National Guard, tribes ponder partnerships
PIERRE — Leaders from the South Dakota National Guard recently met with representatives from several American Indian tribes in Pierre to discuss partnership opportunities for community service projects on their reservations.
Representatives from the Yankton, Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes listened to briefings on the role and capabilities of the Guard, and how they are able to support communities with engineer construction, material transportation and medical support services.
Both Guard leaders and tribal members saw the meeting as an opportunity to generate awareness of Guard services, what some of the needs are on the reservations and how they can work together.
“We wanted to engage the tribes to enter into a partnership with the South Dakota National Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch, adjutant general of the SDNG. “The partnership would involve the National Guard conducting training on the reservations that would result in improvements to the infrastructure, such as road development, construction services, providing medical care and other types of support that are consistent with the missions of the Guard.”
“It was a very good and informative meeting,” said Kevin Keckler, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. “I’m very interested in some of the support the Guard can assist us with.”
“It is really helpful to our community members to have that assistance from the National Guard,” said Everdale Songhawk, councilman for the Yankton Sioux Tribe. “The relationship with the Guard continues with our people and we want to continue to work together, meet our goals and complete some projects.”
Some of the potential projects discussed included medical screenings and examinations, veterinarian services, firewood transportation and road construction and maintenance.
“We have a cemetery that is built in a river valley and we continually have flooding issues every spring,” said Keckler. “We are hoping to do a joint project with the Guard to create berms around the cemetery to prevent future flooding. We have a lot of veterans that are buried there, and I think it would mean a lot to our people to have that not happen anymore.”
“We are looking at a boat ramp project in the Yankton area, as well as having some road work done at the Marty Indian School,” said Songhawk.
The National Guard provides community services through its Innovative Readiness Training program, or IRT.
The IRT program partners with local organizations to provide a benefit to communities while providing hands-on, readiness-training opportunities for the Guard and other U.S. military units throughout the country. The program is built upon the long-standing tradition of the National Guard, acting as good neighbors at the local level in applying military personnel to assist worthy civic and community needs.
“The National Guard is a community-based organization,” said Reisch.
“We want to go out and continue to partner with our communities so we can continue to have membership from a broad range of communities, as well as provide services to them.”
Over the years, the National Guard has provided some public service projects for American Indian communities to include delivering firewood and conducting Indian Health Services missions to the Pine Ridge, Crow Creek, Rosebud and Lower Brule reservations.
“The National Guard this summer brought more than 50 loads of firewood to our communities,” said Keckler.
“That was very helpful to us and it is evident today because we are into the winter heating season, and we haven’t had many requests for wood, so the people that needed that wood got it. The Guard was also there to help with veterinary services — rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats — and that’s always helpful.”
The IRT program also focuses on providing service member training within their military occupational skill set, which includes carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical, engineering, transportation and all aspects of medical care. Resource support for projects is a shared responsibility between the military and community — the Guard provides the manpower while the community provides the materials and supplies. The Guard also ensures a project will not compete with local contractors or businesses.
“The partnership is a benefit to our organization because it allows our Soldiers and Airmen perfect their skills and to do their missions in a new environment, which allows us to get better at our jobs while simultaneously providing a service to the Native American tribes,” said Reisch.
-Source: SD National Guard