Idaho National Guard lends a helping hand to local tribes

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. John Winn
  • 124th Fighter Wing

Situated about 150 miles south of Gowen Field and spanning more than 500 square miles along the Idaho-Nevada border is the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, home to the Shoshone-Paiute tribes.
The Sho-Pai tribes’ location in a large high-desert valley lends itself to one of their major industries: cattle ranching. However, they have limited construction resources to maintain access to the cattle across the vast hills and valleys.
As part of its innovative readiness training program, the Idaho National Guard offered assistance to repair several cattle roads on the reservation. Improving the rough roads was also an opportunity for the IDNG to put their civil engineering skills to good use.
“The main purpose and reason for the building of this is to enable tribal fire crews, which have a little bit older equipment, to get from the highway, over ridges and back into the pastures where all of the cattle graze,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Zebulon Struble, project officer in charge of the civil engineer tasking from the 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion.
The IRT was more than a matter of pouring pavement to create roadways. Crews navigated weather impacts and existing trails to ensure durability and sustainability of the final product.
“Now that we’ve put all of the culverts in up to the top of the ridge, we’ve got a better idea of where the runoff goes from the snow,” said Struble. “There are erosion paths and water trails so we know where to repair, where to dig diversion ditches and where to dig water bars. The difference between what it was before and what it is right now is already night and day.”
Along with providing heavy equipment and trail building support, the IDNG also sent a team of medical professionals to the Owyhee Community Health Center where they lent their expertise and provided relief to staff members, allowing them to catch up on a significant backlog of paperwork.
“Within 15-20 minutes we were hitting the ground running, getting things done,” said U.S. Army Col. Thomas Caldwell, the Idaho Army National Guard medical detachment’s chief of aviation medicine. “They’ve been wonderful and they seem to appreciate us coming down.”
Caldwell said the IRT provides valuable opportunities for collaborative training as well.
“It seems like a simple thing—doing some basic health education—but the part you don’t see took place two days prior when the soldiers were tasked with what they were going to teach, “ said Caldwell. “They took ownership of that and they all were able to plan their own individual sub-mission as it fits in under the big mission.”
In addition to the support at the medical facility, IDNG members also participated in health education programs with local youths and individuals at the Shoshone Senior Citizen’s Center.
Caldwell said the experience is good for both the Sho-Pai community and the guardsmen involved.
“Seeing a friendly face from someone in a military uniform, having a positive experience, and, who knows, in a few years that soldier’s commanding a unit and doing great things somewhere,” said Caldwell.