An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | Sept. 30, 2020

Idaho senior enlisted leader is a horseman and a Guardsman

By Capt. Robert Taylor Idaho Army National Guard

BOISE, Idaho – Chief Master Sgt. Harold Bongiovi sees a lot of similarities between working with horses and working with the Soldiers and Airmen he oversees as the Idaho National Guard’s senior enlisted leader.

Bongiovi spends his days around horses. He grew up around them. He trains a few, but most of his time is spent working as a farrier – someone who specializes in horseshoeing. Because every horse’s hoof is different, each shoe must be made or shaped to that specific horse, similar to the personalities of each Soldier and Airman.

“Horsemanship skills are similar to leadership skills,” he said. “The language is different, but it’s the same theory. Horses look for leadership capabilities from the people they are around, just like people do. They just speak a different language. They respond to good quality leadership and they resent hard-handed leadership, just like people.”

Bongiovi spends at least one day a week and one weekend a month working alongside Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho and the commander of the Idaho National Guard. Bongiovi credits the balance he finds between his military and civilian careers with prolonging both.

“Over the years, I’ve liked being able to do something different,” he said. “The opportunities I’ve had in the military sure beat shoeing horses six days a week, 52 weeks a year.”

Bongiovi estimates the weekly break has added another four or five years to his horseshoeing career, which began on his grandfather’s farm. Bongiovi grew up there, and his grandfather always had horses.

“I had the bug when I was a kid, and there’s no cure,” he said.

When Bongiovi was 16, he needed someone to shoe one of his horses but couldn’t find anyone to do it, so he decided to figure it out himself. His neighbors asked him to shoe their horses. Then their neighbors told their neighbors they knew someone who could shoe horses. By 17, Bongiovi realized he could make money shoeing horses.

Bongiovi joined the Air Force in 1985 to go to college. However, he couldn’t attend classes due to his travel schedule as a KC-135 crew chief. After four years, he got out of the Air Force and moved back to Idaho without intending to continue his military career.

In 1989, he joined the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing. “I started thinking, ‘I have all this experience, maybe I shouldn’t let it go to waste.’”

He was hired for a full-time position shortly after but in 1996, his part-time horseshoeing business started to take off, so he decided to become a part-time Guardsman.

Bongiovi said he wouldn’t have gotten to travel as much as he has without the National Guard experience. He said being a traditional Guardsman keeps him fresh because he can take a break from a problem and approach it again with a fresh perspective.

Bongiovi was appointed as the state enlisted leader in 2017 and is the second Airman to hold the position. As the state’s senior enlisted member, he communicates directly to the state’s commanding general on behalf of the Idaho National Guard’s enlisted members.

He also helps interpret policy from the National Guard Bureau for implementation across the Idaho National Guard, while keeping the adjutant general apprised of issues affecting enlisted personnel.

 

 

Related Articles
Soldiers of the 116th Calvary Brigade Combat Team conducted a command post exercise at Idaho’s Orchard Combat Training Center ranges with soldiers from the Canadian Armed Forces' 41st Canadian Brigade Group, headquartered in Calgary, while Polish Land Forces from the 1st Warsaw Armor Brigade observed and conducted a subject-matter expert exchange, May 4-18, 2024.
Idaho Guardsmen Train with Canadian and Polish Allies
By Maj. Robert Taylor, | May 24, 2024
BOISE, Idaho—For Soldiers of the 116th Calvary Brigade Combat Team, annual training was an international affair. The brigade’s headquarters conducted a command post exercise May 4-18, in which soldiers from the Canadian Armed...

Brig. Gen. Ryan Robinson administers the oath of commissioning to his son, 2nd Lt. Benjamin Robinson, Dec. 15, 2023, at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. Robinson commissioned in the same location in May 1996.
General Commissions Son Where He Commissioned Decades Earlier
By Maj. Robert Taylor, | Dec. 18, 2023
BOISE, Idaho - Brig. Gen. Ryan Robinson returned to the Idaho State Capitol Dec. 15 to administer the commissioning oath to the Idaho Army National Guard’s newest officer: his son, 2nd Lt. Benjamin Robinson.Like his father,...

Soldiers representing the Army National Guard evacuate a simulated casualty during the 2023 U.S. Army Best Squad Competition at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Oct. 2, 2023. Twelve squads from throughout the Army competed to be named the Army’s Best Squad, and for individual Soldiers to earn the title Soldier or Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
Army Guard Squad Competes in Army Best Squad Competition
By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, | Oct. 13, 2023
ARLINGTON, Va. – Under the oppressive Georgia heat and humidity, 12 squads from throughout the Army — including a squad representing the Army National Guard — battled it out at Fort Stewart Sept. 29-Oct. 6 in the 2023 U.S...