| Witnessing, now remembering the 9-11 attacks
Five years after witnessing the terror attacks of Sept 11, 2001, a C-130 flight crew from the Minnesota Air National Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing remembers the day like it was yesterday
Taking off from Andrews Air Force Base, the crew enjoyed the beautiful weather and admired the sun shining off the Potomac River It was Lt Col
Steve O'Brien, the aircraft commander, who spotted an airplane at his 10 o'clock position The aircraft was American Airlines Flight 77 that hijackers crashed into the Pentagon
"When I first saw the aircraft it was moving fast and that's when air traffic control called and asked, 'Do you see an airplane, can you tell me what kind it is,' and then asked for us to follow it," said O'Brien "Never in 20 years of flying was I asked to follow a commercial airliner"
A few minutes later, O'Brien and his crew witnessed the nation under attack without realizing it "We saw a fireball on the ground from jet fuel exploding and then saw the silhouette of the Pentagon through the haze of smoke," said O'Brien
After air traffic control received the report from O'Brien, the flight crew was advised to continue their original mission and return home to Minnesota
The F-16 fighter jets were immediately mobilized to patrol and secure the area
Starting the flight home, the crew tuned in a newscast using an old-style navigation radio Although they were expecting to hear about an airplane crashing into the Pentagon, the first thing the crew heard was that a second airplane hit the World Trade Center New York City was reported to be up in smoke And then reality struck; the nation was under an organized terrorist attack
Minutes later while the crew was flying over Pennsylvania air traffic control made contact with O'Brien and asked if they could spot another aircraft, Flight 93 After glancing in all directions outside the windows, smoke was detected barreling from an open field at the left hand side of the airplane
"I thought the smoke was from a farmer burning, or a junk yard," said O'Brien "I was trying to be optimistic - the last thing anybody wants is to witness two commercial airliners crashing in the same day"
O'Brien reported the position of the smoke to the air traffic controllers and then was directed to land at the nearest airport, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio When the crew landed they witnessed another rarity; many large aircraft crammed into one small airport All airplanes were grounded at airports across the nation
After landing, the aircrew participated in a debrief with the FBI and intelligence officers, explaining what they witnessed Once released for the evening, O'Brien checked into his room, turned on the television and watched a report on Flight 93 crashing in a field in Shanksville, Pa
"The news report confirmed what I saw, I knew it was an airplane crash," said O'Brien "After our initial crew rest, we were put on alert to assist the Air Reserve for a few days before returning to Minnesota"
Many sleepless nights followed for the crew O'Brien explained that after a few weeks he started to wake up in the middle of the night in a complete conscious state of mind When the pattern continued for him and other crew members, O'Brien gathered the group to meet with a flight doctor to discuss how the mind deals with post-trauma In the meeting the flight doctor explained how sleeping patterns would restore, and they did
But memories still come back like the experience was yesterday
Master Sgt Jeffrey Rosenthal, Flight Engineer, explained that on a daily basis he is reminded about his 9/11 experience by reading the newspapers, watching the television and reminiscing about a recent deployment to the Middle East
"Still today we see first hand the results of terrorism in the world," said Rosenthal "Because I witnessed it first hand, I have a deeper appreciation for what we are doing and I know why America is fighting"
O'Brien and Rosenthal deployed multiple times since 9/11 to support Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and are gearing up for another tour in early 2007
Five years after Sept 11, 2001, Rosenthal remembers the day clearly "I think I can speak for the crew and what we remember is not a memory, but a wish that it never happenedas time goes on, it seems like a memory that we all could have down without"
By 1st Lt Sheree Savage
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."