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Always faithful, always thankful
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CURTIS — “Semper Fidelis” often is included at the end of emails and letters sent from Tyler Faber. In Latin, the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps means “always faithful.”

Each November, the information technology technician who works amid computers, monitors and tech equipment from a first-floor office in Ag Hall on the campus of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, observes two significant events.

The 245th birthday of the Marine Corps was Tuesday, a day ahead of Veterans Day.

As is his custom on Tuesdays, Faber sends to NCTA faculty and staff an email titled, “Tyler’s Tech Tip Tuesdays.”

This week, he provided a personal perspective of technology and the military, and a brief history about the Marine Corps, also known as USMC.

The Hastings native and veteran, who was an active-duty Marine from January 2010 to January 2015, served with the 2nd Intelligence Battalion at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

“I have observed the Marine Corps birthday every year since I became a Marine,” Faber said a week ago. “Do not be surprised if you hear the Marines’ Hymn and other Marine-inspired music coming from my office on Nov. 10.”

That did, indeed, occur. Faber is one of a handful of NCTA students and staff, along with retired veterans, who have served with the Marine Corps.

Bassett/NCTA News photo  

Tyler Faber poses in his office with U.S. Marine Corps memorabilia. Faber, a Hastings native, served five years in the Marine Corps and now works in information technology for the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis.

A Marine’s path

Faber likes a challenge. At the age of 10, he taught himself to play the violin. Then he took private lessons for five years playing the saxophone and thought he might major in music at Hastings College.

The path led to classes in business administration, however, and after eight weeks he knew that wasn’t for him.

Instead, he sought life experience and income, so he worked for several years as a cashier, then electronic sales associate at the Walmart in Hastings. While on a store remodel at the Walmart in McCook, he met a young woman named Rachel.

Faber pondered his future, had a lengthy conversation with a buddy about joining the Marines, and shipped out for boot camp in California in January 2010. That started his new life and motto, Semper Fidelis.

When he returned to Nebraska from his 13 weeks of basic training, he made a forever commitment.

“My wife and I got married April 12, 2010, the day after I got home,” he said.

That was the beginning of always faithful to family and the Marines.

His military journey continued with a month of infantry and tactics training, then nine months in his Military Occupational Specialty as an intelligence specialist.

From Camp Pendleton to the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center in Virginia. Then to Camp Lejeune and deployment to Afghanistan from December 2011 at Camp Leatherneck.

The tour was exciting, adventurous, and challenging.

He returned in 2012 to Camp Lejeune and spent most of 2013 at Camp Leatherneck, preceding his final 14 months of service in intelligence at Camp Lejeune. Throughout the five-year career, Faber excelled and liked the work with the Marine Corps.

His duties and responsibilities were varied, and many he can’t divulge in detail.

He prepared intelligence briefings for his battalion commander and military leadership. On deployments, he was responsible for researching, developing, and presenting strategic information about various countries, military tactics, and even policies or politics.

As a lance corporal, he supervised intelligence analysts and, on occasion, stepped in for higher supervisory duties.

“I have always enjoyed challenges, and the Marine Corps provided one of the hardest and most rewarding challenges anyone could face,” he says.

A decision to make

However, at the time for determining a future re-enlistment in 2015, doing what he loved in intelligence and possibly more advancements in duties and rank, the reality was more year-long deployments which would take him away from his wife and young children.

At the rank of sergeant and with extensive knowledge in intelligence and technology, Faber ended active service and returned to rural Nebraska for good.

That same year his new employment began at NCTA, first as a custodian, then moving to IT late in 2019.

The challenge now, he says, is juggling family, career and pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in software engineering through online courses at Arizona State University.

With Rachel working in Food Service at NCTA, the couple are raising four children and appreciating the small community in which they reside.

Both are active in campus leadership roles on committees and duties and helped coordinate the 2020 Veterans Day Salute by the NCTA Diversity Committee. Campus students, staff, faculty and community volunteers prepared nearly 90 gift bags which were delivered to local veterans.

They appreciated the youngsters from Medicine Valley Elementary School who also colored and wrote thank you notes and cards for veterans.

Faber hopes to share some of his experiences with the college campus throughout the academic semesters, not just on Veterans Day. Sharing a “Happy Birthday, Marine” on Nov. 10 and “Thank You” to veterans on Nov. 11 may be one of those pointers to students and the community, alike.

Pro bowler visits HC team
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C.K. Moore’s short run on the pro bowling circuit years ago helped form connections he is now using in his first year coaching at the collegiate level.

Moore, a Pensacola, Florida, native, moved to Hastings this summer to take over the bowling program at Hastings College, following the resignation of Ron Hergott.

Pensacola is part of a bowling breeding ground, Moore said. The South is chock full of king pins and he was once one of them.

“It’s a bit of a mecca for bowling,” he said.

Moore, who was a pastor for 40 years, competed for a little over a year on the pro tour. But throwing strikes in Pensacola led him to meet Kristopher Prather.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Kris Prather talks about the positive axis point on a bowling ball with the Hastings College bowling team Friday at Pastime Lanes.

Prather, 28, is considered by many as an up-and-comer in the professional bowling scene today. To date, he has three PBA wins, including one major. His father’s alley was a spot where Moore often practiced and competed, and thus, a friendship developed.

On Friday, Prather surprised Moore’s team at Pastime Lanes in Hastings during the Broncos’ practice session.

Hastings College was set to host the Bronco Open on Saturday and Sunday, but it was canceled last minute due to concerns over the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

Prather (pronounced pray-thur) already was scheduled to make the weekend trip, but now it’s even more special since the tournament has been nixed.

“This guy is the hottest bowler on the planet right now,” Moore said. “To have him here and have him share his experience and his knowledge, they’re going to hear it differently than me saying it.”

Prather, who drove in from Chicago, said he’s only recently veered into coaching. His goal is to help anybody who wants to listen.

“I just try to promote a positive outlook on bowling,” he said. “Bowling is struggling right now attracting the younger generation because it’s not as glamorous as the NBA or football or baseball.”

Prather advocates for the game because he was nearly born in his family’s bowling center. On New Year’s Eve 1991, Prather’s very pregnant mother walked around the alley, picking up the heavier balls to try and induce labor. The goal was to have Prather born just on the other side of the new year.

“In Florida, at the time, you got, like, a big tax break and free diapers and stuff if you were the first baby born of the year,” Prather said with a laugh. “So (my dad) was trying to get that to happen.”

Prather was born on Jan. 1, 1992, but was not the first Florida baby birthed closest to midnight.

“From that point on, I grew up in the bowling center, started competing in actual tournaments at age 9, and wanted to be a professional bowler ever since,” he said.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Professional bowler Kris Prather watches Hastings College’s Dave Shields during practice at Pastime Lanes Friday.

His dream came true in 2015, which was his rookie season on the pro circuit. It’s not the life you might think it is, although the best of the best — which Prather is on the path to be — can do quite well for themselves.

By winning the 2020 Tournament of Champions in February, which was broadcast live on Fox, Prather earned $100,000.

“He may not win every tournament, but he can grind out a check,” Moore said.

Prather knocked off Bill O’Neill (12 PBA wins, two majors) in the finals of the TOC. He’s bowled against the likes of legend Pete Weber and even current world No. 1 Jason Belmonte, an Australian known for his two-handed style.

“It feels like every time I make a TV show, I’m bowling against guys who are top 10 in the world and that are going to be in the hall of fame,” Prather said. “I kind of thrive on that because before last year, nobody really knew who I was and it just motivated me.”

Prather’s approach to bowling, which he said he’d do his best to impart on the team at Hastings College, is more mental and strategic than anything physical.

“Mental game and lane play is where I really excel,” he said. “It’s something that can be learned, whereas physical game is something you have to be gifted, to an extent. You can be taught that but you have to have some athleticism.”

Prather credits his time at Wichita State University, one of the premier college bowling programs, for his knowledge and focus on bowling’s intricacies.

