| MPR News Primer: Minnesota National Guard at war
April 16, 2012 St Paul, Minn — Nearly 3,000 Minnesota National Guard soldiers return home this month after serving a year in Afghanistan and Kuwait After ten years of regular deployments, Minnesota Guard troops will largely be home by May What's happened to Minnesota's citizen-soldier force in the decade? What happens next?
Minnesota National Guard - the basics
The Guard is a force of citizen-soldiers the governor can mobilize in peacetime to help during floods and other disasters The federal government calls on the Guard in war time to fight and support military operations overseas Minnesota's force traces its origins to the Pioneer Guard militia formed in 1856, before statehood It's served in every major American conflict since then
More than 25,000 Minnesota guardsmen have been deployed around the globe during the War on Terror that began with the terrorists attacks of Sept 11, 2001
There are nearly 14,000 in the state Guard currently, including 11,000 soldiers and 2,000 airmen They typically train a weekend per month and a two-week stretch during the year For their service, they earn pay and benefits that vary with rank and duty status An active duty specialist/corporal in the National Guard earns between $1,915 and $2,326 a month
What did Minnesota's Guard do overseas?
Minnesota Guard units served around the world the past 10 years, but their largest roles came in Iraq and Afghanistan where guardsmen have fought in combat and provided combat support
The Minnesota National Guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division -- the Red Bulls -- holds the record for the longest serving unit in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Seventeen Minnesota guardsmen have died in a combat zone since the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks All but one died in Iraq, where 79 earned Purple Heart medals from combat injuries through 2011
What happens when guardsmen return?
When they return, Minnesota guardsmen go through a basic routine:
"As our Minnesota National Guard soldiers arrive at the demobilization sites, they will undergo medical and dental examinations, attend briefings on federal and state benefits, conduct equipment turn-in and complete administrative documentation," Army Maj Gerald D Halloran said in early April
"Once they complete these tasks, we'll send them home to Minnesota on chartered flights to Minneapolis
The final travel includes a bus ride to their respective armories"
Beyond the bus ride, though, some guardsmen face plenty of physical and emotional challenges as they return
MPR News reporter Tom Robertson wrote two years ago about the challenge of some Minnesota guardsmen returning home from war, highlighting the struggles of Greg Roberts, a former Minnesota National Guard staff sergeant trying to reclaim his civilian life
"It's something I did not anticipatecoming home and having it be a more difficult experience than actually being deployed," Roberts said "I was pretty much emotionally dead and I still deal with that now"
Mental health problems are a constant worry as soldiers return from combat operations
"The Minnesota National Guard began tracking suicide data in 2007 Since then, 24 citizen soldiers have taken their own lives That's the most of any state," writes MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire
Guard officials note that while concerning, two-thirds of the soldiers who committed suicide had never deployed and so their suicides are not the result of post-traumatic stress disorder
Only two of the 24 suicides occurred among active duty soldiers, Maj Gen Richard Nash, adjutant general of Minnesota, told lawmakers in December
Nash also told lawmakers that 34 soldiers sought help in a program for those who may be at risk of suicide
What kind of job market awaits Minnesota service people as they return?
Not great While the situation is better now than in the depths of the reception, it's still a challenge for military members to find work
"The Guard says about 19 percent of its 2,700 members will face unemployment when they get back from Kuwait in May," MPR News reporter Elizabeth Baier writes Unemployment rates for Minnesota veterans are more than three times the state's overall unemployment rate of 57 percent, she adds
Part of the challenge is to convince employers that guardsmen can transition easily from military service back into civilian life
It's a stigma that can be difficult for soldiers to overcome
However, there are increasing efforts to help veterans return to the workplace, including new employer tax incentives
Colleges and universities are also doing a lot to accommodate a crush of veterans seeking degrees after their service The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system had 10,644 veterans and service members enrolled in 2011, up 57 percent from 2008 Minneapolis Community and Technical College saw its enrollment of service members nearly double between 2008 and 2010
What happens to the Guard when deployments end?
"Now the fighting is over so we're going back into that train mode, which is the life of an army unit," the Red Bulls' Col Eric Kerska told MPR News in January
"We'll just continue to train, continue to manage the bases and the brigade will be much better trained by the time we get home"
Cannoneers remember lineage during upcoming anniversary
Posted: 2016-07-20 10:13 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Artillery crewmen and support personnel of the 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery are conducting gunnery skills training, July 17-30, 2016, at Camp Ripley.
This is part of the annual training requirements that each National Guard unit must complete in order to meet readiness standards in support of possible federal missions.
During the summer of 1917, this battalion answered such a call following the congressional approval of President Woodrow Wilson's declaration of war against Germany.
More Military Bases Join 'Sentinel Landscapes' for Readiness Enhancement
Posted: 2016-07-15 10:03 AM
WASHINGTON - Numerous military installations have joined the Sentinel Landscapes partnership to maintain military readiness while preserving local agriculture, natural resources and wildlife habitat, Defense Department officials announced today.
Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida; Camp Ripley, Minnesota; and the Eastern North Carolina region, which comprises numerous military installations, joined the cooperative partnership between DoD and the departments of Interior and Agriculture, DoD officials said.
In July 2013, the departments launched the Sentinel Landscapes Partnership through a memorandum of understanding to meet three critical goals: preserve working and agricultural lands, restore and protect wildlife habitat, and assist with military readiness. The first designees were Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, Fort Huachuca in Arizona and Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, officials said.
Minnesota National Guard executes recovery mission following NTC rotation
Posted: 2016-07-15 09:08 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Soldiers and vehicles of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team 34th Infantry Division returned to Minnesota at the beginning of July after a month-long training rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.
"This is the final phase of this movement exercise, we learned a lot and exceeded every expectation with great results," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Gerard Hummel, railhead officer-in-charge.
After offloading vehicles and equipment from the railhead at Camp Ripley, Minnesota National Guard units will begin the next phase following an exercise which is the checking, servicing and maintaining of everything the unit needs to execute its next mission.
Minnesotans visit Croatia to mark 20 years of State Partnership
Posted: 2016-07-12 09:51 AM
KARLOVAC, Croatia - Former and current members of the Minnesota National Guard, Governor Mark Dayton and the St. Paul civic group "Serving Our Troops" visited Croatia to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the State Partnership Program, July 2, 2016.
During the trip Governor Dayton, the Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, and current and former Minnesota National Guard leadership visited the Dubovac Primary School in Karlovac, Croatia. The elementary school just finished being refurbished by the Croatian Army Engineering Regiment, the Minnesota Army National Guard's 851st Vertical Engineer Company, and Civil Engineer Squadron members from the 133rd Airlift Wing and the 148th Fighter Wing. The engineers worked together to build a state-of-the-art kitchen, locker room and restrooms in the aging school.
"The partnership between Minnesota and Croatia is strong, and I am very honored to be here to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of our State Partnership Program," said Nash. "This simple gesture of cooperation on making sure that the future of Croatia - the nation's youth - have the necessary facilities to learn, grow and prosper is emblematic of our partnership."