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Montana Youth Challenge Educator Airlift

You may have noticed an increase in air traffic over Dillon yesterday. This was from the Montana Youth Challenge educator airlift event that was being held in Dillon. Find out more from the MYC press release below.

On Thursday, October 7th, residents across the State of Montana, particularly the southwest counties, noticed two pairs of helicopters, two Boeing CH-47 (Chinooks) and two

Sikorsky UH-60 (Black Hawks) passing over. The 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion

(GSAB) has training requirements that include transportation missions. The Department of

Defense (DOD) authorized the Montana National Guard to transport cadets at the Montana

Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) and education staff as a part of Defense Support of Civil

Authorities and Civil Military engagements. The aircraft provided transportation to educators

from across the state in support of MYCA’s Educator Airlift event while completing training


The Airlift Event was designed for Montana educators, counselors, and administrators as an

opportunity to observe MYCA cadets and staff with the purpose of creating partnerships to better assist students, from across the state, with high school completion. The birds flew in

approximately sixty guests to the Academy, located on the University of Montana Western

(UMW) campus. A memorable sight was their touchdown on the UMW football practice fields.

As the state educators made their way towards UMW’s Lewis and Clark room, the Montana

National Guard’s 1-189th Aviation crews provided an orientation flight to a select group of

MYCA cadets and UMW staff. “Western staff have always gone above and beyond to make

cadets feel welcome and supported. Having the ability to extend the orientation flight to UMW’s staff was a unique opportunity we were grateful to take advantage of,” stated Trent Gibson, MYCA’s Academy Director.

The Airlift experience continued with a greeting by Montana’s Adjutant General, John (Pete)

Hronek and opening remarks by Elsie Arntzen, Superintendent for the Office of Public

Instruction (OPI). Guests learned more about Montana Youth Challenge through a briefing

provided by Director Gibson as they enjoyed a lunch catered by the University’s dining services. The day’s agenda provided the guests with a tour of MYCA’s classrooms, dining hall, various offices, and dorm building; all located throughout the University campus. After the tour, educators enjoyed time catching up with current MYCA cadets (many of the cadets being from the educators’ high schools).

The event was concluded with speeches by cadets currently enrolled in the Academy and a

former graduate who is currently a student at UMW. Cadet Fallgreen reflected on his

transformation and progress made in the Academy and acknowledged that the greatest thing he’s learned while at Youth Challenge so far, is that “the point where your comfort zone ends, success begins.”

The event came to an end with the guests reloading onto the various aircraft for return flights

(Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls, Helena, Bozeman, and Billings aviation facilities). From there

they traveled on to their respective hometowns... some as distant as Plains, Malta, and Plevna

and many places in between.

Montana Youth Challenge Academy looks forward to continuing this event in the future. “We are grateful for the support of the Adjutant General and the 1-189th. Being able to bring in educators to see the Academy in a state as large as ours would be impossible without the airlift capabilities. The National Guard gets valuable required training conducted and we get educational leaders on campus. It is really a win-win,” says Gibson.

The Montana Youth Challenge Academy is a residential academic intervention academy on the campus of the University of Montana-Western for 16 to 18 year old students who are at risk of high school dropout. Designed by the National Guard Bureau and run through a cooperative agreement between the federal government and the state of Montana, the Academy offers military-style structure and discipline along with academic, professional, and life-coping skills students need to become productive citizens. Following graduation from the residential phase, students continue to build on the gains made and apply the new skills they have learned to their home environment. Mentors, who have been matched with the cadets during the Residential Phase, play a critical role in ensuring their continued success.

Challenge conducts two class sessions per year. The upcoming winter/spring session begins

January 18, 2022 and the next summer/fall session is scheduled to begin July 19, 2022. For more information about the Challenge Academy to include mentoring, employment or enrollment opportunities, please contact 1-877-367-6927 or visit their website at

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