“That was my spark to say, ‘OK, I want to learn everything I can about the sport of bowling so that way I have the best advantage when it comes to competition,’” Prather said.

Moore said his goal in taking over at HC was to bring in a pro bowler to allow his team to see and hear what it takes to succeed in the sport. With Prather, he’s delivered.

“Kris’ knowledge of the lanes, his equipment and how to match it to the lanes, and his versatility — he can throw it as straight as a string, he can hook it as many boards as anybody else, and he can do it as well as anybody else,” Moore said.

“He can be competitive, and that’s what I wanted our guys to see was that it might not be their tournament to win, but they can grind out a place; that they bowled well because they adapted to what was going on around them.”

Moore sees Hastings College, which competes against schools of all sizes and in all divisions, as a program in fine shape.

“Ron (Hergott) wasn’t a bowler, but to his credit, he had a good eye for kids who knew how to bowl and work together,” Moore said. “The last six or seven years, this program has just done very, very well for being a startup. I’m here to try and build on what (Ron) has done.”

Thayer County records first COVID-19 death
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The five-county Public Health Solutions Health District has moved into the red zone on its risk dial related to further spread of COVID-19 and has reported the first death of a Thayer County resident related to the disease.

The increase in the risk dial reading, which was noted when the district health department updated its COVID-19 data dashboard on Friday, came amid rising case numbers in all five counties.

The red zone indicates severe risk related to community spread on the risk dial, which also has green (low risk), yellow (moderate risk) and orange (elevated risk) zones. The dial readings are based on several criteria related to case numbers and health care system capacity.

The Public Health Solutions district recorded three new deaths related to the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, during the week that ended Friday, including the first of a Thayer County resident.

The PHS health department serves Fillmore, Thayer, Jefferson, Saline and Gage counties. It updates its data dashboard once per week, on Fridays.

To date, one death has been recorded in Thayer County and three in Fillmore County, along with two in Saline County and six in Gage County, for a total of 12.

Deaths aren’t announced as being attributable to COVID-19 until official death certificates noting the cause have been received. At this time, the department is awaiting receipt of six additional death certificates that potentially may affect the fatality count.

For the week ending Friday, the PHS district recorded a total of 510 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 — up from 284 for the prior week and 213 for the week before that.

This week’s new cases included 54 in Fillmore County — up from 45 for the week that ended Nov. 6 and 23 for the week before that —and 40 in Thayer County, which was up from 14 and 13, respectively, in the two preceding weeks.

To date since March, Fillmore County has recorded 209 positive cases of COVID-19, and Thayer County has recorded 122.

Thayer County had the lowest test positivity rate among the five counties for the week, but that rate was 28.57%. Fillmore County had the highest positivity rate, 46.15%.

The test positivity rate is the percentage of the number of tests administered during the week that come back with positive results, so the amount of testing that is occurring in the district is a key factor. That understood, positivity rates exceeding 15% indicate widespread community transmission of the virus.

In a news release Friday, PHS announced that a total of 44 district residents were hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19-like illnesses this week.

Health department officials said their staff is straining under the increased workload associated with the rise in case numbers, and that the result is slower turnaround in the investigation of individual cases.

Lack of cooperation with investigations also is taking a toll.

“The ability to provide timely and effective contact tracing has decreased over the past week with the significant increase in positive cases that require follow-up,” the department said. “In addition, just under 25% of individuals contacted either refused the interview or did not return calls/messages to the contact tracers.”

As of Friday, all four Nebraska public health districts covering portions of Tribland — Public Health Solutions; South Heartland (Adams, Webster, Clay and Nuckolls counties); Central (Hall, Hamilton and Merrick); and Two Rivers (Kearney, Franklin, Harlan, Buffalo, Phelps, Dawson and Gosper) now are in the red zone on their respective risk dials.

For more Public Health Solutions district statistics, visit www.phsneb.org.

Groundwater protection takes long-range planning
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Groundwater protection is a marathon, not a sprint.

