| 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"
Minnesota National Guard contract acquisition team to deploy
Posted: 2017-01-15 04:44 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Four Soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard's Little Falls-based 1903rd Support Detachment, 347th Regional Support Group will deploy for a nine-month contracting mission at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel.
"The Soldiers are motivated, trained and ready for their upcoming mission. We will contract for the necessary services and supplies to support the warfighter," said to Lt. Col. Michael Lange, the team commander.
Jensen takes command of historic 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in its 100th year
Posted: 2017-01-13 01:54 PM
Brig. Gen. Jon Jensen, Minnesota National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, took command of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, Jan. 8, 2017, as the Division marks its centennial anniversary.
"2017 marks a historic year for the Red Bulls as we begin celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 34th Infantry Division," said Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. The Division, then known as the "Sandstorm Division," was created in 1917 from National Guard troops of Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas and Nebraska.
Jensen is the second native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, to hold the position and joins a long line of commanders who have led the Division through both of the World Wars up to the current Global War on Terrorism.
Military, Civilian Response Agencies Train for Super Bowl 2018
Posted: 2017-01-12 09:34 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Soldiers and Airmen with the Minnesota National Guard's CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) and Twin Cities emergency service personnel with MN Task Force One endured single-digit temperatures at the WestRock paper mill in St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 7, 2017, for a joint training exercise.
The 203-person CERFP conducts command and control, search and extraction, decontamination and medical operations to assist civil authorities in providing disaster response. It is comprised of Soldiers from the 84th Troop Command, 682nd Engineer Battalion and 434th Chemical Company, and Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing Medical Group.
This was the second joint training exercise the CERFP and MN Task Force One have conducted together, said Maj. Ryan Cochran, the Deputy Commander of the Minnesota CERFP.
NOREX 44 'Away Team' assembles in preparation for annual exchange
Posted: 2017-01-11 01:21 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The contingent of soldiers and airmen from the Minnesota National Guard preparing for the annual U.S.-Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange assembled for their first formal training event Saturday and Sunday at Camp Ripley Training Center.
The preparatory drill weekend, which took place one month before 103 members of the Minnesota National Guard embark to Norway as part of the "away team" for the two-week military and cultural exchange event, was held to provide information on the exchange and, more importantly, allow an opportunity for these service members from units across the state to come together as one team.
"It's a good opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds in an accelerated environment," said Army Sgt. 1st Class David Wentzel, with the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery. "This experience is what they're going to make of it, and they're making the most of it."