| 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
American meal welcomes warriors
Posted: 2016-06-22 09:31 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard and Norwegian Home Guard gathered together at the Camp Ripley Hanger Conference Center June 20, 2016, for the American Meal as part of the Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange. The exchange began in 1974 and is the longest-running military exchange partnership between any two nations.
The event, centered on the taste of American foods, shared the cultural and social experiences typically found here in America.
"It has been a pleasure to be here; we have a lot to learn from each other and it starts right here, with the young members of our two military organizations," said Brig. Gen. Sandra Best, chief of staff of the Minnesota Air National Guard.
Here comes the boom!
Posted: 2016-06-21 10:13 AM
FORT IRWIN, Calif. - "Earthpig One-Six, this is Bravo Six, you are clear to advance on the objective," is heard over the radio within the crowded, oven-like Bradley Fighting Vehicle operated by engineers of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion in the middle of the Mojave Desert on June 15, 2016.
The platoon, consisting of two Bradley Fighting Vehicles and an Assault Breacher Vehicle, was preparing for a live-fire breaching mission utilizing the mine clearing line charge while in "The Box" during National Training Center rotation 16-07 for the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, at Fort Irwin, California.
"The 1st Battalion, 145th Armored Regiment, requested my platoon as an asset in an obstacle breaching lane where we used a mine clearing line charge, or MICLIC," said Sgt. Adam Clark, a combat engineer with A Co., 334th BEB. "We provide security for our ABV asset to be able to effectively launch the rocket and detonate the charges to clear whatever the obstacle may be."
Supporting a Brigade Training for Combat Readiness
Posted: 2016-06-20 02:21 PM
FORT IRWIN, Calif. - The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division is relying on the 347th Regional Support Group for life support during their rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. Comprised of seven companies, this unit brings the mission command, transportation expertise, human resource capabilities, medical support and eager Soldiers needed to provide life support to a small city.
Divided into two rotations and a rail operations team, nearly 500 soldiers of the RSG are spending their annual training at the National Training Center, providing life support for the 1/34 ABCT.
"Even though this is not a typical mission for our subordinate units, our teams (consisting of personnel from different companies), really came together to make this relatively large operation flow smoothly," said Maj. Ryan Koester, plans officer and rail officer-in-charge for the off-loading portion at Marine Corps Logistics Base, Yermo, Calif.
Red Bulls Begin Saber Strike
Posted: 2016-06-14 09:24 AM
TAPA ARMY BASE, Estonia - Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Red Bull Infantry Division joined units from 14 countries to support the Saber Strike 16 exercise taking place from May 27-June 22 throughout Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The long-standing U.S. Army Europe-led exercise is designed to improve joint interoperability through a range of missions that prepare participating nations to support multinational contingency operations.
"Taking leadership roles in Saber Strike, Cooperative Resolve, Yama Sakura, Talisman Sabre, Austere Challenge and other international exercises sharpens our skills as soldiers and leaders, and reinforces the reputation earned by the Red Bulls who served before us," said Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Neal Loidolt. "Through Saber Strike, we are strengthening relationships with our Allies to enhance international security, while broadening the capacity of the Minnesota National Guard to assist in future coalition operations."
During the exercise, the Red Bulls are demonstrating for partner nations, such as Slovenia, the capabilities a division headquarters brings to the battle. Soldiers from C Company, 34th Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion are also augmenting the communications capabilities of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment.