| 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
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."