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Archery Complex Celebrates Work Of SDNG

By Derek Bartos (NOTE: This story was originally published by the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan)

Local and state officials gathered Tuesday in Yankton to give several members of the South Dakota National Guard a big round of applause.

The 842nd Engineer Company of Belle Fourche, part of the 153rd Engineer Battalion, has completed its two weeks of moving earth for the new addition to the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Complex. The work was used as the platoon’s annual training exercise.

The archery complex hosted an informal ceremony for the soldiers with lunch provided by Yankton’s economic development corporation. Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, Yankton Mayor Nancy Wenande, City Manager Amy Nelson and city commissioners Brooke Blaalid and Jake Hoffner were among those on hand to show the platoon their appreciation.

“We’d like to thank you for everything you’ve done,” said National Field Archery Association (NFAA) president Bruce Cull. “It’s frankly blown my mind.”

Added Wenande, “It’s such a great compliment, all the work you’ve done out there for the NFAA and Easton Foundation to not just further archery in our community, but also for all the people coming in from around the world. You’re having an international impact by the work you’re doing here.”

The exercise was part of the platoon’s RESET year, which focuses on individual skills such as equipment operation and maintenance during training. During their time in Yankton, the 26 soldiers used 38 pieces of equipment to move approximately 6 million pounds of dirt.

“To have an exercise that’s done that can keep them trained up for Iraq or Afghanistan or any other threat is pretty amazing,” Michels told the Press & Dakotan. “I think it would stun people that they can do that right here in our hometown.”

While the ceremony’s aim was to show the soldiers appreciation for their work, 2LT Seth Uschuk, one of the project leaders, used it as an opportunity to thank the NFAA and the city for their contributions to the exercise. During its stay, the 842nd took advantage of the archery complex’s housing, air conditioning, showers and television.

“I know everybody was very appreciative for everything you were able to do for us while we were down here,” Uschuk said. “All those extra things was the reason we were able to be so productive.”

Work on the $1.12 million project will be completed throughout the year by other members of the National Guard. With an expected completion date of June 2014, the addition will feature three new NFAA field ranges and an NFAA outdoor target range. It will include machine-made hills and valleys, new roads, a comfort station and concession stand, archery shooting towers, improvements to the complex’s fishing pond, seeding of grass and the planting of several hundred new trees.

The NFAA will debut the new ranges when it hosts the NFAA Outdoor National Championships and the IFAA World Field Championships in the summer of 2014.

As part of Tuesday’s ceremony, Cull and the National Guard members offered tours of the project to the officials that were present.

“It was great to see what is back there,” Wenande said. “It was quite a little trip, and I look forward to spending more time out there.”

Michels added that he was impressed with the amount of work the soldiers accomplished in such a short period of time.

“It always amazes me — with the things I’ve been exposed to in my career not only in the military, but also with the flood fight — how much can be done as long as you plan and have people who are intelligent, like you had with this exercise,” he said.

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Press & Dakotan reporter Randy Dockendorf contributed to this report.