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Minnesota National Guard
Bearcats go through reintegration and celebrate


Moorhead State University hosted the 30-day reintegration academy for Soldiers of the 2-136th Bearcat Combined Arms Battalion Sept 29 Returning Soldiers from other units who live in the Moorhead area were also present, but the bulk of attendance was Bearcats

As they arrived by bus, foot and even the Moorhead State University Dragons' train, the Soldiers and their families filed into Comstock Hall, where they received their formal introduction to what reintegration is all about Col Kevin Gerdes and Chap Lt. Col. John Morris addressed the crowd and gave them a preview of what was to come

"For 16 months, you had that battle mind reinforced while you were in combat," said Col Gerdes "But now your home And that battle mind that served you so well is the battle mind you came home with And it doesn't always fit back so well into the family, into the workplace, into school"

The battle-minded Soldiers went through reintegration stations that addressed concernse including a Job Fair, Marriage counseling, and Parenting after deployment Through the stations, and through their participation, Soldiers were given the tools to reintegrate back into their communities and families successfully

The challenges facing the Soldiers of the Bearcat Battalion have a different tone then other units that returned with the 1/34th Brigade Combat Team 2-136th was in Fallujah and was a catalyst to the changes that took place their in which Sunni sheiks rose up against Al Qaeda influence However, this change didn't occur without serious fighting and bloodshed between insurgents and troops

"This battalion was in a very, very dangerous place, saw a lot of action, and lost some Soldiers," said Chap Lt. Col. John Morris "We want them to know where the help's available, that it's ok to ask, and that it's normal to have these kinds of reactions after combat, and that they can be dealt with just like former combat veterans have done"

As the Soldiers went through reintegration, they and their families appeared to be more and more grateful for the event

"This transition event is great," said Sgt Michael Felt "Everybody wants to be here, which is good"

The Bearcat Dinner

Following the reintegration, the Bearcat Battalion celebrated their return to the US at a formal dinner at the 119th Fighter Wing in Fargo, ND

A slue of dignitaries, including the both North Dakota and Minnesota Governors, both adjutants general from the two states, and members of United States Congress and Senate, attended the party to formally extend their "welcome home" to the Bearcat Battalion

The formal ceremony included a production of "grog," a special beverage, of which the recipe is passed down from 2-136 sergeants major to 2-136 1st sergeants Each ingredient of the beverage held symbolism for each campaign in which the 2-136 Bearcats have served From the American Civil War to current operations, every conflict was represented with an addition to the grog

There was also a great deal of tribute paid to the fallen comrades of the Battalion Staff Sgt Greg Reiwer, Staff Sgt James Wosika, Sgt Bryan McDonough, Sgt Corey Rystad, Staff Sgt Josh Hanson, Sgt Kyle Miller and Sgt Brent Koch had a reserved table, at the front of the auditorium A candle brightened a single rose, an empty plate and an overturned glass throughout the program to symbolize that the battalion was, indeed, missing men The table of the missing men was given special tribute by Sgt Josh Savageau

However, the main function of the dinner was to celebrate Bearcat Soldiers visited with each other, their guests and their leaders in a spirit of celebration

As the dinner came to a close, Family Readiness Group leaders and Soldiers were recognized and awarded for their efforts over the past two years The duration of the unit's deployment to Iraq was longer than any other Battalion serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom

"We happened to be one of the first ones on the ground in Iraq, and the last ones out due to some scheduling put together by the brigade staff," said Lt. Col. Gregg Parks, jokingly "Thank you Col Elicerio (1/34th BCT Commander)"

The Bearcats cheered loudly at their battalion commander's joke, which would set the tone for an evening of fun Following the dinner, the Soldiers danced to live music with their dates and celebrated their battalion's accomplishments

Cpl Joe Roos
Sept 29, 2007

Sept. 29, Moorhead 30 Day Reintegration and Bearcat Dinner photo gallery

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