| 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
347th RSG's top Soldiers gut it out for title of Best Warrior
Posted: 2016-10-17 03:24 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The 347th Regional Support Group hosted a brigade-level Best Warrior Competition at Camp Ripley Training Center from Oct. 14 to 16, 2016, to select the brigade's Best NCO and Best Soldier - both of whom will represent the brigade at the state-level competition in 2017.
"We made a point to make this event challenging, and it has been," said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Shields, assistant operations NCO for the brigade. "Regardless of the outcome, the Soldiers competing for the title of Best Warrior are getting great training value."
Ten Soldiers made up this year's field, representing 5 of the 9 units that make up the brigade. The contestants are supported by nearly forty Soldiers participating as sponsors, evaluators and staff to provide direction, motivation and support.
Minnesota National Guard celebrates Hispanic heritage month
Posted: 2016-10-16 10:46 AM
ARDEN HILLS, Minn. - The Minnesota National Guard celebrated Hispanic Heritage month by inviting two members of the Hispanic community to share their stories during a potluck lunch at the Arden Hills Army Training Site, Oct. 11, 2016.
First to speak was Minnesota State Senator Patricia Torres Ray, one of two Latinas out of 67 senators in the Minnesota Senate. She spoke about her experience coming to the U.S. from Colombia and how not being able to speak the language made it a challenge to connect with people in her new country.
"I was not a minority in my country, because everybody that I knew looked like me," said Torres Ray. "I was not connected to the multi-cultural global world that you live in."
Major General Nash to Continue Service as Adjutant General of Minnesota
Posted: 2016-10-12 01:57 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2016
ST. PAUL, Minn.-
After a successful appeal by Governor Mark Dayton to former National Guard Bureau Chief General Frank J. Grass, Major General Richard C. Nash will continue serving the state of Minnesota as Adjutant General until the state's mandatory retirement, through October 31, 2017. Without Governor Dayton's action, Major General Nash would have faced retirement under the national requirement, which would have taken effect September 30, 2016.
"Major General Nash is an exceptional leader who has served our state and nation with great distinction," said Governor Dayton. "His leadership and experience are invaluable to the Minnesota National Guard and the citizens of our state. I thank General Grass and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter for granting this extension, and I thank Major General Nash for continuing his outstanding service to Minnesota."
Care of injured bird comes full circle
Posted: 2016-10-12 12:45 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - An eagle was released back in the wild Oct. 4, 2016, at Camp Ripley following three months of rehabilitation.
"We'd like to thank the team at Camp Ripley for rescuing and bringing this bald eagle to the Raptor Center for care," said Amber Burnette, program associate with the Raptor Center University of Minnesota. "It was our pleasure to be a part of bringing this bird back home."
The bald eagle was found along a Morrison County highway by a soldier working at Camp Ripley in mid-July, 2016. At first glance, the bird appeared to be injured and not responding to the traffic that was driving by.