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North Dakota National Guard sponsors 'tagball' in Killdeer

KILLDEER -- The Killdeer Public School gymnasium thundered with the sound of "tagball" guns after North Dakota National Guard officials transformed it into a shootout arena for local students and teachers.

A giant inflatable cage enclosed the basketball floor and two five-person teams squared off in a tournament-style shooting match at a time using paintball guns loaded with foam rubber balls. Fifty-one participants donned the safety gear to shoot and dodge throughout the puffed-up battleground.

Sophomore students Alec Marquardt and Shawn Benz spearheaded the project and said it was a bigger success than they anticipated. They said some students had experience with this type of game and more than double the expected participants showed up.

"A lot of the kids already played paintball and we were just looking to do something fun for the school," Marquardt said. "It was a success and we will try and do it every year."

Guard Sergeant Lucas Greff of Dickinson said the event is not focused on recruiting and is a good opportunity for soldiers to interact with the community.

"It isn't like a presentation to a class about the Guard," he said. "It is something fun that everybody can enjoy and a chance to do something different."

School career and guidance counselor Tim Schaible was a supporter of the event because he said it was a good opportunity for students to explore career options.

"There are three major options for students I see," Schaible said. "The workforce, college and the military. The military is one viable option and this is a unique way to get kids more familiar with the information."

Killdeer senior Doson Nguin was the only student present who was previously enlisted with the Guard. He is accepted to the University of North Dakota and will leave for basic training June 7 where he will begin training as a medic. He said these events are a way to get a taste of the training for those who are unfamiliar and a fun way to get involved.

Students are instructed on gun safety and basic evasive maneuvers, but Greff said it is more important that they learn about building character.

"There is no tactical benefit to this type of training, but it does promote teamwork, which is huge," he said. "It promotes leadership and there are huge benefits in the team building."

In addition, it allowed students to go shot-for-shot with their instructors.

Math teacher Lou Dobitz said it was intense but it was all in good spirits.

"They really wanted to shoot us, I know that," he said. "It actually is a fun thing to do. The kids were having fun; I could see that after the first round."

The inflatable equipment and firearms are shared amongst the 24 North Dakota National Guard recruiters, but Greff said plans are being made to bring the setup to the Mott and Dickinson armories soon.