Idaho Military Division Public Affairs/Crystal Farris
Idaho Army National Guardsman Capt. John Bomsta and his teammate, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Smith from the West Virginia Army National Guard, were the top National Guard team and 10th out of 51 U.S. Army teams at the Best Ranger Competition April 18.
1st Lt. Christian Briggs, also in the Idaho Army National Guard, competed and placed 28th with his teammate, Spc. Jerry Marksbury from the Kentucky Army National Guard.
“Our Soldiers did an incredible job representing the National Guard and the Idaho Army National Guard at this year’s Best Ranger Competition,” said Brig. Gen. Farin Schwartz, assistant adjutant general – Army. “Their physical and mental perseverance is a testament to the quality of Soldier that makes up our great organization.”
It was the first time any Soldier from the organization had participated in the Best Ranger Competition since it started at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1982. The competition determines the best two-Soldier team based on their performance through a series of physical and technical events day and night.
“This is truly a team event,” said Bomsta. “Similar to combat, you have to find strength in one another to keep going through your most vulnerable moments. My teammate was a brave man and, like me, would not quit. Finishing with someone of his caliber made the competition that much better.”
In addition to being Ranger qualified, Guardsmen must try out to place on a team and, if they advance, complete a three-month training course leading up to the competition. The course provides each Guardsman time to effectively train for the events and learn to work as a team, said Bomsta.
In September 2020, he made it through tryouts at Fort Benning and returned to attend the train-up course in January. Bomsta, Briggs and their teammates were four of 16 National Guardsmen who competed.
When he returned for training, Bomsta moved to an apartment in Columbus, Georgia, with his wife and four children. Having his family there at the end of each day provided much-needed support, Bomsta said.
For the next three months, his team trained with coaches 10 hours a day to prepare for the vigor of the competition. In the first few weeks alone, Bomsta said they walked almost 50 miles a week training on obstacle courses, in land navigation and during foot marches.
“We worked every day through the pain to prepare,” said Bomsta. “The competition had been a lifelong dream for us. We are both 34 years old and knew this could be our only shot. We formed a successful team by communicating our end goals and giving it our all to achieve them.”
The competition included a foot march, an obstacle course, a land navigation course, a buddy run, weapons qualification, combat water survival and infantry tactics. At the beginning of the competition, the particular events and order of events were unknown to participants.
“The first day opened with about an eight-mile run,” said Bomsta. “We ended that day with a foot march of more than 19 miles. The next day consisted of technical tasks, like shooting, repelling and mountaineering. On Day Three, we had the obstacle course, water assessment, more shooting and a final buddy run.”
Families and other spectators cheered on participants and observed some of the events. Bomsta said having his kids there was motivational and an opportunity to show them what hard work can do.
“To have my children see me do something hard and push through the pain was an awesome opportunity for a father to have,” said Bomsta. “Hearing them cheer me on picked me up and pushed me harder because there is plenty of need to be picked up in this competition.”
With little sleep over three days, Bomsta said he and his teammate struggled to stay sharp, especially during the technical tasks on the second day.
“We knew it was going to be a challenging competition,” said Bomsta. “We went in with a game plan to stay fresh for Day Two by not wearing ourselves out on the first day. We stuck with that plan for all of a couple hours until we got caught up in the excitement.”
By the end of the first day, Bomsta said his team did well on the weapons ranges and was fourth in the competition, which helped them push through the late-night foot march.
At that point, the teams in the bottom half were eliminated from the competition.
“Day Two was somewhat of a low point and cost us the opportunity to win the competition,” said Bomsta. “We were physically hurting, had no sleep and got complacent through the technical challenges. The land navigation course later that night turned into a second foot march and we ended up walking another 13 or so miles. In that moment, we just had to motivate each other to get through it.”
Some of the technical tasks performed the second day included treating an injured pilot while under fire before moving to an evacuation point, completing a hand grenade assault course, and assembling a mortar system on a bipod.
Although it was hard, the third day was better, Bomsta said.
