BISMARCK, N.D. — Eleven Guard members were inducted into the Maj. Gen. Robert E. Schulte North Dakota National Guard Marksmanship Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Raymond J. Bohn Armory on April 14. Two previous inductees were also honored for their marksmanship accomplishments since their induction.
This hall of fame honors individuals and teams that have excelled in sharpshooter competition or significantly contributed to the N.D. National Guard’s marksmanship programs. The last induction was in 2006.
“Throughout military history, the single-most essential skill for an army’s success was the individual Soldier’s ability to successfully engage their weapon,” Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general. “Hall of Fame induction recognizes this key component to military victory by honoring only our very best sharpshooters.”
Those inducted on Saturday were Sgt. 1st Class Gary Varberg, of Cooperstown, who is the most acclaimed shooter in the history of the North Dakota National Guard. With 45 international match wins, no Guardsmen have ever matched his achievements. Varberg has competed in more than 100 marksmanship competitions during 30 years of competing holding both the titles of Overall North Dakota State Champion (combat rifle & pistol) 23 times and N.D. State Combat Rifle State Champion 28 times. One of Three “Double Distinguished” marksmen in the history of the NDNG, he has earned the Chief of the National Guard Bureau “Chief’s 50” award 12 times including 10 years in a row. Varberg competed internationally in France, Germany, Australia, South Africa and England. Placing third in Australia, he was the highest scoring U.S. Soldier to ever compete there. In the Canadian match called “The Rundown,” he shot a perfect score. It had never been done before and has never been done since.
The entire 2010 National Champion Biathlon Team will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The team consists of: Maj. Eric Nordgren, of Pelican Rapids, Minn.; Lt. Blake Hillerson, of Fargo; Master Sgt. Kent Pulst and Spc. Brandon Pulst, both of Penn, N.D.; and coach Sgt. Jordan Becker , of Grand Forks, N.D.
Nordgren has competed in biathlon with the National Guard since 1997 with both the Minnesota National Guard and for the last 3 seasons with the North Dakota National Guard. He made the elite “All Guard” team in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He continues to be the team Captain and trainer of the team.
Hillerson has been with the team for eight seasons. His ability quickly increased and over the last 5 seasons, and he has been a member of the elite “All Guard” team and has competed internationally in Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Chile. An avid skier, 2LT Hillerson now represents the National Guard in national competitions.
Kent Pulst is the grandfather of biathlon here in North Dakota. With 23 seasons under his belt, he continues to ski faster and shoot straighter every year. He is a consummate shooter and coaches our less experienced shooters and skiers. He has been a member of the elite “All Guard” team 5 times. He has competed internationally in Chile, Spain and Germany.
Brandon Pulst is a prodigy of his father’s coaching and mentorship in biathlon. He has competed for seven seasons and has yet to achieve the “All Guard” status, but has represented the National Guard Biathlon team in events like the Summer IBU Biathlon Championships, the World College Games in Turkey and the Spanish International Military Ski Championships.
Becker is the coach and “technical expert” for the team. He has coached on the national level traveling to Italy and Germany with the “All Guard” team. He is an expert marksman and is the one that “fits” all of our weapons to each biathlete. He has also been selected as the Chairmen of the Central Regional Biathlon Advisory Committee.
Other members to be inducted include:
Senior Master Sgt. (Ret.) Clayton Brennan, of West Fargo, had a 20 year career as an expert marksman and coach combining marksmanship skill with incredible athleticism and physical fitness. His marksmanship abilities were proven at state, regional and national competitions with championships and first place matches at every level.
Master Sgt. Norman Weber, of Fargo, (Mrs. Pat Weber to receive on his behalf as he is deceased) was a consummate coach and expert armor who will always be remembered for his uncanny ability and skill to build and repair precision marksmanship rifles. From the early 1970s to the mid 1990s, he distinguished himself as an outstanding marksman by participating and winning matches locally, regionally and nationally.
Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Lynn Baltrusch, of Fessenden, was a dominate force in the North Dakota National Guard Marksmanship program through the 1980s. His crowning achievement was in 1987 when he place first in the pistol category at NRA Regional Championships.
Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Curtis Guenther, of Williston, was western North Dakota’s premier military shooter for 2 decades. He was an all around shooter using the rifle, pistol and machine gun. For 6 straight years, he was a member of the “All Guard” team (top 10% shooters in the National Guard). He was very active with sponsoring and coaching the next generation of shooters in the Dickinson area.
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Don Wingerter, of Bismarck, is the founder of the NDNG Marksmanship Hall of Fame and is being inducted today as the first “Supporter” of marksmanship into the Hall of Fame. For over a decade from 1991 until 2005 LTC Wingerter organized, directed and led the NDNG marksmanship teams (rifle, pistol and biathlon).
Former inductees who have achieved additional recognition were also honored during the ceremony.
Lt. Jasper Klienjan, of Bismarck, is the first and only member of the North Dakota National Guard Marksmanship Program to earn a position on an Olympic Team. He was a charter member of the 1960 Shooting team. His 15-year shooting career started the era of dominance in high power service rifle of North Dakota Guards Members that continues to this day. A winner of the Winston P. Wilson National Guard Championship and recognized as one of the President’s 100 four different times.
Master Sgt. Dan Marquardt, of Bismarck, was the youngest military inductee to the NDNG Marksmanship Hall of Fame 17 years ago. His shooting career has spanned 4 decades. One of three double distinguished shooters ever in the NDNG, he continues to be competitive as witnessed by winning the Hendricks Trophy, being awarded the “President’s One Hundred” for the 10th time, winning the High Reserve 10-Man Team Match, and the Colorado Regional 600 and 1000 yd Service Rifle Team and Individual Champion - all in 2011.
The Marksmanship Hall of Fame honors retired N.D. National Guard’s Maj. Gen. Robert Schulte who was appointed as the National Guard Bureau’s Chairmen of the Marksmanship Advisory Council from 1992 to 1994. The Marksmanship Hall of Fame is located in the northeast hallway of the Raymond J. Bohn Armory and consists of plaques and pictures with descriptions of inductee accomplishments along with trophies and medals earned in competition.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,800 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, nearly 300 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.