CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. – “You got this, Ang.”
That’s what went through Master Sgt. Angela Horn’s head when the cowbell rang as she took off from the start line of the Sprint Race at the Chief, National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships, Feb. 13 at Camp Ripley. Horn is a first sergeant with the Alaska Army National Guard’s 297th Regional Support Group.
“It is pretty taxing; there are people cheering for you,” she said. “I think, OK, you got this. Just breathe. Breathe in. Ski and breathe, ski and breathe.”
Horn, 43, first enlisted in the Air Force when she was 18 years old for the education benefits.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in business, Horn left active duty to grow her family. In 2005, she joined the Army as a supply sergeant because she wanted to serve her community and state. Not long after she re-enlisted, she met her husband.
The dual-military family now has four children.
“The Guard has provided us with so many things to be thankful for,” said Horn. “They are my family, and they have provided me and Norvell with so much support.”
The two service members recently returned from a deployment to Poland supporting the European Deterrence Initiative as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The deployment, which was supposed to be a unique and fun experience for the couple, took a turn when Norvell got sick. Soon they found themselves at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.
“My husband inspires me with his strength in dealing with this illness; he’s pretty amazing,” she said. “It’s hard, but we make it work. It’s not a hindrance; we are making all the memories possible.”
Horn began competing in biathlons in 2018. She recalled the first competition at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Utah.
“I sent my husband all these pictures and my times. I was stoked,” she said. “Our team took second, and of course, my husband was like, ‘This is amazing’.”
Support from other service members and Angela’s mom allows her to continue to compete in a sport she loves, despite her husband’s condition.
Being part of the biathlon team and representing Alaska is important to Horn and allows her to mentor younger Soldiers.
Looking back on her career, Horn realizes her growth as a person and a leader.
“As you’re progressing, you start to figure out who you are as a person and who you want to be,” she said. “I met women who I aspired to be like. Their leadership dynamic was phenomenal.”
As a first sergeant, Horn can mentor her junior female soldiers to speak up when they have something to say. She says if she had realized that earlier, she would have been a better sergeant to her specialists. However, now that she understands, she can be a better leader to her platoon sergeants and squad leaders.
“I feel like now I’m in a place where I can give them that,” she added. “Even in the biathlon program, I am able to make my teammates feel empowered. We train to compete the best we can. We have this amazing group of women.”
The Alaska team has seven athletes competing this year, four women and three men. The team enjoys spending time together during competition weeks and off time.
“I remember this one time at the Guard Champs,” she said. “We had gone on a hike the day before the patrol race.”
Horn and the team believed the hot springs were only four miles from where they were staying. The four-mile hike turned out to be eight.
“We came back, and one of our teammates was pretty sore,” she said.
The next day, their goal was to beat the California team.
“They got out ahead of us early, but their novice skier got stuck in the snow,” Horn said. ”We are up on a hill and can see them; we just needed to round the corner as a team.”
The race was close.
“Julie’s yelling at Heather, ‘Come on Heather! Let’s go!’ and Heather is grumbling, ‘If we didn’t go on that hike,’ with her ski’s going up the hill,” said Horn.
The Alaska team could not push past California, but the women still laugh about the experience almost four years later.
This year, however, Alaska hopes to win.
“We are Arctic warriors,” said Horn. “Of course, this is how we do things.”