“Just knowing we made that first cut gave us motivation to complete the competition,” said Bomsta. “We were so exhausted and the hard part was really maintaining focus. By the last event, which was a two-mile buddy run, I could almost taste the finish line. Once I crossed it, I had the biggest relief that it was over. I went straight to my family and collapsed in their arms.”
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs/Crystal Farris
Col. Lora Rainey joined the military like her father and made it a goal to honor him by reaching the same rank he did while serving.
After 24 years in the Idaho Army National Guard and accomplishing her goal to earn the rank of colonel, Rainey retired on April 17 from the organization as its senior female officer and the first female state staff judge advocate.
“My promotion to colonel was really special to me,” said Rainey. “I wanted so badly to get to the point my father did. I know he’d be proud of me for all I’ve accomplished.”
Rainey was promoted to Colonel on Nov. 30, 2017 in a ceremony held at Gowen Field’s John W. Rainey Hall, a building dedicated to her father. He served on Gowen Field as a colonel and commander of the Army Reserve’s 321st Engineer Battalion and later passed away in 1985. Rainey asked to have her ceremony there to honor his memory.
“My father loved the Army deeply,” said Rainey. “I wanted to reconnect with him in that moment to thank him for instilling in me his love for the military and for setting me on the path years later that led me to where I am now.”
Before Rainey commissioned into the Idaho Army National Guard in 1997, she graduated law school from the University of San Diego in 1994. After returning home, she was reminded of the Guard’s opportunities and reflected back to her father’s love for serving.
“After law school I heard about a judge who had been a JAG officer on Gowen Field,” said Rainey. “He talked about the Guard being an incredible opportunity and a perfect supplement to a civilian career. It was a combination of those stories and remembering my father’s love for the military that made me look into the organization myself.”
After joining, Rainey said she appreciated having the ability to focus on one area of the law in her civilian career and another more varied one in her military career.
She and two colleagues established their private law practice Breen Veltman Wilson PLLC in 2012, as one of Idaho’s few all-female-owned law firms, Rainey said. They represent employers’ and insurance carriers in workers compensation matters.
“In my civilian practice I only do one type of law and that’s terrific because it allows me to be a true expert in that field,” she said. “With the military, there are so many areas of law you need to address like military justice, fiscal law, the law of war or the law of armed conflict. It’s really exciting and I’ll miss that multifaceted approach you get to take as a JAG officer.”
As the state judge advocate, Rainey advised the Idaho’s command staff on legal matters and oversaw all legal services provided within the organization. As a JAG officer, Rainey counseled and represented service members at all levels concerning legal matters pertaining to themselves, their families and the organization.
“As I reflect on my career, I can say confidently that both of those jobs were instrumental to the organization. I got to help troops meet goals, military families make positive strides and assist commanders make sound legal decisions.”
Throughout her career, Rainey said her most memorable moments included serving as deputy staff judge advocate during a deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2004; serving as the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team’s staff judge advocate after returning from deployment; and later standing up the Idaho Army National Guard’s first trial defense service team.
The trial defense service provides legal representation to service members while enabling JAG personnel to advocate for their clients in an objective and independent manner, Rainey said. She first implemented the program after a National Guard directive in 2000, by educating commanders on the new service and emplacing reporting procedures.
“Once JAG is put into the trial defense slot, they have a completely different chain of command outside the Idaho Guard,” she said. “The great thing about that is it bolsters our ability to adequately and effectively represent troops with more independent representation and less conflicts of interests.”
Being able to advocate for her clients is what Rainey enjoys most about her career, she said.
She first decided to become a lawyer while spending a year in Washington, D.C. working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It was the year after she graduated from the University of Redlands in California with a bachelor degree in political science and economics.
“Working with attorneys and being around so many legal issues there pushed me toward law,” said Rainey. “I realized how many employment opportunities there were within the field and that’s when I decided to apply for law school.”
While she has enjoyed both a military and civilian career, Rainey has also dedicated almost 30 years to volunteering within the community. She has served on the Idaho State Bar’s Volunteer Lawyers Program and Fee Arbitration Program, Ada County Youth Court, and on boards for both the Idaho Legal Aid Services and Anser Public Charter School.
