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shop online at www.missourivalleyshopper.com May 29, 2018 • Page 5 SD Guard Soldier Wins Region VI Best Warrior Competition National Guard Team Honored During Deployment Ceremony PIERRE, S.D. - Fifteen Soldiers from the South Dakota Army National Guard's 200th Engineer Company were honored during a homecoming ceremony in Pierre, May 19. Hundreds of family members, friends and community supporters assembled at the T.F. Riggs High School auditorium to welcome home the Soldiers who served for nine-months in Syria. The Soldiers served as a bridge training team where they emplaced and repaired bridges throughout the region to ensure freedom of movement for U.S. military and coalition forces. State and local government leaders to include Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, Pierre Mayor Steve Harding and Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch, SDNG adjutant general, spoke to the 200th and their family members during the ceremony. "What a great day it is to be in Pierre to welcome back these outstanding Soldiers," said Reisch. "Congratulations to Capt. Francisco and Sgt. 1st Class Thorne for bringing everybody home safe." Lt. Gov. Michels also praised the team's leadership and also thanked the Soldiers for the worked they did in Syria. "I want to thank all of you in this unit for building bridges, and I don't mean the physical type," Michels said. "There are a lot of bridges that are built with coalition forces, with people who are natives, who understand now our country through a different lens, not some sort of a media prism. "It's by building bridges, literally, so we can have coalition forces support individuals who yearn for freedom... for people that all they want to do is live their dreams," Michels continued. "Freedom wins, freedom overcomes and it's because of the dedication of all of you who are By Staff Sgt. Austin Pearce - SDNG Public Affairs Office JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Ala. - A South Dakota Army National Guard Soldier was named the 2018 Soldier of the Year in the Army National Guard Region VI Best Warrior Competition at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 17. Spc. Bailey Ruff, of Sturgis, and a member with the Sturgisbased Detachment 2, 842nd Engineer Company, competed against the top Soldiers from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming in a four-day competition that tested them physically and mentally, while their knowledge and skill sets were assessed in a high-stress environment to become this year's regional Soldier of the Year. "We set the goal to have our Soldiers compete at a high level at the regional competition every year; this year, we finally met that goal and Ruff exceeded our expectations," said State Command Sgt. Maj. James Hoekman, the SDNG's senior enlisted leader. "The adjutant general's vision is to be the most professional, competent and reliable Guard organization in the nation and this victory falls right into that vision. We strive for excellence and to be in a position to be number one and Ruff put us in that category." Ruff is the first Soldier from South Dakota to win Soldier of the Year in the Region VI Best Warrior Competition since regionals began in 2011. "Ruff's success at regionals not only speaks highly of himself, but also of the quality of Soldiers and NCOs in the 842nd Engineer Company - who really are the best in the state," said 1st Sgt. Nathan Hedin, senior NCO of the 842nd. "The 842nd has sent three of the last four competitors to the regional competition and it's truly an honor and privilege to be able to lead Soldiers like Ruff that show such dedication and determination to our organization." The competitors were asked to demonstrate their proficiency in a variety of categories, to include: weapon systems, physical strength and endurance, land navigation and map reading, first aid, general Army knowledge and their ability to perform a variety of warrior tasks and battle drills throughout different scenarios. "It's crazy humbling to be selected as Soldier of the Year in our region," said Ruff. "The guys that I was going against were the best of the best; they were tough competition and I was honored to be in their presence, let alone to come away with the victory and represent South Dakota in a positive way." Ruff will move on to represent South Dakota and Region VI in the National Guard Best Warrior Competition scheduled for July 23-27 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The winner of nationals will go on to compete in the U.S. Army Best Warrior Competition slated for this fall. "The main thing I look forward to with nationals is representing South Dakota most of all," said Ruff. "Going in, I think I was overlooked because I'm a generator mechanic competing against infantry personnel, so I want to continue representing our state well." willing to build those bridges. "The governor and I are so honored, as just regular people, to stand on the shoulders of all of you in this unit, and others, who have served proudly so that we can live our dreams and have them come true," Michels ended. The bridge team's commander, Capt. Mark Francisco, spoke of the Soldiers being ready for this deployment and a successful completion of their mission. "Ten months ago I stood before you and told you that we were ready. And, of course, like any other South Dakota National Guard unit, we were," Francisco said, during the ceremony. "We've had vast accomplishments, but the greatest has been the readiness to embark on such an endeavor. "It all starts with readiness at home," he continued. "It begins with the Soldiers and their support network and moves on to the readiness throughout the unit." In July, the team members left for Fort Bliss, Texas, and a few weeks later they were in Syria building bridges - successfully building two major bridges within the first three weeks of being in theater. During the team's deployment, the unit emplaced eight bridges, conducted 78 bridge inspections, and completed 49 bridge repairs, to name a few. The Soldiers conducted 57 missions outside the protection of their base, totaled over 600 mission hours and traveled more than 8,500 miles throughout Syria. "I'm very proud of the job you did over there," Reisch said. "You added to the great legacy of the South Dakota National Guard. Thank God for the safe return of these Soldiers and continue to pray for all the Soldiers and Airmen we have deployed and all our service members around the world." Michelle Wheatley Selected As Superintendent Of Jewel Cave National Monument Omaha — National Park Service (NPS) Midwest Regional Director Cam Sholly announced the selection of Michelle Wheatley as superintendent of Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota. An18-year veteran of the NPS, Wheatley is currently superintendent of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. She assumes her new role on July 8, 2018. “Michelle has an extensive background in managing geologic andhistoric resources,” said Sholly. “She has proven herself to be an accomplished leader intently focused on helping the American people find deeper meaning and connections with their national parks. Michelleis sure to add tremendous value as superintendent of Jewel Cave.” “It is truly an honor to be selected as the superintendent of Jewel Cave National Monument,”Wheatley said about her new assignment. “I look forward to joining staff, volunteers, partners, and local communities in working together to protect the incredible resources Jewel Cave has to offer.” For the past five years, Wheatley has served as superintendent of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument ‘17 FORD F150 CREW CAB XLT Moody Price STK C67697 $ 4x4 35,995 ‘15 FORD F250 CREW CAB LARIAT in Colorado. Under herleadership, the park developed an asset management program and addressed many complex deferred maintenance projects. She focused on strengthening the park’s public outreach and relationships with the community. 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