Kicking Horse student puts
his training to use in Iraq
Sgt. Boneshirt stands outside the motor pool in Tikrit, Iraq, where he
spends most of his daily hours supervising a 12-man squad and repairing
light wheel U.S. Army vehicles. (courtesy photo)
TIKRIT, IRAQ — From Kicking Horse Job
Corps to the U.S. Army, literally, Orlando Boneshirt was escorted by
van from Kicking Horse Job Corps campus to the Missoula International
airport to start basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
It’s been a decade since he graduated from KHJC in
1999 with a Diesel Mechanic certification, but the training prepared
him for what he still doing today.
Boneshirt, 33, enrolled Lakota, grew up on the
Rosebud Indian Reservation. During his senior year he looked to leaving
the Reservation to further his education at KHJC, according to his
mother Mavis Boneshirt. “I am so glad Kicking Horse gave him that
chance,” she said.
Although it has been awhile since Boneshirt
graduated from KHJC with his high school diploma from Job Corps’
linkage through Two River Eagle School, KHJC Director Charles Camel
remembers Boneshirt. “He was a decent young man,” he said.
His Lakota family has seen Boneshirt only twice
since he joined the Army. His mother said the family were making plans
to attend one of Boneshirt’s military graduations in Georgia, but could
not make it. “He told us it was good we did not go because an hour
later he was sent off (to Iraq),” she said.
“We’re all proud of him, that he did something
with his life though. He is the first one from our town to do something
like this,” she said. Sgt. Orlando Boneshirt, originally from St.
Francis, South Dakota, a town of approximately 1,000 people, is the
oldest of three sisters and a brother.
Boneshirt has served three tours already. He was
deployed to Saudi Arabia in 2001, then to Jordan in 2003. In 2007 he
was called out to Iraq, returned to the States for one year and then
sent back to Iraq where he will remain until August. Boneshirt will
have two weeks off to spend with his family in South Dakota.
Sgt. Boneshirt is currently with the 3rd Infantry
Division Special Troops Battalion, which is part of the U.S. Division
Task Force Marne in the northern region of Iraq. According to military
officials, the Task Force Marne’s mission is to conduct partnered full
spectrum operations in order to secure the Iraqi people, neutralize
violent extremist networks and support the further development of a
sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq. Simply put, the mission is to
help the Iraqi people solve Iraq’s problems within the Iraqi system.
Sgt. Boneshirt currently serves as the Scheduled
Services Noncommissioned Officer in Charge for the Division Special
Troops Battalion at the Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Iraq.
Sgt. Boneshirt works on a military vehicle in Iraq. Boneshirt's unit is
on-call 24/7 for several Army units in northern Iraq to repair and
maintain military vehicles in the 120-degree desert terrain. (courtesy
His mission is to recover vehicles
that break down day or night on the field, 24 hours and seven days a
week. “If a tire goes out or a dead battery, we go pick it up wherever
it is,” Boneshirt said.
His day begins at 0500 by checking in with his
soldiers then off to an hour of P.T. (physical training), where the
troops fall-in for formation at 0600. After P.T. the soldiers are
released for an hour and half to call home and do what they need to do
to begin their day. By 0900 Boneshirt and his 12-man squad are
maintaining vehicle support for several units at the motor pool. “They
come over and see us about their vehicles. We help everyone,” he said.
The crew works until noon, eats lunch together and it’s back off to
work until 1800 to have dinner, and return to vehicles that need to be
completed; it’s work until mission is complete.
Days reach about 120 degrees and cools down at
night to 105, according to Boneshirt. “It’s dry out here. You look from
left to right and all you see is empty desert,” he said. “When it
rains, it turns to mud,” he added, which offers a new set of challenges
in getting the work done for everyone.
Boneshirt’s evenings are normally dedicated to
working out at the gym. “We have sports to get involved in; soccer
tournaments, basketball tournaments and a weekly poker tournament to
help keep the stress level down,” he said.
Boneshirt makes it point to call home on a weekly
basis; however lately Ms. Boneshirt said she has not heard from her son
in few weeks due to a recent bombing. She said she is looking forward
to the day he returns back to the States in August. Boneshirt plans on
continuing his career in the military and become a recruiter for either
Montana or the South Dakota region.
Boneshirt has two uncles and one aunt who also
serve in the U.S. Army.
“We are just happy he is serving his country, and
for everyone that is serving and protecting our country,” Ms. Boneshirt