| 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's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program to be recognized on State Fair Military Appreciation Day
Posted: 2016-08-26 03:01 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2016
ST. PAUL, Minn.-
The sixth annual Military Appreciation Day at the Minnesota State Fair presented by USAA on Tuesday, August 30, will recognize Minnesota's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program and provide an educational opportunity for all fairgoers to learn about Minnesota's military community.
"Veterans, active duty service members, and military families deserve our immense gratitude for their sacrifice and commitment," said Governor Mark Dayton. "Since 2008, over 290 cities, counties, businesses and non-profits have joined Minnesota's "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" program, and are now providing community support and employment assistance to veterans and military families. I thank these organizations for their leadership, and encourage all Minnesotans to thank and support our military heroes."
A 10:00 a.m. program at the Minnesota State Fair's Leinie Lodge Bandshell will celebrate Minnesota's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program. The program will conclude at 10:25 a.m. with a historic flyover of World War II-era P6 and B25 aircraft.
Willmar-based National Guardsmen to return home Saturday
Posted: 2016-08-25 03:26 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2016
ST. PAUL, Minn.-
More than 150 Soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard's 682nd Engineer Battalion will return to Willmar Saturday following a mobilization in support of Operation Spartan Shield.
"The Soldiers of Task Force Wild excelled in their mission, and were recognized across the theater for their hard work and dedication," said Lt. Col. Keith Ferdon, battalion commander. "I couldn't be prouder of how our Soldiers represented the State of Minnesota."
The mission of the Task Force was to provide horizontal and vertical engineer construction in support of coalition forces in the region. The Soldiers oversaw the planning and execution of 285 construction projects with an approximate total value of 20.2 million dollars in seven countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
Minnesota Identification Card will no longer grant access to Department of Defense installations
Posted: 2016-08-19 01:53 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2016
ST. PAUL, Minn.-
With the implementation of the "REAL ID Act" going into effect at Department of Defense installations nationwide, access will no longer be granted to Minnesotans carrying standard state-issued identification cards. Beginning this week, Minnesota residents will be required to have an approved escort or use alternative forms of identification to access the following installations:
- 133rd Airlift Wing, St. Paul
- 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth
- 934th Joint Base, Minneapolis
- Military Facility at Fort Snelling
Without a 'Real ID,' access will be granted only to individuals with an approved escort (i.e. a service member with a Common Access Card), or carrying one of the approved alternative forms of acceptable ID.
General John W. Vessey, Jr. - The 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Posted: 2016-08-19 08:22 AM
General John W. Vessey, Jr., a former member of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and the 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away August 18, 2016, at the age of 94.
General John W. Vessey, Jr. was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 29 June 1922. He enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in May 1939 while still in high school, becoming a member of Headquarters, 59th Field Artillery Brigade, 34th Infantry Division. He was only 16 and fibbed about his age to join. With other members of his unit he was called to active duty in February 1941. When war came, the 34th became the first American division sent to Europe, where it initially fought in North Africa and then in Italy. A natural leader, Vessey rose quickly in the enlisted ranks until 6 May 1944 when, pinned down on the Anzio Beachhead amidst high casualties, the 21-year old battery first sergeant was given a battlefield commission and sent forward to direct artillery fire.
Vessey decided to stay in the Army after war. During his first 30 years of military service, he spent most of his time in combat divisions. In addition to his World War II assignment with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in North Africa and Italy, Vessey served with the 4th Infantry Division and 3rd Armored Division in Germany, the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and was commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Carson, Colorado.
He attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He also graduated from the University of Maryland. His love of flying prompted him to earn his wings, which he always wore proudly. When he graduated from the Army Helicopter School in 1970, he was 15 years older than the next oldest student.