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News | March 27, 2024

Making History: Donley, Connelly and Urban represent New Hampshire’s first female biathlon team at National Guard Championships

By Subscribe0 Staff Sgt. Courtney Rorick 114th Public Affairs Detachment

For the first time in New Hampshire National Guard history, three NH women competed as a full team during the 48th Annual Chief, National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships held at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, Midway, Utah, from February 17 through 21, 2024.

The annual championships pitted Guardsmen from across the United States and Territories in a challenging endurance sport that combines the disciplines of heart-pounding cross-country skiing with the demands of precision rifle shooting.

Capt. Pamela Donley, Warrant Officer Candidate Naomi Connelly, and Staff Sergeant Marissa Urban comprised the first NH women’s team of marksman-skiers. At nearly 6,000 feet of elevation, they raced in frigid temperatures, on snow, slush, and ice, with the sun peeking through on the final day.

“Being a member of the NHNG’s first women’s biathlon team is quite surreal,” said Urban, a medical readiness non-commissioned officer with the NHARNG Medical Readiness Detachment. “This experience was one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had in my Guard career.”

The Granite Staters competed in the novice class individual sprint and pursuit races, along with the novice team relay and military patrol races during the championships, pouring their hearts out on the course.

“The entire experience has been positive,” said Donley, the secretary to the general staff at Joint Forces Headquarters. “We have such a great supportive atmosphere.”

Donley, who is in her third year competing, led the female-team. She added, while biathlon is a very challenging sport when competing on the course, it is also a very welcoming friendly community.

“The biathlon program is a great opportunity for Soldiers of all ranks to build relationships within the organization and improve their leadership skills,” said Donnelly. “I joined to support that vision and to learn a new challenging sport.”

For new members, such as Connelly, she said she can’t wait to compete again next season and hopes to recruit more participants.

“We were in open bay barracks and, wouldn’t you know, our entire bay were novices,” said Connelly, an operations non-commissioned officer with 195th Regional Training Institute, 54th Troop Command.

Describing the forged comradery among Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Washington, and New Hampshire female Guardsmen, she added, “we cheered for each other, helped each other before and after, and commiserated when it was rough.”

“It was a great group of women,” said Connelly. “We’re already asking to be together next year.”

Although the novice class does not contribute to team scoring, the group gained confidence with each race. For all three members, they hope in seasons to come to bring a more competitive edge.

“Having the opportunity to represent New Hampshire was something I take a lot of pride in,” said Urban. “However, being able to represent women in the Guard was truly incredible.”