By Joshua Cohen
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
On May 14, four Vermont Army National Guard soldiers, members of the National Guard Biathlon Program, received medals and recognition for their participation on the US Biathlon Olympic Team during the 2022 Olympics held last February in Beijing.
“Forty-nine years ago, the Army Biathlon Program became the National Guard Biathlon Program, since that transition, we have maintained a proud history of sending Soldiers to represent the United States at the Olympics, a tradition that continues as we recently sent four Soldiers to Beijing for the 2022 Olympics,” according to Maj. Kevin Elmer, National Guard Biathlon Program Coordinator.
During the ceremony, held at the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho, Sgt. Deedra Irwin, Spc. Sean Doherty, Warrant Officer Candidate Leif Nordgren and Spc. Vasek Cervenka received medals for exceptional achievement while on the 2022 US Olympic Biathlon and 2022 World Cup Teams.
Elmer said that by placing 7th in the Woman’s Individual, Irwin now holds the record for the best finish by an American Olympic Biathlete. In addition to receiving the Meritorious Service Medal, during the ceremony Irwin received a promotion to Sgt.
“This was my first Olympics, I had five races, 7th place was my highest score, now I’m just going to continue doing Biathlon and I’m going to push for the 2026 Olympics,” Irwin said.
Doherty, who was also awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, said he is looking forward to a future as a biathlete in the Vermont National Guard.
“The new training year has started and we’re going into another Olympic cycle, now we’re just rebuilding and restructuring the team, preparing for the next World Cup season, I am also working on getting into the Basic Leaders Course so I can get promoted,” he said.
For Nordgren, also a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal, the 2022 Olympics marked the end of his biathlon career and the start of a new path. Nordgren, a 15P aviation operation specialist in his traditional guardsman role, has long eyed becoming a rotary-wing pilot and will soon attend Warrant Officer School followed by rotary-wing training.
“My long-term goal was always to become a pilot, and I do intend to remain in the Guard as my career,” Nordgren said.
Elmer said that in addition to receiving the Army Commendation Medal, Spc. Vasek Cervenka deserved special mention.
“Spc. Cervenka, who attended the Olympics as the men’s alternate had the difficult task of always being ready if called upon, due to COVID his role was more important than any other alternate in history, fortunately, the American team remained healthy, so Spc. Cervenka never had to step into the breach, but I am confident he was ready and fully capable if called upon,” Elmer said.
“I served as an alternate in case there was a COVID outbreak or an injury for the relay, I was there for a week in the middle of the games,” Cervenka said.
Cervenka said he initially joined the VTNG for the biathlon program and plans to continue with biathlon.
“I can see myself with a career in the Guard, I am interested in engineering, joining the Guard was the best decision I ever made,” he said.