In 2007, Rainey was honored with the Idaho State Bar’s annual Denise O’Donnell Day Pro Bono Award for donating extraordinary time and effort to help clients who were unable to pay for services. She was later selected by Idaho Women Lawyers to receive its Bertha Stull Green Award in 2018, which honors women within the legal community who demonstrate commitment to their community and public service.
Upon receiving her certificate of retirement from the U.S. Armed Forces and the governor of Idaho, Rainey was also honored with the Meritorious Service Medal for her dedication to service in the Idaho Army National Guard.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “The Guard has been such an integral part of my life. I will miss working with the troops and the incredible group of JAG professionals I’ve been privileged to know.”
By Crystal Farris/Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
Maj. Christopher Lavelle and his younger sister, Master Sgt. Kerry Lavelle, are known on Gowen Field as “the Lavelles.” They have served on base as full-time technicians for several years and as traditional Guardsmen in the Idaho National Guard for nearly 20 years.
“It’s been fun serving in the military at the same time as my family,” said Christopher. “It seemed at one point that everyone on base knew who we were. They would see Kerry when she used to work in security forces at the front gate and they would see me for computer problems at the communications office.”
Joining the Guard was not something they planned to do together but was something they both ended up doing to pay for school. Coming from a family with four other siblings, Christopher said his dad could not afford to send them all to college. Serving in the military was a way to receive education assistance.
“Kerry and I weren’t confident in what we wanted to do in our lives or how long we would stay in the military,” he said. “We both ended up serving almost 20 years and having successful careers within the Guard.”
“I joined to pay for school, but I chose the Air Guard because my brother was in the Army Guard,” Kerry said. “I couldn’t join the same branch as him; I had to do something different.”
Christopher enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard in June 2000 as a signal operations specialist after graduating from high school in Boise. A year later, Kerry graduated from the same high school and enlisted into the Idaho Air National Guard as a security forces Airman.
After returning from training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Christopher deployed to Bosnia with the 183rd Aviation Regiment in 2002. He later joined the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team and deployed to Iraq in 2004. The next year, he reenlisted and started work as a full-time technician for the Idaho Army National Guard.
He served nine years as an enlisted Guardsman, became a sergeant, enrolled in officer candidate school and commissioned as a signal officer in 2008. The same year, Christopher earned bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and political science from Boise State University.
“It took a long time for me to finish school between two deployments,” said Christopher. “I reenlisted because I wasn’t done with what I started and wanted to complete school. I later decided that if I was going to stay in, I wanted to commission.”
Kerry and her younger sister, Caitlin, who also served in the Idaho Army National Guard from 2004 to 2011, attended Christopher’s commissioning ceremony on Gowen Field.
“We were really proud of him,” Kerry said. “We both raced to the stage wanting to be the first to salute him, but Caitlin pulled off my hat to slow me down and ended up winning.”
In 2010, Christopher deployed again to Iraq as a platoon leader with the 148th Field Artillery Battalion. Since returning, he has served in various positions in the Guard, including company commander and signal officer for both a battalion and brigade staff.
He now works as a full-time technician and data processing manager for the United States Property and Fiscal Office and serves part time as a traditional Guardsman and the staff communications officer for Joint Force Headquarters-Idaho.
When Kerry went to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for basic military training in 2002, Christopher stayed in touch through letters.
“I remember my brother sent me postcards and pictures,” Kerry recalled. “He was in Salt Lake doing security for the Olympics and sent me a picture of him standing on his bunk with the bed all messed up. He joked, ‘How is basic training going? Good thing you are learning how to make a bed.'”
Kerry returned home in June 2002 and was activated, along with most of the 124th Security Forces Squadron, to provide increased security on Gowen Field after 9/11. She attended school and served intermittently on active duty orders as part of security forces on Gowen Field and Mountain Home Air Force Base until reenlisting in 2007.
“I decided last minute to stay in because the military was the one consistent thing in my life,” said Kerry. “I figured it would be a good decision, and it was.”
Kerry deployed to Saudi Arabia for six months with the 124th Security Forces Squadron in 2008. In 2010, she earned a social sciences degree in general studies from Boise State University and three years later left for Korea.
