Informational Overview of the National Guard Biathlon Program

Ever since the ski divisions were significantly involved in the Great Scandinavian War of 1700-1718, the development of biathlon skills has played an important role in winter warfare and military defense. The biathlon skills of marksmanship and skiing practiced by the military have continued into the present era simply because of their training and fitness values.

International competition in biathlon skills came with the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924 at Chamonix, France, in the form of a military patrol race. The first World Biathlon Championships were held in 1958, with a representative team of U.S. Military personnel from Camp Hale, CO, home of the famous 10th Mountain Division, participating. The United States introduced the modern form of biathlon competition into the Olympic Games at Squaw Valley in 1960, and hosted the biathlon events in the Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid in 1980 and again in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

The U.S. Army maintained a Biathlon Training Center for military athletes at Fort Richardson, AK, from 1958 until 1973. In 1973, the active Army turned over the biathlon mission to the Vermont Army National Guard. The first Chief of the National Guard Bureau (CNGB) Biathlon Championships were held in 1975, with seven states participating. The program has grown to over 30 participating states maintaining state-level biathlon programs. There are two primary National Guard race and training sites: EAFR, (Ethan Allen Firing Range), Jericho, Vermont and Camp Ripley, Minnesota, with a third under development near Ft. Harrison in Montana.

The National Guard Sports/Biathlon Office administers and supports a training center and coaching staff for All-Guard athletes and support to state-level programs. It is responsible for the annual CNGB Championships and selection of teams for the International Military Sports Council's (CISM) Winter Ski Games and other military competitions. In 1989, the VTARNG hosted the CISM Winter Games in the United States for the first time. This competition, and those in 1993 and 2001 were held at EAFR in Jericho, VT. Members of the National Guard All-Guard Biathlon Team were represented on the 1988, 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2002 U.S. Winter Olympic Biathlon Team. The National Guard Biathlon program is the only Department of Defense (DOD) organization that consistently sends Soldiers to the Olympics.

The mission of the National Guard Biathlon program is to develop the highest levels of skiing and rifle marksmanship necessary to improve the combat ability of individual soldiers and to represent the National Guard and the United States Armed Services in national and international competition to include biathlon World Cup and Winter Olympic events. It is a program that supports high performance biathlon activities by exceptional National Guard soldier-athletes by providing them with the opportunities to participate in training for national and international competitions.

The National Guard has the Biathlon Program:
• to encourage and reward excellence.
• to develop and reinforce a positive image of the National Guard.
• to provide national and global visibility for soldier-athletes.
• to make a positive impact on recruitment and retention.
• to recognize the achievements and contributions of soldier-athletes.
• to enhance public pride in the military and the armed forces.
• to interact with other nations in "friendship through sports."

The Biathlon Program adds value to the U.S. Armed Forces by:
• Providing Units with soldiers who are high quality, physically fit individuals and world class marksman with the ability to train others in these critical combat skills.
• Providing collective spirit, motivation, pride, and self-confidence; along with positive emotions, high morale and quality soldiers to the National Guard community as a whole.
• Representing the U.S. and the Armed Forces at International Military Competitions in six (6) different nations (Friendship through Sports).
• Improving the image of the National Guard and its soldiers by displaying their dedication, talent, and achievements through highly visible events such as the Winter Olympics.

The Chief, National Guard Bureau has supervisory responsibility for the National Guard program. The Adjutant General, State of Vermont is the proponent for the conduct of program. The National Guard Sports Office Coordinator (NG Sports) serves as the Biathlon Coordinator and the manager for the National Guard Sports programs. AR 215-2, Army Sports Program; NGR(AR) 350-10, Training and Competitive Biathlon and DOD Directive 1330.4, Olympic Support Programs provide the regulatory guidance for National Guard Biathlon. NGB funding is provided through the Office of Athletics and Youth Development (NGB-AY). Each state's National Guard is authorized to support a team of 12 athletes. The state can send 8 members of its team to the Regional Championships and 5 to the National Guard Championships. The best athletes are selected to higher level teams and events. National Guard athletes are put on special active duty orders for biathlon training. Depending upon team status, it can be for up to 200 days per year in a part-time training environment or full-time in the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). The WCAP is a program that requires acceptance and activation to federal status (U.S. Army). Athletes are provided training in which the activities are planned and monitored with the purposes, intensities, and training loads clearly defined. The full-time staffs at the National Guard Sports Office and Biathlon Training Center at Jericho, VT provide program management, direction and support.

There are three levels of support status for the National Guard athletes. • ALL-GUARD Biathlon Team, selected athletes who have demonstrated the skills and performance from among those participating in the CNGB Championships and other important competitions.

• DEVELOPMENT Group selected from among athletes who have demonstrated high potential for improvement and progression through quality training and racing success that is indicative of higher levels of ability.

• USBA NATIONAL Team/WCAP, Eligible to athletes who are selected to the U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program or U.S. Olympic, World Championships or National teams.

The National Guard biathlon program provides support to the athletes in these groups. These groups, through selection and trials, provide the athletes who represent the National Guard and U.S. Armed Forces in domestic and international events. The primary "high visibility" events are the Winter Olympic Games, World Biathlon Championships, World Cup and Europa Cups. With more than 80% of the world's top athletes serving as members of their nation's military, the CISM World Military Ski Games, is also a primary event. CISM was established following WWII with the goal of developing enduring relations between the armed forces of the world in the field of sport and training. With the motto "Friendship through sport" it sought to replace the battlefield with peaceful and friendly competition in sport. CISM organizes sporting events of all types bringing together thousands of soldier-athletes every year. Its Ski Games was first held in 1958, the same year that the 1st World Biathlon Championships were also contested. The CISM Ski Games are organized annually and have been hosted by the VTARNG at EAFR, Jericho VT three times (1989, 1993 and 2001). The National Guard team also represents the U.S. Armed Forces in 5 other international military events, CaSTA in Italy, CNME in Spain, MC-DSC in Germany, CITM in Argentina and CIEM in Chile.

For more information email SFC Arthur Stegen

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