Idaho Guard supports Special Olympics

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Clint Miller
  • Idaho National Guard Public Affairs
About 200 Airmen and Soldiers from the Idaho National Guard are on duty Feb. 4  to prepare for the 2009 Special Olympics Winter World Games being held here from Feb. 7-13. 

More than 2,500 athletes and delegates from more than 100 countries will converge on the state to participate in athletic events such as alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, speed skating, figure skating, floor hockey and cross-country skiing. 

Opening ceremonies will be held at the Idaho Center in nearby Nampa on Feb. 7. The athletes and delegates will then spread across the state to participate in various winter sporting events. 

At each event venue in Boise, McCall and Sun Valley, National Guard teams will be ready to assist the Special Olympics organizers and athletes. 

A joint task force is diligently working with the Special Olympics organizing committee to assist with providing logistical and emergency-service support and monitoring vital assets during the games. 

"It's been wonderful to participate and watch our Joint Task Force-Special Olympics come together and deploy for this event, which puts Idaho on the world's stage for the next couple of weeks," said Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, the public affairs officer for JTF-Special Olympics. 

He added that in addition to the Guardsmen, the task force also includes Sailors from the Navy Reserve. 

This will not be the first time the Special Olympics organizing committee and Idaho National Guard have partnered for an event. 

Leading up to the 2009 World Winter Games, the Special Olympics organizing committee hosted the 2008 Special Olympics Invitational Winter Games here last February. 

On a smaller scale, those games helped to determine which winter sporting events would work best in each community. It also provided a chance for the Guard officials to determine how much support they could provide for the World Winter Games in 2009. 

Boise hosted most of the venues for the 2008 Invitational Games. Floor hockey events took place at Boise State University, while alpine skiing was held at Bogus Basin Ski Resort, just outside Boise. 

Boise was the distribution center for all venues, and Airmen and Soldiers worked together to organize material and load trucks headed to remote sites.  Guardsmen also assisted with the transportation for athletes and delegates throughout the games. 

During the competition, the Guardsmen were inspired by the athletes and proud of their contribution to the games. 

"It felt good to take part in an activity that really affected the lives of special-needs athletes," said Sgt. 1st Class James Mace of the Idaho Army National Guard. "I can't wait to participate again next year." 

In Sun Valley, the athletes participated in snowshoeing and cross-country skiing events at the Sun Valley Nordic Center. 

Heavy snowfall ensured success for the sporting events, but also provided challenges for the Guardsmen. 

Maj. Alex Shaffer commanded the Sun Valley task force. 

"It was good working with the community volunteers and Special Olympics staff," he said. "But the best part was working with the athletes because everyone fed off their excitement." 

National Guard officials will have task forces working in both Sun Valley and McCall this year.  They will assist by moving supplies around the remote sites and monitoring the event sites in the evenings. 

Guardsmen will not provide security, but they know local law enforcement is only a radio call away if they need them. 

The event is scheduled to end on Feb. 14, when all supplies, sporting equipment and athletes have headed back home.
Col. John Goodale, the JTF commander, said the Idaho Guard is thrilled to provide logistics support and emergency preparedness support to the games. 

"Supporting the Special Olympics games is not only its own reward, it also serves as a training event for the Idaho National Guard as we hone our skills to prepare for any disaster emergency." 

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