“I wanted to do something different just for a little while,” said Kerry. “I decided to travel to Korea and teach English for two years. It was fabulous. I also met my husband there, who laughs when I tell people he’s my favorite souvenir.”
Kerry returned home in 2015 and continued work in security forces until becoming the first sergeant for the wing’s logistics readiness squadron in 2018. That same year, she started a full-time job at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2019, Kerry reenlisted for the second time in a ceremony on Gowen Field. Christopher read her oath of reenlistment.
“It was really cool that Christopher was able to reenlist me,” said Kerry. “It makes me laugh thinking about how I messed up the oath because he had given me too many words at one time to repeat from memory.”
Although the two siblings are only 15 months apart, Kerry said Christopher took on fatherly responsibilities at a young age while their father was sick and after he died in 2008.
“My brother has taken on a different role in our family to all of us as kind of a caretaker,” said Kerry. “I’m sure at some point, my dad pulled him aside and told him to look after his family.”
While their father was sick with cancer, Christopher said they had many heart-to-hearts, mostly about taking care of the family.
“He had a big concern for his family and wanted the best for his kids,” said Christopher. “Out of five of us, three joined the military and two are still in. My other sisters also work in public service, so I think we have all done really well, and I know my dad would be proud of us.”
Kerry works in employee labor relations at the VA’s human resources office. In December, she became the first sergeant for the 124th Fighter Wing staff.
When he was in high school, Lt. Col. Timothy Ruth attended a science exhibition with his parents at a local museum in Minnesota. There was an educational video of an open-heart surgical procedure playing in one of the exhibits. The sight of the video nearly made him ill.
“My mom jokes about how I almost got sick watching it,” said Ruth. “My parents were a bit surprised when I later told them I wanted to go to medical school.”
Ruth was not surprised, however, since his interest in medicine had sparked earlier as a young kid assisting in surgeries and other pet care from his dad’s veterinary practice in their Pennsylvanian home.
He said the act of performing medical tasks was easier for him then just watching them. He also enjoyed the challenge of the field and helping others.
“It seemed to be the perfect career for me,” said Ruth. “Being a doctor meant I got to help people by using what I’ve learned, talents I have and gifts I’ve been given.”
After four years of college, four years of medical school and three years of residency, Ruth became a family practice physician.
Today he serves as a tradition Guardsman and flight surgeon for the 124th Fighter Wing’s 190th Fighter Squadron. He also works full-time as an urgent care provider and senior Federal Aviation Administration examiner for St. Luke’s hospital in Boise, Idaho.
Military first, medical school second
Joining the military was something Ruth wanted to do before he ever considered being a physician. Getting to do both was just the icing on the cake, he said.
After moving from Pennsylvania where he was born, to Minnesota where he graduating high school, Ruth joined the College of St. Thomas’ Air Force ROTC Program in St. Paul.
“I think I always had an interest in the military that started with talking to my grandfather who served as a Seabee in the Navy during World War II,” said Ruth. “It just so happened my college had ROTC, which interested me because it allowed me to try out the military before committing to it.”
Ruth graduated with a bachelor’s in chemistry and a minor in aerospace studies, while also commissioning into the active Air Force as a second lieutenant in 1993. He was then accepted to medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he received a full scholarship under the Health Profession Scholarship Program.
After medical school, Ruth continued onto his residency at the University of Wisconsin where he specialized in family medicine before starting his eight-year active duty commitment.
In 2000, he received his first duty assignment as a family physician at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. Three years later he transferred to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho where he continued to serve in family medicine before attending flight surgeon school and switching to flight medicine in 2004.
The ‘flight physician’
Despite the name, flight surgeons do not perform surgery and do not have to be surgeons. Rather they tend to be physicians of family medicine, emergency medicine, internal medicine or something broader, Ruth said.
Their duties include conducting flight physicals, reviewing medical records, performing physical exams, inspecting work place safety hazards and collaborating with various occupational health programs to maintain the overall flight safety and safety of the organization’s pilots.
