Every Soldier in the Wyoming Army National Guard knows our training area well. From field training exercises to weapons qualification, we all have a story about the north training area.
But how often have we convoyed down the lonely stretch of dirt road and thought about the historical significance of the places where we now train? What are the stories of those who walked the land before us?
Recently a road was dedicated to the Smith family, whose homestead is now part of our training area. The homestead, which was located at 330 Patten Creek Road was established in 1923 by Fred and Josephine Smith. They raised seven children on the property and it was eventually purchased by their son, Lauren (Jack). Jack and his family continued the family tradition of ranching on the property before it was passed down to his son, Ron and his wife Sandy. After three generations of Smith’s living on the homestead and ranching it’s clear to see why the family motto is, “the roots run deep.”
However, in 2006 challenging times hit the Smith family. A wildfire threatened the land and depleted the grass necessary for grazing cattle and sustaining the ranch.
According to Brig. Gen. Tammy Maas, Wyoming Army National Guard commander, and a one-time Camp Guernsey commander, “at that time a team of officers from the National Guard approached Ron and Sandy with a plan for the sale and lease of the property to expand the North Training Area.”
The Smith’s agreed to sell the land to the Wyoming Military Department.
“Of all the land we’ve purchased not all of it is homestead land,” said Maas, noting the importance of the purchase of the property.
For the Smith family turning over their land to the Wyoming Military Department was bittersweet.
“We used to sit out here and listen to the guns and watch the sky light up when soldiers were training at night,” said Sandy. “We loved it.”
According to Maas for the last decade the property has been a prime training location for thousands of service members who use the training areas to prepare for combat.
“The addition of this ranch to the north training area not only increased much needed maneuver space, it also allowed us to build a tactical runway capable of landing C130’s and providing realistic training for our Air Force.”
The Smith family is happy with their decision to sell the land.
“We’re a military family and we support what you are doing,” said Sandy. “We know that you guys will take care of it.”
Ron and Sandy Smith pose for a photo with Wyoming Army National Guard and Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center leaders at a dedication ceremony for the newly named Smith Ranch Road at the camp’s north training area. The Smiths homestead was established in 1923 by Fred and Josephine Smith. Ron and Sandy sold the ranch to the Guard in 2006. From left to right are: State Chief Warrant Officer 5 Rich Burger; Lt. Col. Joe Huss, CGJTC commander; State Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Pafford; Brig. Gen. Tammy Maas, WyARNG commander; Sgt. 1st Class Doug Fenton, range NCOIC and Lt. Col. William Patton, deputy base operations manager. (Wyoming Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire)