AZ Guard Training Makes Big Impact for Florence School District

AZ Guard Training Makes Big Impact for Florence School District

Florence, Ariz - Members of the 258th Engineer Company clear land adjacent to Florence High School during an annual training event June 1 - 12. The work completed by the 258th is the beginning of a project to build practice fields for student athletes from the high school. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Spc. Wes Parrell/Released)

Florence, Ariz – Members of a Florence based Arizona National Guard unit recently participated in a community initiative to construct a sports facility that will serve as both an athletic training area and a memorial for a fallen community leader here.


The Arizona Army National Guard’s 258th Engineer Company used their annual training in June to gain both quality training and make a difference in the community by constructing a multi-sport practice complex in honor of Coach Steven McKane.


“In a rural community such as ours, high school sports has a huge impact,” said Dr. Amy Fuller, superintendent of the Florence Unified School District. “Steve was such an influence to the students of this school and a role model to all.”


In October of 2013 the 258th’s hometown was struck with tragedy when the Florence High School’s football coach, died unexpectedly during the week of homecoming. After the season ended district leaders began to talk about ways to memorialize Coach McKane’s legacy.


The school district owned approximately 12 acers of undeveloped land adjacent to the high school. This is where district leaders envisioned a multi-sport practice complex being constructed; however, budget restrictions made it seem impossible.


It was during a 258th Engineer open house event that Florence School District Assistant Superintendent Chris Knusten thought of this partnership idea and presented to the Arizona Army National Guard. The school district could provide a suitable training location and the 258th would be a part of a real world mission that would have a lasting impact on the community.


“The National Guard’s involvement in this project is truly immeasurable,” said Knusten. “Having a practice facility that includes a football field, baseball and softball fields, and tennis courts right here will impact the experience of our students for years to come.”


Although the work done by the 258th Soldiers is only the beginning, it sets the foundation that supports the project as a whole. What remains, such as landscaping and building construction, will be completed at a later date by other organizations.


“Engineers not only change the landscape and horizon,” said Capt. Joseph Bzdock, Commander of the 258th En Co, “we make change in the heart as well. We are thankful for the opportunity to be a part such an impactful project.”


Projects such as this can be initiated through the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Program. The IRT Program is a US military volunteer training opportunity that provides training and readiness for military personnel while addressing the needs of underserved American communities. Through this program, military units refine their engineering, health care, diving, and transportation skills by performing services and developing projects for communities that otherwise would not have the resources to conduct them on their own. 


The Town of Florence is a small rural community 61 miles southeast of Phoenix with a population of just under 10,000 people. This area is home to nine correctional operations and the location of Florence Military Reservation, a 40 square mile training area operated by the Arizona Army National Guard.