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News | Oct. 21, 2021

Biathlon opportunities attract Washington native

By Joshua Cohen Vermont National Guard Public Affairs

Serving in a dual capacity, Pfc. Eli Nielsen’s days are fully occupied. An M-Day, 15 Tango, Black Hawk helicopter maintainer with Det. 2, Charlie Company 1st Battalion 224th Aviation Regiment, Nielsen is also a member of the Guard’s Biathlon team.

Growing up in Washington State, with exposure to outdoor winter sports, Nielsen developed an interest in Biathlon. Attending college in Montana, Nielsen said that "school and working part-time while trying to pursue Biathlon was expensive, time-consuming, and things just were not adding up.”

Participating in numerous Biathlon events, Nielsen met several members of the Vermont Guard biathletes. “I raced against the Vermont team.”

Interested in joining the military since he was young, Nielsen said “none of the team ever directly asked me if I wanted to join the Vermont Guard, but it was always out there.”

Nielsen said that “enlisting in the Guard was a kind of a no-brainer, it was a really good opportunity where I could gain skills working on helicopters, have my school tuition paid for, and I could serve the country while pursuing Biathlon with an awesome team here in Vermont.”

Nielsen said he had little military knowledge before enlisting. After signing up on June 12, 2020, he was sent to the Vermont Guard’s Biathlon training facility at the Camp Ethan Allen Training Center in Jericho.

“I was at CEATS living and training with the Vermont National Guard Biathlon Team until October when I left for basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina and then advanced training at Fort Eustis in Virginia.”

“With the team at CEATS, it got to the point where I heard so many stories and pieces of advice that I was ready to go to basic training and have my own stories, my own experience.”

Nielsen said his decision to enter the military was not only for Biathlon.

“I joined for the opportunities the Guard presented, to take Biathlon to the next level of international competition, my goal is to become a member of the US Olympic Biathlon team, but that’s not the only reason, my father served as an Army Ranger and I’d like to attend Ranger School at some point.”

Vermont National Guard Biathlon Coordinator Maj. Kevin Elmer said Nielsen is a very professional and diligent Solider, "he’s always seeking to improve himself both as a Solider and biathlete.”

“Joining the Guard was a big decision for me, it took a while to weigh the options and now I am so happy that I joined, the team has a super coaching staff, however, it is a professionally military organization held to a higher standard, people on the outside can see that,” Nielsen said.

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