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JLC 2021
Gov. Doug Burgum renders remarks at the N.D. National Guard's JLC, March 19, 2021.

BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota National Guard presented awards recognizing individuals for a myriad of

achievements at their recent Joint Leaders Conference in Bismarck, March 19. The awards ceremony that kicked off the conference was live streamed from the North Dakota Army National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Bismarck.


The conference began with remarks conducted virtually by Gov. Doug Burgum.


“From fulfilling critical missions around to the world to playing an essential role in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic – now the largest and longest domestic response in the organization’s history – the North Dakota National Guard is truly ‘Always Ready, Always There’ because of the unwavering courage and commitment of its leaders and members and the incredible support of its community stakeholders. All deserve our deepest gratitude and recognition for their outstanding efforts and leadership,” Burgum said.


Honorary Commander Program

The North Dakota National Guard recognized their newest set of Honorary Commanders. The Honorary Commander program was launched in 2018 in order to strengthen relationships between our units and the communities that support them. These individuals were nominated by their assigned unit for their willingness to continuously support and communicate with the North Dakota National Guard in their areas. The community leaders are partnered with the command team of their designated unit, which consists of the commanding officer and the unit’s senior enlisted leader. These Honorary Commanders will serve a two-year term.


“The Honorary Commander program encourages cooperation, appreciation and understanding between the communities we serve and our Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen assigned to those units”, said Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, North Dakota adjutant general. “Partnering community leaders with our command teams strengthen these ties and improves our ability to support these communities in times of need. This relationship is extremely valuable to our overall mission accomplishment.”


During their tour of duty, Honorary Commanders will be invited to participate and observe unit events such as major training exercises, briefings, planning sessions, award ceremonies and other activities.


Joint Force Headquarters, N.D. National Guard, Bismarck, N.D.

Mr. Delton Steele, N.D. State Chair for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).

Partnered with Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann and Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Binstock. 


Camp Grafton Training Center (CGTC) and 164th Regional Training Institute (164th RTI), Devils Lake, N.D.

Mr. Matthew Bakke, Superintendent, Devils Lake Public Schools.

Partnered with Col. Ed Johnson and Command Sgt. Maj. Brad Reed (CTGC) and Col. Russ Wolf and Command Sgt. Maj. Corey Everson (164th RTI).


131st Military Police Battalion, Bismarck, N.D.

Mrs. Sherry Adams, Administrator, Southwestern District Health Unit.

Partnered with Lt. Col. Nathan Dicks and Command Sgt. Maj. Joey Wesson.


142nd Engineer Battalion, Valley City, N.D.

Ms. Susan Lloyd, Emergency Manager, Barnes County.

Partnered with Lt. Col. Bob Bohl and Command Sgt. Maj. Gabe Gietzen.


164th Engineer Battalion, Minot, N.D.

Mr. Dean Winczewski, Teacher and Coach, Minot Public Schools.

Partnered with Lt. Col. Phil Baker and Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Obrigewitch.


1st Battalion 188th Air Defense Artillery, Grand Forks, N.D.

Mr. Daniel Redd, General Manager, AMC Classics Grand Forks 10.

Partnered with Lt. Col. Walyn Vannurden and Command Sgt. Maj. Russ Garrett. Redd was not present at the conference.


Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Bismarck, N.D.

Mrs. Beth Helfrich, Executive Director, N.D. Broadcasters Association.

Partnered with Lt. Col. Jodee Aubol and Command Sgt. Maj. Troy Miller.


119th Operations Group, Fargo, N.D.

Mr. Shawn Dobberstein, Executive Director, Hector International Airport.

Partnered with Col. Ryan Ayers and Chief Master Sgt. Kent Kraiter. Dobberstein was not present at conference.


Bridge Builder Award

The North Dakota National Guard recognized two institutions with the Bridge Builder Award.


The Bridge Builder Award was conceived from the World War II-era Bailey bridge. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, considered the Bailey bridge one of the three most important developments of World War II, along with radar and the heavy bomber. The Bailey was a portable bridge whose components were light enough to be easily transported and hand carried, but able to span obstacles supporting the weight of a main battle tank and other key equipment needed by the Allies in the fight. The panels are held together by the Bailey bridge panel pin. This pin, represents the bonds between the North Dakota National Guard and the supporting organization or agency, exemplifying the bridges built together and obstacles overcome. This award is given to an organization who enhances readiness and enduring success of the North Dakota National Guard.


University of Mary

Msgr. James Shea, President, University of Mary, accepted the award on behalf of the university. The award was presented in recognition of the university’s partnership and continued support which strengthens the educational environment in the North Dakota National Guard. The partnership created with the University of Mary provides scholarships to service members to reduce the cost of tuition for undergraduate and graduate programs.  Additionally, the University of Mary continues to support the Devil Lake-based 164th Regional Training Institute instructors by enhancing their teaching skills in educating Soldiers, creating positive impacts nationwide.


North Dakota State University

Dr. Dean Bresciani, President, North Dakota State University (NDSU), accepted the award on behalf of the university. NDSU received this award in recognition of the partnerships and continued support to the North Dakota National Guard. The tangible results created through the ongoing collaboration are symbolic of the bridges NDSU and the North Dakota National Guard have built, which enhances the educational success of military students and provides expedited pathways to obtain their academic degrees. The university also provides dedicated services in support of current and former military members and provides support to the NDSU ROTC program’s “Bison Battalion”.


Governor (Colonel) Frank White Award

This award recognizes current and former local or national civic leaders who distinguished themselves with exceptional support to the North Dakota National Guard and the military in North Dakota. The award honors Governor (Colonel) Frank White’s legacy as a civic leader, statesman, and supporter of the North Dakota National Guard.


