environmental stewardship continued by gaining valuable data from another successful day in the NCA.  

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