That is how Tatiana Davila, groundwater geologist and wellhead protection coordinator for the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, described the planning process associated with wellhead protection areas. She spoke during a Zoom presentation for the Hastings League of Women Voters on Friday.

She was joined by Marty Stange, environmental director for the city of Hastings.

“We have to be thinking, ‘How many generations in the future are we willing to think?’ That’s a real challenge,” she said. “Are you thinking about your kids? Are you thinking about your grandkids? Are you thinking about 100 years in the future? This is a marathon. It’s definitely not a sprint. While that can be really overwhelming, ultimately, planning is a huge part of that. We have to make the shift from being reactionary to being proactive.”

The ultimate goal is putting less nitrogen in the ground.

“We have major responsibility in the state of Nebraska to be managing this resource in the most appropriate way,” Davila said of groundwater.

She showed a graph depicting the trend of rising nitrate levels in Nebraska over the course of the last 45 years. Sampling shows median nitrate levels increasing from around 4 milligrams per liter in 1974 with about 500 samples taken to consistently higher than 5.5 milligrams per liter by 2018 with about 4,500 samples.

“Nebraska’s really lucky because we’ve been taking groundwater samples for decades longer than a lot of other states have,” Davila said. “We have data going back to the mid-1970s with the establishment of our (Natural Resource Districts).”

While the trend is generally increasing, the graph shows a decrease during the last handful of years.

“There are a lot of things we can be doing,” she said. “There are a lot of things that folks are already doing.”

That long-range planning has resulted in wellhead protection areas.

The Wellhead Protection Area Act sets up a process for public water supply systems to use if they choose to implement a local wellhead protection plan.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy works with the community to establish an appropriate wellhead protection area, mapping the projected time of travel for contaminants based on the best-known geologic water level and pumping information available.

The time of travel can project contaminant movement 50 years in the future.

Source water protection grants help fund public education; development of a wellhead protection plan, watershed plan or drinking water protection plan; and closure of abandoned wells and workshops.

The 2018 Farm Bill provides a new opportunity for farmers and landowners to receive financial assistance for applying conservation practices on agricultural land located in source water protection priority areas.

Groundwater contamination in Hastings primarily includes nitrate and uranium. There are other metals mobilized by soil bacteria such as selenium and chromium.

The Hastings Wellhead Protection plan identified nitrate contamination was so extensive that watershed controls couldn’t protect the drinking water supply without a shorter-term plan to implement water treatment.

That is why the city of Hastings and several other partners collaborated to construct the Aquifer Storage and Restoration project in northwest Hastings, just across Baltimore Avenue from Lake Hastings.

The ASR project includes dual pumping, focused water treatment, aquifer storage and restoration, irrigation management, blending and storage.

Three extraction wells surround the ASR site. Dual pumps in those wells pull water both from a high level on the aquifer where the concentration of nitrates is higher as well as from lower in the aquifer where the nitrate level is lower.

The higher-nitrate water is cleaned using reverse osmosis, separating the clean water from the nitrate-rich water — referred to as brine. The brine is pumped either to the 13-acre ASR lagoon for the irrigation of nearby fields, or else, if the lagoon is full, through the sanitary sewer to the Hastings Utilities Pollution Control Facility.

So far, about a third of the projected $46 million has been spent on the project, which has been functional for three years and is now in a monitoring phase.

Groundwater protection is a collaborative endeavor, Stange said.

“Everybody has a stake in groundwater,” he said. “It’s not just a city problem. Certainly areas outside of Hastings are impacting the Hastings municipal water system.”

He said between 1990-2015 there was a 68% increase in nitrates in the Hastings area.

There are shallow soils here and nitrates get into the aquifer quickly.

In addition to blue baby syndrome — in which high levels of nitrates can be fatal for infants, as well as adults with respiratory issues due to lack of oxygen in the blood — the correlation is growing between certain types of cancer, as well as birth defects, and nitrates.

“We’re seeing more and more of these kinds of studies out there,” Stange said.

He thinks acceptable nitrate levels eventually may be based on the cancer risk, instead of the current limit of 10 milligrams per liter.