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News & Headlines
Maine National Guard Biathletes Compete in Vermont
18 February 2014 » By SGT Angela Parady
Maine Army National Guard Soldiers competed at the East Region Biathlon Races in Jericho, Vt. The soldiers had to ski a competitive 7.5-10km race, with 50 meter ranges set at intervals throughout.
The Vermont Army National Guard was tasked with taking over the Biathlon Training program in 1973. The first Chief of the National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championship was held in 1975, and seven states participated. Now, over 30 states participate, and the events are held at the Ethan Allen Firing Range, in Jericho, or in Camp Riley, Minnesota. The National Guard Biathlon program is the only Department of Defense organization that consistently sends soldiers to the Olympics according to their website.
Lt. Col. Aaron King, who lives in Augusta, was recruited to the team last year, and used his experience as a coach for the athletes this year
"Last year, they asked me if I had any interest in this program. Just so happened, that I didn't really have any other winter sports, so I said why not. And we got it started again. It spread through word of mouth; we got 6-7 people to join us. We had borrowed equipment from Pineland Farms to help us train once or twice."
The owner of Pineland Farms is a former biathlete, and his wife, a two time Olympic biathlete. They were excited to hear that Maine was trying to start this program up again, and helped get together space and training time for King and his team. The outpouring of support from within the biathlon community in Maine was overwhelming and helped King push for more support from within the Guard after that first year.
Last year, not one member of the team was an avid skier, and they had only tested out a biathlon course once or twice before. They had little experience with the weapons they were expected to use before they showed up at Camp Ethan Allen for the competition.
"It was tough," said King. "We had absolutely no experience whatsoever. The rifles we used were borrowed from the air guard, leftovers from the 1990's when the biathlon team went defunct. These rifles were 1970's antiques. When we brought them out to the equipment check they chuckled, because they were so vintage. But it's what we had and what we worked with."
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