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Guard training

Members of the 816th Engineer Company of the North Dakota National Guard use heavy excavation machinery to expand usable space at Fairview Cemetery as part of its annual training exercises in northeast Bismarck on Thursday.

BISMARCK, N.D. _ Members of a National Guard unit were busy driving bulldozers, graders and skid steers Thursday at Bismarck’s Fairview Cemetery, leveling several acres of land for future use at the cemetery.

More than 40 members of the 816th Engineering Company, based in Dickinson, were using equipment to level an approximately six-acre area. First Lt. Lorna Meidinger said the unit began shearing off the 12-foot hill on July 13 and will be finished on Wednesday.

“This is a lasting project that we can be proud of,” Meidinger said.

When completed, the unit’s work will have added three new sections to the cemetery.

Meidinger said the project is taking place during the Guard’s annual training period.

The project is what the Guard calls an Innovative Readiness Training project. Projects are meant to use soldiers’ skills and meet training requirements while providing service to communities.

Meidinger added that the soldiers were working for about 10 hours each day on the project, with members rotating throughout the day in operating the equipment.

Sgt. 1st Class Steve Kilde, who heads the IRT program, said the Guard has two projects scheduled for this year around the state including the cemetery project.

He said the average time for reviewing an application and getting it approved is around 24 months. The process includes permitting and making sure it falls within the parameters of types of projects the Guard is able to do.

Government agencies and nonprofit organizations are able to apply. The IRT program primarily engages in civil engineering projects as well as education, job training and health service projects.

“It’s a program designed for the National Guard to give back in the communities they serve,” Kilde said.

Kilde said a benefit to the organization that is selected for a project is that it can get the work done at less cost than having it done through a private company.

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Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at