“Contrary to the name, you aren’t doing surgery on anyone much less in the air,” said Ruth. “You are a physician and your job is flight safety and taking care of the flyers. A better name for it would be flight physician.”
Since flight surgeons are rated officers and required to perform flying duties, they go through similar survival training as pilots, including water survival, egress and hypoxia chamber training. Going through these types of training, as well as flying with the pilots, give flight surgeons the ability to provide adequate care in their unique situation, Ruth said.
“The medicine that you practice and the things that happen to people at 1g on the ground are very different then what happens to the human body at 9gs,” he said. “When you fly with them, you understand all the physical and physiological demands placed on their bodies.”
After serving another five years in the Air Force, deploying to Ecuador in 2004 and to Afghanistan in 2007 with the 366th Fighter Wing, Ruth left the military completely. The day after he got out and was hanging up his flight suit, Ruth said he had a change of heart and decided to join the Idaho Air National Guard in 2008.
Not ready to hang up his flight suit
“I just wasn’t ready to walk away from that whole unique experience of flight medicine and military comradery,” said Ruth. “Military medicine offers some very unique opportunities that civilian medicine does not, like getting to participate in the whole flying world.”
As a flight surgeon with the Idaho Air National Guard, Ruth collaborates with the organization’s medical group to maintain the flight safety and medical readiness of approximately 50 pilots who fly the A-10 Thunderbolt.
The medical group consists of approximately 80 enlisted and commissioned Airmen who serve as physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, ER doctors, surgeons and medical technicians. Some serve as ground surgical teams and critical air transport teams, while all are responsible for maintaining the medical readiness of the Idaho Air National Guard’s approximately 2,000 Airmen.
When not serving in the military, many of the Guardsmen work in similar civilian jobs within the medical field like he does, Ruth said. Being able to pursue a civilian career while also serving close to home makes the Guard more appealing then active duty, he added.
“It’s an amazingly diverse group of people,” said Ruth. “All of these Airmen on the civilian side work in everything from ER doctors and cardiothoracic surgeons to fire fighters and police officers. That’s the nice thing about the Guard, you get to do your civilian job but still get to be part of the military. That’s what appeals to me most.”
A civilian physician
On the civilian side, Ruth has worked as a family physician for St. Luke’s since 2008. He currently serves as the director of its urgent care facility in Boise, where he practices urgent care and treats patients with a variety of issues.
“I like the challenge,” said Ruth. “Every person that comes in has a unique challenge or circumstance and if you have the skills to help them it’s very gratifying.”
Within the same facility, Ruth also conducts Federal Aviation Administration examinations for private and commercial pilots who need to recertify their medical credentialing. Like the medical group, many of the Idaho Air National Guard’s pilots also work in similar civilian jobs and fly outside of the Guard.
Ruth said he enjoys getting the opportunity to serve his fellow Airmen and friends on the civilian side, as well as on the military side.
“Most of my friends are pilots and I enjoy having the ability to help them with their annual FAA examinations,” said Ruth. “Civilian FAA exams are similar to military flight exams so it’s a pretty natural bridge from flight surgeon to FAA examiner.”
Last year while deployed to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, Ruth had the opportunity to use his FAA credentialing to administer examinations to approximately 40 civilian pilots who were unable to return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and needed to update their medical records.
“It was not something I had imagined doing on a deployment but I was able do that for those people and save them a big hassle in the end,” said Ruth. “It’s just another example of the unique opportunities medical providers get to experience through the Guard while serving others.”
Senior Airman Mayra Fomin was born in Mexico and moved to the U.S. at 4 years old. First living in California and then Nampa, Idaho, her parents raised her to speak both Spanish and English.
After joining the Idaho Air National Guard at age 27 in 2017, Fomin was surprised to have the opportunity three years later to put her Spanish to good use while responding to COVID-19 and serving her community of more than 80,000 Spanish-speaking Idahoans.
“I’ve only been in the National Guard for three years now and I never thought I would use my Spanish in this way,” said Fomin. “It has made me feel so happy to hear the comfort in their voices because they’re able to communicate with someone in their language.”
