FARGO, N.D. - The <a href="http://www.ndguard.ngb.army.mil">North Dakota National Guard</a> <a href="http://www.ndguard.ngb.army.mil/recruiting/recruittrainingcompany/Pages/default.aspx">Recruit Training Battalion</a> took a break from training for a community clean-up project in Bismarck, Fargo and Devils Lake this weekend. The event, called "Guard the Environment," was part of a <a href="http://www.ng.mil">National Guard Bureau</a>-led initiative to give back to the communities that support service members while emphasizing the importance of caring for the environment.

"This is our way of thanking the community for all it has done for us and returning the favor by giving back," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Hjelseth, readiness noncommissioned officer for the Fargo Recruit Training Company.

The Recruit Training Battalion is comprised of Soldiers who have not finished their initial National Guard training. This includes Soldiers who have either not yet shipped to Basic Training or who have not completed Advanced Individual Training, both of which Soldiers must pass before joining their designated unit.

The battalion is divided into three companies - one each in Bismarck, Devils Lake and Fargo - as part of the Recruit Sustainment Program concept created by the National Guard to help successfully transition Soldiers through training.

Each recruit company, with more than 30 Soldiers apiece, went to a community location on Saturday to perform a task to better the environment.

"We should show the initiative that the environment is just as important as school and work, and we can't just let it go to waste," said Pvt. Shannon Holeton, of Fargo, who recently returned from Military Police Advanced Individual Training. "It would be nice to see other people doing their part to show they care."

Each location was given the option to choose where they wanted to conduct the community clean-up, but the three locations worked together to choose a specific weekend to hold the event.

"I want all Soldiers to know they can help the community and do the right thing," Hjelseth, of West Fargo, said. "If we all work together, we can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time."

The Fargo company chose to spend two hours picking up trash around <a href="http://www.ndsu.edu">North Dakota State University</a>.

"Many of our Soldiers attend NDSU, so choosing to help clean up NDSU was a great way for us to let NDSU know the recruits and students are willing to help clean campus," Hjelseth said.

The Devils Lake company helped the community by raking leaves and picking up trash at local parks.

"The National Guard is committed to conserving the environment that we live in. This is our way of giving back to our state, country and world," said Staff Sgt. Randy Raasch, of Hettinger, N.D., a platoon sergeant with the Recruit Training Battalion.

In Bismarck, new Soldiers spread out at the Bismarck State College Community Bowl to trim trees, collect trash and rake leaves.

"We took 47 recruits and cadre down to the Community Bowl to assist the <a href="http://www.bisparks.org/">Bismarck Park Board</a>," said Sgt. 1st Class LeRoy Mittleider, of Bismarck, readiness noncommissioned officer for the Bismarck Recruit Training Company. "The recruits were brief Saturday in regard to how the military's training areas have been affected in the past from our training and what we are currently doing to correct the past damage to restore our training areas and help our environment through our efforts. Based on feedback, all who were involved with this event thought that it was a great idea to do our part to restore the environment and would like to see more environmental activities conducted throughout the year to help out our local communities and the environment."

The Recruit Sustainment Program is incorporated into the National Guard of all 54 states and territories, and each battalion was responsible for holding an event to help clean up communities.

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<i>Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 75 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that's more than four times the national average.</i>

<b><u>Photos:</b></u> High-resolution photos to accompany this release are available on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndguard. Navigate to the photo set titled "Guard the Environment."

Page last updated Mon October 25th, 2010 at 16:36