White was a member of the North Dakota House of Representatives and the North Dakota Senate when he resigned his political post to become a major in the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry. He served in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. Upon his return, White served as governor of North Dakota from 1901 to 1905. He later served as a colonel in WW I with the Second North Dakota National Guard Regiment. White became the Treasurer of the United States from 1921 to 1928 at the request of President Warren G. Harding.


The 2020 recipient of the Governor (Colonel) Frank White award is N.D. State Representative Jason Dockter. Dockter’s understanding of issues impacting the military, along with his prior service as a member of the North Dakota National Guard, allows a unique perspective of military service and sacrifice. His endeavors in engaging military members to better understand issues affecting them and their families is an accolade to his numerous years contributing to increased readiness and continued success of the military and its members in North Dakota.


“Always Ready, Always There” award

This award denotes that National Guard support to the state and nation never waivers and has endured since the Guard’s founding in 1636. It recognizes individuals who exemplify the same qualities in their commitment to the National Guard and all military components within North Dakota. It also honors those individuals who have demonstrated a life-time of dedicated selfless service that extends beyond their personal military obligation or the requirements of normal career responsibilities.


The 2020 recipient of the “Always Ready, Always There” award, is retired Lt. Col. Shirley Olgeirson. For the past 15 years, Olgeirson served as the editor of the 164th Infantry Regiment News, documenting the stories and legacy of the most famous unit in North Dakota National Guard history. In 2015, Olgeirson organized the World War II Victory Celebration & Victory Roll Call honoring all North Dakota World War II Veterans on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. She was a key member of the team that organized the grand public event in 2017 that celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the 164th Infantry Regiment’s landing at Guadalcanal. She volunteers with numerous organizations, including Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve; the Adjutant General’s Retiree Advisory Board; the North Dakota World War I Centennial Committee; and the North Dakota 2020 Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee. She’s a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, American Veterans (AMVETS), and the National Guard Association. Widely known as “Shirley from the Guard”, she’s rendered remarks at events across the state about operation Desert Storm, women in the military, and the North Dakota National Guard’s rich heritage within the communities of North Dakota.


The 2021 recipient of the “Always Ready, Always There” award is retired Maj. Gen. Mike Haugen. Haugen received this award for demonstrating a life-time of dedicated, selfless service and exemplary support to the military in North Dakota. Since his retirement as the state’s 19th adjutant general (2000-2006), Haugen has maintained continuous involvement with North Dakota's military-related affairs and functions. His volunteerism and membership on numerous military support committees exhibits his enduring support which helps improve the lives of all service members. Haugen serves on the Board of the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery Foundation; the Fargo Municipal Airport Authority (serving as Chair in 2019); the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee; Air National Guard Support Group of the Chamber; Fargo Air-Sho committee; a volunteer with the North Dakota Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve; a member of Fargo American Legion Post 2; and Chairmen of the Wall of Honor program. The impact created by his service and continued support to the National Guard and the State of North Dakota has endured beyond his military and civic careers and is anticipated well into the future.


Best Warrior Competition

Winners of the 2020 and 2021 North Dakota Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition (BWC) were also honored at the conference. This Army competition is conducted annually at the Camp Grafton Training Center, near Devils Lake and participants are assessed by senior non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Events include an appearance before a command sergeants major board; essay and written exam; physical fitness assessment; warrior tasks; battle drills; weapons firing; and non-announced mystery events. Participants compete in two categories, non-commissioned officer (NCO) and Soldier-level.


“The Best Warrior Competition is an intensive assessment of Soldier basic knowledge, skills, and physical stamina over a four-day period,” said Command Sgt. Derek Heck, state command sergeant major for the North Dakota National Guard. “These NCOs and Soldiers are among some of the best warriors in our force and represent our future senior leaders.”


Best Warrior Competition - 2020

Official recognition of the top finishers of the North Dakota Army National Guard’s 2020 Best Warrior Competition was delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic.


Non-commissioned officer (NCO) category

Winner: Sgt. (now cadet) Joao (Jow) Valenzuela, Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 112th Aviation Regiment. Valenzuela competed in the competition when he was a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Grand Forks.


Runner-up: Sgt. (now staff sergeant) Jonathan Schmidt, 164th Regional Training Institute, Camp Grafton Training Center, Devils Lake.


Soldier category

Winner: Spc. (now sergeant) Grant Schafer, 816th Military Police Company, Bismarck. Schafer also won at the next level of competition earning the right to represent Region VI at the Army National Guard 2020 BWC at Camp Shelby Joint Force Training Center and Camp McCain Training Center in Miss., September 2020. Schafer was not present at the conference.


Runner-up: Spc. (now sergeant) Zachary Fischer, 188th Army Band, Fargo.


Best Warrior Competition - 2021

The winners of the 2021 North Dakota Army National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition are preparing for the regional competition in May at Camp Rilea Armed Forces Training Center, Warrenton, Ore. They will compete against National Guard Soldiers from seven other states. Winners at this regional level will compete in the All-Army National Guard Competition later this year.


Non-commissioned officer (NCO) category

Winner: Sergeant Brandon Wendland, 957th Engineer Company, Bismarck.


Runner-up: Sergeant Marcus Schwarzrock, Forward Support Company, 164th Engineer Battalion, Minot.


Soldier category

Winner: Spc. Andrew Doss, Detachment 1, 816th Military Police Company, Bismarck.


Runner-up: Spc. Lasean Pickstock, 957th Engineer Company, Bismarck.



The North Dakota National Guard is a trained and highly motivated force of about 4,000 Citizen-Soldiers and Citizen-Airmen.  We are always prepared to provide ready units, individuals and equipment in support of our communities, state and nation.  Always ready, always there.



High resolution photos at Flickr album: N.D. Guard Joint Leaders Conference – Awards

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