| 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 Guard hosts Broadcasters Association visit
Posted: 2016-04-28 04:19 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Members of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association visited the Minnesota National Guard training site at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, April 26-27, 2016. The visit brought together radio and television broadcasters from across the state along with representatives of the Minnesota National Guard to highlight the years of positive relationships that have benefited the Minnesota public.
"On behalf of Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, the adjutant general of Minnesota, we are pleased to be able to spend time with members of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association at Camp Ripley," said Col. Kevin Olson, director of communications for the Minnesota National Guard.
For Minnesota Guardsman, military service leads to career in law enforcement
Posted: 2016-04-26 02:36 PM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - If you're looking to meet Sgt. David Zolldan of the Minnesota National Guard, there's a right way...and a wrong way. If you choose to text and drive, speed or fail to keep right on Minnesota's highways, check your rearview mirror, he might be there.
Seeing him standing proudly in the distinctive maroon and khaki uniform of the Minnesota State Patrol or on drill weekends, wearing the camouflage of a Soldier and military police officer, you might guess that Zolldan was born to serve and protect. But to him, the path to where he is today wasn't always as clear as one might think.
"I'm kind of an anomaly in my family," said Zolldan, thinking through where else he might have gone with his career. "All my family members are teachers."
Mental health focus of conference at Camp Ripley
Posted: 2016-04-20 09:27 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Yellow Ribbon community members, military leaders, and mental health professionals attended the Military Mental Health Initiative Conference April 12-14 at Camp Ripley.
Several guest speakers, along with military personnel and field professionals, met to unite community mental health providers with existing services and resources for worthwhile, up-to-date support to service members, veterans and families.
"Our objective here is to assist in facilitating a seamless transition for care between civilian and military behavioral health providers for Minnesota National Guard service members and their families," said Rebekah Pulju, behavior health officer with the Minnesota National Guard.
Minnesota ministry teams lock arms for joint training
Posted: 2016-04-13 08:29 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Army and Air Force chaplains and chaplain assistants from the Minnesota National Guard took part in annual Religious Support Team collective training at Camp Ripley, April 8-9, 2016.
The training was organized to provide a common operating picture of techniques and practices used by chaplains in the field as well as in garrison and on assignment.
"This is a great opportunity for us, bringing all the ministry elements of the Minnesota National Guard together," said Lt. Col. Michael Crawford, Camp Ripley Garrison chaplain.