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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Guard sending 1,000 to Iraq

When they arrive in Iraq next year, they'll administer forces in a third of the country -- and bring music along with their munitions

By MARK BRUNSWICK, Star Tribune

Last update: December 11, 2008 - 11:00 PM

Larger groups of Minnesota Soldiers have been deployed in recent years to Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo, but the new deployment announced Thursday will involve a level of responsibility unseen since the Second World War More than 1,000 troops will be deployed to Iraq early next year, the Minnesota National Guard announced, with the Guard's 34th Infantry Division taking over command of 16,000 coalition forces in eight of Iraq's 18 provinces

The Minnesota troops will deliver to the war zone not just firepower but the soothing sound of music to ease the weariness of warriors far from home

The 34th will provide leadership, command, logistics, and communication support for four active-duty brigades of more than 16,000 multinational coalition forces

Guard officials said they will be providing both civil and military skills to help move the country toward independence and stability

"It's important to know that this historic undertaking is not about conducting solely offensive military operations It's all about enabling the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their own affairs," said Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, who will command the division

The Minnesota group will operate in the southern third of Iraq and will have a direct partnership with more than 40,000 Iraqi forces, which include the Iraqi Army, National Police and Department of Border Enforcement The 1,037 Minnesota Soldiers will be headquartered at Camp Victory, outside Baghdad, and are expected to arrive in Iraq in April after training for two months at Fort Lewis, Wash They are expected to return home in February 2010

The bulk of the troops will come from the Rosemount-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division Headquarters Soldiers based in Inver Grove Heights, Faribault and Stillwater also will be deployed

Forty-three Soldiers from the Rosemount-based division band also are expected to be deployed The band will provide music for ceremonies such as turning a province back to the Iraqis or a city gaining a new level of security or graduations In addition, musical support teams are sent to outlying forward operating bases to boost troop morale

The band includes two separate rock bands, a country western band, a brass quintet, a saxophone ensemble, a woodwind trio and a small ceremonial band

"When you have troops in combat, the USO shows can't reach all the troops that are there," said Chief Warrent Officer Trygve Skarr, who heads the Guard band "But Army bands can because we are Soldiers first and we're musicians; that's our specialty I'm very thankful that the Army and the military in general recognize troop morale is a very important component of theater operations"

Changing mission

Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a spokesman for the Minnesota Guard, said only eight National Guard divisions nationwide are large enough to support such a command The area the Guard will be responsible for is south of Baghdad, extending west to Anbar Province and south to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait It had been under the command of the Army's 10th Mountain Division It will be the first deployment for nearly 700 of the 1,037 Soldiers and the fourth deployment for 22 of them

As offensive military operations in Iraq lessen, the Guard assignment reflects the change The country will be establishing itself as a sovereign nation and the Status of Forces Agreement that was recently passed by the Iraqi parliament and approved by Iraq's Presidency Council is expected to ratchet back direct military action by coalition forces

"The days of US-only unilateral operations are, for the most part, over And our mission will be grounded with relationships with the Iraqis," Nash said "The measure of success for the 34th division will be to what extent the government of Iraq is capable of providing for its own population"

Mark Brunswick, 651-222-1636

Article source: http://www.StarTribune.com/



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Posted: 2018-06-08  11:59 AM
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