North Dakota towns to lose National Guard units

 

Four communities around North Dakota are coming to grips with bad news from the North Dakota National Guard.

Guard units in Mott, Rugby, Bottineau and Grafton will be dissolved, and it fell to recently appointed Adj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann to tell community leaders this week that their long relationship with guard detachments will end in August 2017.

Dohrmann said the cutbacks are necessary because North Dakota lost federal authorization for 300 guard positions as part of a national strategy to decrease overall guard numbers. With slightly fewer than 3,000 guardsmen and women, North Dakota is more than 400 below its authorized strength and it was tough to argue for positions it hasn’t been able to fill, Dohrmann said.

Besides the four announcements this week, the guard dissolved units in Oakes and Cando, effective in February, and Dohrmann said two more communities will soon learn that units stationed there are being relocated.

“It’s a tough thing to do — it’s tough on the communities and it’s tough on the soldiers who like being in the communities. But times are changing,” Dohrmann said.

Mott Mayor Troy Mosbrucker said he appreciated that Dohrmann personally brought the news to Mott and straightforwardly confirmed rumors that had been circulating for some time.

“We knew it was coming,” Mosbrucker said.

Now that the closure’s been confirmed, Mosbrucker said the city will use the time to prepare for the change. The guard leases the city-owned armory and owns a separate shop building. Mosbrucker said the community has always enjoyed hosting the monthly guard drills and getting to know the young guardsmen and women who stayed in the motel and used the local restaurants.

“We’ll look at how to cope with the loss of revenue, too,” he said.

 
 
 
 
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The Mott unit of 30-plus soldiers is an engineer company and occasionally trained on the heavy equipment by doing community projects. Dohrmann said engineer companies are highly sought after and North Dakota has two, counting the Mott-based company, while other states have none.

In Rugby, jobs development authority director J.T. Pelt said he expects a significant impact from the closure.

“Anytime you lose an influx of people in a small town, the restaurants, the stores, there’s always an effect. Rugby has always been very proud of the guard and appreciates them very much,” Pelt said.

Bottineau Mayor Ben Aufforth said — like Mott’s mayor — the announcement confirmed news that had been circulating for a while.

“We don’t want to see them go. There’s no question we’re going to feel it,” Aufforth said.

Bottineau, Rugby and Grafton are part of a 132nd Quartermaster Co. trained in water purification.

Dohrmann said he’ll focus on building North Dakota guard numbers to the newly authorized force of 3,080 to prevent more closures.

“If we’re at that, if the army downsizes again, we won’t be at risk,” he said.

North Dakota’s guard peaked at 4,423 in 1997.