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Great Divide Park Riders

Snowboarders compete during the Park Riders Roundup held at Great Divide Ski Area March 24, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

Snowboarders compete during the Park Riders Roundup held at Great Divide Ski Area March 24, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

Medals are displayed on a table during the awards ceremony held at the conclusion of the Park Riders Roundup held at the Great Divide Ski Area March 24, 2012.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

Medals are displayed on a table during the awards ceremony held at the conclusion of the Park Riders Roundup held at the Great Divide Ski Area March 24, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)

Montana Air National Guard Recruiter Tech. Sgt. Andy English (center) assists a participant competing in the biathlon event during the Park Riders Roundup held at the Great Divide Ski Area March 24, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Touchette)

Montana Air National Guard Recruiter Tech. Sgt. Andy English (center) assists a participant competing in the biathlon event during the Park Riders Roundup held at the Great Divide Ski Area March 24, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Touchette)

Marysville, Mont. -- Nearly 80 skiers and snowboarders from across Montana travelled to Great Divide Ski Area to participate in the Park Riders Roundup held on March 23-24.

The winter sport enthusiasts competed in three different events during the skiing and snowboard competition conducted at the ski area located near Helena.

Montana Army and Air National Guard recruiters saw the gathering of some of Montana's best skiers and snowboarders as an opportunity to help tell the story of the Montana National Guard and set up booths and tables to distribute information and meet the competitors.

The sports event offered a rare chance for the Montana recruiters to work together to share the programs and missions common to the entire Montana National Guard.

"I think it's great to work alongside the Army National Guard. We both fall under the same headquarters and we're basically brothers and sisters working side by side. People may think we're two different entities, but in reality we're in the same fight and doing the same missions," said Tech. Sgt. Clint Johnson, a Montana Air National Guard Production Recruiter based in Great Falls.

Montana Army National Guard Marketing NCO, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Sprenger, said that the Park Riders Roundup was one of the first winter sport recruiting events his organization has participated in.

"This event attracts people from all corners of the state, because Great Divide is very well-known for their parks and terrain. So we thought it was a great opportunity to get out there and meet some of these snowboarders and skiers and get the Montana National Guard name out there and see if we couldn't find somebody that was interested in joining the Army National Guard," said Sprenger.

The event offered the recruiters a chance to perform their jobs away from the usual foot traffic of the shopping malls and high school hallways. During the event, the recruiters were able to wear skis or snowboards while they were meeting with the prospective recruits at the top of the ski area at an altitude of nearly seven thousand feet.

Johnson said many of the recruiters enjoyed being able to travel to the individual competitions on downhill skis and snowboards.

"They had some skiing and snowboarding parks set up. There was a biathlon up there as well. So we were spread all over the place doing a little bit of everything," said Johnson.

Great Divide Ski Area owner Kevin Taylor appreciated having the Montana National Guard recruiters participate in the event.

"I think it's been great, I think it's a good vibe for everybody. I think the kids enjoyed the support that was given [by the Montana National Guard recruiters]," he said.

Acting Montana National Guard Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Joel Cusker, presented medals to the winners during the awards ceremony held at the conclusion of the event. He was impressed with the quality of the individuals that participated in the competition.
"I really appreciate the talent of the athletes that I had the opportunity to observe. We have pundits in the media that are telling us what's wrong with America's youth, but every time I have the opportunity to come up to Great Divide I get the chance to see what is really right about America's youth," he said to the assembled athletes.

The Montana National Guard recruiters hope they're breathing the fresh mountain air of the Big Sky Country while they are working during the same time next year. The event organizers hope to make this an annual event that travels across the state to different Montana ski areas.
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