The South Dakota National Guard is in Yankton on a mission of mutual benefit.
The 155th Vertical Engineer Company based in Wagner and Rapid City rolled into town this week and set up camp at the National Field Archery Association’s (NFAA) Easton Yankton Archery Complex, where they will be adding to the center’s current infrastructure.
During a welcoming ceremony Wednesday, NFAA President Bruce Cull said the work helps the Guard do jobs necessary for the unit’s training.
"I get asked a lot of questions like, ‘How did you get the National Guard here?’" Cull said. "The biggest thing is you have to be a public charitable non-profit — which we are — but the other thing is we really provide opportunities that they have a hard time getting, which are real-life situations."
Over the next two weeks, the unit will assemble three comfort stations, an outdoor classroom and clear what was once a city dump for additional archery space.
Cull added that it’s also vital work for the archery center itself.
"The ability to have them is something that’s so important to us because none of this would happen without them," he said. "That’s part of their criteria — we don’t have the money. We can’t afford to build any of that stuff. It enhances our property and gives us the use to make what we are."
Captain B.J. Poore said this will help members of the 155th complete important facets of their training.
"We’re doing masonry, carpentry, electrical and plumbing, which encompass all of our MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) for the vertical engineer portion," Poore said. "We also have some horizontal pieces that go with our unit and we have an area that can start training our new soldiers on the heavy equipment in the guard that we’ve just been fielded."
He said the contingent is made up of three platoons, cooks and a fueler. The Guard will be on site for two weeks.
Poore also explained an MOS.
"It’s the (soldier’s) primary job," he said. "A carpenter has a certain MOS. A plumber has a certain MOS. They get individualized training on this. It gets rather specific on what you do in the military."
He said that the unit has some familiarity with the archery complex.
"The 155 has done work here before," he said. "They did (the comfort station). … The City of Yankton and NFAA here has been really receptive to having us come out and facilitate the area you have right now. We look forward to doing more projects out here. It’s great training for all of the troops."
According to Cull, the National Guard was also onsite to help in the wake of the 2011 floods.
Wednesday’s event included a short address from Cull along with a handful of local and state officials.
"This property you’re standing on was once owned by the city and the county," Cull told the unit. "Those of you that are working over on the dump, that was city property. All of this property back here was useless property, and you’ve helped a dream and a vision come together to make this an archery facility."
He said the accomplishments that the archery center has made were, in large part, thanks to the South Dakota National Guard.
"This is the largest archery facility in the entire world," he said. "We’re hosting tournaments here that are the biggest there are. We have hundreds of countries that come. It’s just a great thing for everybody and having you all be a part of it has been a very integral part and something we couldn’t have done without you."
Cull was followed by Yankton mayor Nathan Johnson, who recalled seeing the dream of an archery center grow from nothing to what it is today.
"I’ve been here since the beginning of this," Johnson said. "When Bruce had this dream of building an archery center, a lot of people thought he was a little nuts … but lo and behold, here we turned this property that was nothing into a welcome mat to the world. People from around the globe come to this place to compete in archery, and it is a very unique development. We’re proud of it and we’re proud of what you’ve done. I was here when they built this comfort station. These amenities are important to our visitors."
County Commission chairman Dan Klimisch said those working on it the next couple weeks will be building a lasting legacy.
"This is going to be something you’re going to build here and, maybe 20 years from now, you’ll come back and say, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity I had to build and that’s a facility I had a part in," Klimisch said.
District 18 Rep. Jean Hunhoff said she’s going to see to it that the higher ups in the South Dakota National Guard know what great work the 155th did for the City of Yankton.
"We’re going to see the benefits you’re doing here," Hunhoff said. "When I go cast my vote (at the Legislature) in January — we’ve got a new adjutant general (Maj. Gen. Jeffery P.) Marlette — I will bring you guys up and say what a great job you did and how you served Yankton."
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