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NEWS | June 2, 2023

Pa. Army National Guard forms new demonstration team

By Brad Rhen

The Pennsylvania Army National Guard recently formed a new demonstration team designed to raise awareness of the National Guard and aid recruiting.

Known as the Ambassador Demonstration Team, the 15-member team includes Soldiers from different units from across the state with different military occupational specialties, including infantrymen, engineers and medics.

“We designed a team that reflects the demographic and age groups from which we’re trying to recruit in Pennsylvania,” said Capt. Shawn Garghill, the team’s officer in charge. “The same folks we’re trying to recruit are the same folks that we hired for the team – those who are go-getters and can promote what we do as far as our warfighting functions as well as our community support.”

The team will travel across the state to conduct demonstrations and engage community members at different events, such as fairs, expos and sporting events.

“The intent is to interact with the people who are visiting that fair, perform a live demonstration for them so they can see what our wartime mission is and our capabilities are, to show off some of our equipment, and to demonstrate the technical and tactical proficiency of the Army National Guard,” Garghill said.

The team made its first public appearance at the Big 33 Football Classic May 28 at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg. It also gave a demonstration for Gov. Josh Shapiro May 31 at Fort Indiantown Gap.

During the demonstration, the team used a Stryker vehicle and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected all-terrain vehicle to assault a position that was held by an opposing force. To add realism, they used blank ammunition, smoke and pyrotechnics to simulate explosions.

The team did not perform a live demonstration at the Big 33 game, instead setting up a static display and focusing on interacting with the community, said Sgt. 1st Class Rani Doucette, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Individual Training Branch.

“It was a good opportunity for them to demonstrate their soft skills – interacting with the community, engaging with the target recruiting areas and also just being in the community as Guardsmen,” Doucette said. “It’s a huge part that we don’t get to do as much.”

Col. Robert Jorgensen, the Pennsylvania Army National Guard deputy chief of staff for operations (G3), came up with the idea for the team. He modeled it after the U.S. Army Ranger School Rangers in Action demonstration team.

Jorgensen said he also drew inspiration from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)’s Spirit of America and Twilight Tattoo performances in the Washington, D.C., area.

“We don’t always do a very good job of marketing ourselves,” Jorgensen said. “Beyond our recruiters and what they’re doing, we don’t really showcase our talents and what we’re doing for our community and for the nation’s defense.”

When developing the team, Jorgensen said he was looking for a group of Soldiers that represented Pennsylvania’s population and represented the Army across several career fields, both males and females.

“The Soldiers on the team seem really committed and passionate about what they’re doing,” Jorgensen said. “They’re very enthusiastic about it, and I wanted people who wanted to do it. If you want to come aboard, I want you all in, and I think the young Soldiers we brought on are all in.”

What type of demonstration or static display the team uses at events will depend on the venue, its size and whether there are any restrictions against blank ammunition and pyrotechnics. In the future, helicopters could be added to the demonstrations, with Soldiers potentially air-assaulting from them, Garghill said.

“What we’ve designed is a demonstration or a static display that is scalable, transportable so that we can fit the needs of the venue,” Garghill said. “If we have a smaller space, we are capable of performing a demonstration that is scaled back.”

Garghill believes the team will help draw interest from potential recruits, both through their actions and words.

“Not only will we demonstrate the live-action battle drill that will draw a crowd, but we also tailored the team through an interview process to ensure they have interpersonal communication skills, that they are willing and able to engage with the community and talk to prospective Soldiers who have an interest in the Guard, to tell their story and to let people know, ‘This is what the Guard has done for me, and this is why I enjoy being in uniform,’” Garghill said.

Doucette said the team members are enthusiastic about their mission and noted that the team drew many applicants, some of whom didn’t make the team.

“These were the fittest, smartest and best version of a Soldier in a uniform, and they all want to be here,” Doucette said.

“This is something different, and it’s flashy,” Doucette added. “It’s similar to what we do when we go to training events or deploy. These are our skills, and I think it’s a good way to demonstrate the things we can do.”