In December, Fomin was one of several hundred Idaho Guardsmen who volunteered to mobilize to district health centers, local hospitals, health care facilities and medical centers across the state after Gov. Brad Little activated the Idaho National Guard as COVID-19 cases increased.
Fomin said when she arrived at the Southwest District Health in Caldwell, staff there were excited to hear she spoke Spanish. As the only Spanish-speaking service member there, she was assigned to help investigate and monitor positive COVID-19 cases and translate information to the Spanish-speaking community.
“I’m Hispanic and I know for a fact that it’s very difficult for people in my community to understand what’s going on and get the right information out there,” said Fomin. “When the opportunity to volunteer came about, I thought it would be very rewarding to be able to communicate to not only the English-speaking individuals but the Spanish community as well.”
Fomin first joined the Guard looking for a way to serve her community as a traditional Airman. She later took a job as a full-time technician for the command support staff of the 124th Force Support Squadron.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to volunteer for the mission because I’m a full-time employee,” said Fomin. “I was so excited when my commander gave me the opportunity because it enabled me to go out there and help Idaho however I could.”
It was a rewarding experience to be able to answer questions and concerns from Idahoans who were unable to communicate with them otherwise, especially while consoling members of the community that felt isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
Having gotten COVID-19 herself, Fomin said she was all too familiar with the feeling of isolation. Although she had to quarantine from her husband and three children during that time, she said it enabled her to speak from experience while comforting and reassuring individuals who also tested positive.
“Having COVID helped me personally relate to the community and it gave me the opportunity to reassure individuals that their symptoms and health would improve,” she said.
Maj. Robert Taylor/Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
The Idaho Army National Guard celebrated the opening of its Digital Air Ground Integrated Range March 4 at the Orchard Combat Training Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“This fully instrumented range will make it possible for military personnel within Idaho and the United States to coordinate and practice accomplishing missions from the ground and air simultaneously,” said Col. Matthew Godfrey, commander of the Idaho Army National Guard Training Center and the Orchard Combat Training Center.
The range is the first DAGIR located on a National Guard training site and only the second across the U.S. Army. The range allows air and ground units to train together while receiving accurate and real-time feedback on their performance.
Manned and unmanned aviation crews and armor, Stryker and infantry crews, sections and platoons can conduct combined arms life-fire exercises together on the range using 200 targets that provide more than 400 possible training scenarios.
“The efficiencies that will be gained from a truly world-class targeting range will improve the combat capabilities of all the units that train here,” Godfrey said. “I’m very excited about the opportunities that this range will provide us in not only enhancing the training and proficiency of the tank, Bradley, Stryker and Apache crews, but also the speed with which the training will be completed.”
Prior to conducting training on the range, equipment is attached to vehicles and aircraft that records and feed audio and video footage into the range’s tower in real time. Range operators will have the ability to observe the crew, what the crew sees, the target itself, and the location of any rounds fired on the range.
“This gives the tower the ability to help coach the crew and correct any issues the crew may be having,” said Maj. Joe Doyle, OCTC range officer.
In addition, crews and leadership can review the recording in the After Actions Review building after a training run and take the recording back home with them.
“Video doesn’t lie,” Doyle said. “Soldiers and leaders will have the ability to go back and re-watch what they just executed like never before. This will help fine-tune points you can’t see on most ranges and allow units to use the recording to prepare for future gunnery cycles and use it as a training tool.”
The range is the primary qualification range for AH-64 Apaches and an approved alternate range for tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The range can simulate four vehicles working together with air support as well as unmanned aerial vehicles providing overwatch. A Conex village on the range provides units the opportunity to train on dismount operations and to incorporate joint terminal attack controllers into the training scenario.
The DAGIR is one of 23 ranges at the Orchard Combat Training Center, located 18 miles south of Boise. The 143,000-acre training center provides vast terrain and world-class ranges to prepare brigade combat teams and other units for combat in a tough and realistic training environment.
Construction began on the range in September 2018 and will be completed later this spring when the aerial weapons scoring system can be installed. Its installation was delayed due to COVID-19.
By Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur – Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, Calif. – The Idaho National Guard’s 101st Civil Support Team was among several National Guard CSTs that participated in a large-scale exercise in Northern California Feb. 1-5.
The exercise, BAYEX 2021, tested the ability of Idaho, Oregon and Nevada CST teams to assist the California National Guard’s 95th CST while responding to training scenarios in the Bay Area involving weapons of mass destruction emergencies.
“This exercise gives us valuable training in our ability to respond to a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear event,” said Lt. Col. Christina Taylor, commander of the 101st CST. “We have taken significant actions to ensure the 22 Soldiers and Airmen of the CST have the opportunity to continue to refine their skills in collective training exercises such as BAYEX.”
To initiate the exercise, biologically actionable results were simulated inside an abandoned military facility and a transit boat transporting people around the San Francisco Bay Area. The hazardous agent triggered phase one sampling, which resulted in federal agencies requesting support from the National Guard’s civil support teams. Civil support teams work closely with law enforcement and first responders, including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and explosive ordnance disposal teams.
“It is important for every state’s governors and the nation to know that in the event of a small or large-scale emergency, the CST units are designed to respond and support local and federal civilian agencies,” said Taylor.
The Oregon National Guard’s 102nd and the Nevada National Guard’s 92nd CST also supported the California National Guard’s 95th CST training exercise.
“I truly enjoyed participating in this event,” said Staff Sgt. Troy McDonald, 101st CST survey team chief. “The exercise allowed our team to interact with other CST members and cross-train with each other, sharing best practices and procedures.”
Participating in large-scale exercises helps the 101st CST remain ready to respond to emergencies throughout Idaho and the nation. The unit supports civil authorities at domestic incident sites, which may involve areas affected by terrorism or natural disasters.
“It is vital to continue training for emergencies even as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues,” said Taylor. “It’s imperative that the Idaho National Guard civil support team remains trained and ready to respond at all times to our local community, as well as neighboring states, in the event of a large-scale real-world HAZMAT emergency.”
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.
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.”
On Nov. 13, Gov. Brad Little activated 100 members from the Idaho National Guard as cases of COVID-19 elevated throughout the state. For the past several weeks, the Idaho National Guard has partnered with agencies and organizations across Idaho as the battle against COVID-19 continues.
On Dec. 11, that number was increased to 250 under an authorization pursuant to 23 U.S.C. Section 502(f), which uses a mixture of state and federal resources to fund personnel. Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are expected to remain on duty through March 2021.
“As medical providers across the state continue to call on the Guard for assistance, this additional authorization provides the Guard with an increased capability to respond to simultaneous short-notice requests,” Little said. “With members of the Guard performing these missions, it frees up health care workers to focus on providing critical patient care.”
The activation was the second time Little has called on the Idaho National Guard for additional assistance. In April, Little activated nearly 50 citizen-Soldiers and Airmen for approximately a month to assist at food banks throughout the state as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Idaho.
Guardsmen are currently stationed at several central district health centers, local hospitals, health care facilities and medical centers, COVID-19 testing stations, foodbanks and the Lighthouse Rescue Mission, while also partnering with Good Samaritan staff and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
“When the Idaho National Guard is called upon, it’s your friends, family and neighbors coming together to support our communities,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho. “We are all citizens of Idaho, working toward the same goal.”
Idaho National Guard leadership recently visited several sites across the state to see how Idaho citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are making an impact throughout the community. Primary Health’s CEO, David Peterman, told the Guard’s leadership on that visit that since the Idaho National Guard began assisting, Primary Health has completed roughly 15,000 extra COVID-19 tests.
Guardsmen are conducting COVID-19 testing and screening, traffic control, lab work, data entry and facility decontamination and sanitization. Additionally, personnel are helping prepare baskets full of food and other necessities to be delivered to those in need.
“The Idaho National Guard is proud to partner with the incredible staff and leadership of Idaho’s health districts and our tribal leadership to build capacity across multiple fronts,” said Brig. Gen. Russ Johnson, director of the joint staff. “From COVID testing and screening, to essential distribution of food and daily staples, together we are making a positive impact in the lives of Idaho’s Citizens.”