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Minnesota National Guard
More than 1,000 Minnesota National Guard members given big send-off on Iraq mission

By Tad Vezner tvezner@pioneerpress.com

Flags were raised and tears fell as more than 1,000 Minnesota Soldiers received their official send-off to Iraq on Tuesday

Row upon row of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Red Bull Infantry stood at attention on the floor of St Paul's Roy Wilkins Auditorium, with thousands of family members - peering down from the balconies - surrounding them in a valley of community support

The event had all the trimmings of a typical deployment: raucous applause for a live rendition of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA"; the cries of babies breaking the silence of the opening prayer; accolades and salutes from dignitaries

But all present - many of whom have been deployed more than once - called it the largest such ceremony they'd ever seen Red Bull emblems, a full two stories high, were projected on the walls, and the event was followed by a steak dinner billed as the "largest single-sitting meal ever served at the RiverCentre complex," with more than 7,000 people dining, courtesy of the St Paul-based Serving Our Troops organization

"Everyone at this hall tonight has heard the phrase 'freedom isn't free' The heroes in front of us are paying way more than their share of the tab," said Gov Tim Pawlenty, commander-in-chief of the Minnesota National Guard

"War should be the last option But the world also needs to know this: When America goes to war, America wins," he added, garnering his speech's first hearty round of applause Minutes later, division commander Maj Gen Richard Nash appeared emotional when addressing the men and women sitting before him

"With no disrespect to our predecessors, these Soldiers are my greatest generation," Nash said, his voice breaking slightly "They have stood up and said, 'Send me' "

In all, 1,037 Soldiers will depart this week for Fort Lewis, Wash, to undergo training before heading to Iraq in April A third of those to be deployed have served in Iraq or Afghanistan before, and a select few have been called up two or three times Some family members could not sit still for the ceremony

"She's a lot happier here," Terri Kemp said apologetically to her husband, Sgt 1st Class Rich Kemp, as their 2-year-old daughter, Erica, crawled on his lap in one of the back rows

"It's going to be hard leaving them behind," said Kemp, 49, of Brooklyn Park A 27-year veteran of the Guard, Kemp has seen friends deployed to the war zone, but he will depart himself for the first time Friday

"It's something you train all your life for It's something you feel you should do - so many have gone before me," he added

The troops come from 273 Minnesota communities Fifty-seven are from St Paul, more than any other city

The Soldiers include 425 from the Rosemount-based division's headquarters; 350 from the Inver Grove Heights-based special troops battalion; 50 special troops battalion Soldiers stationed in Faribault; 43 from the Rosemount-based division band; and 169 from the Stillwater-based military police company

Military officials have touted the mission as the Red Bulls' most important They will be responsible for command of some 16,000 coalition forces in a full third of Iraq, leading US operations in eight of Iraq's 18 provinces - an area stretching from Baghdad to the southern border and east to parts of the border with Iran

The Iraqi police and military have taken over day-to-day patrolling in the region, leaving coalition forces in a support role US forces will primarily be responsible for helping to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and improving government stability The Red Bulls are scheduled to return to Minnesota by February 2010

In May 2007, about 2,600 members of the 34th's 1st Brigade Combat Team returned to Minnesota after a 16-month tour in Iraq; nine did not make it home Between operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, 13 members of the 34th have been killed and 168 have been wounded

Tad Vezner can be reached at 651-228-5461

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



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Beyond NATO Commitments, MN State Partnership with Croatia Continues to Grow

Posted: 2017-06-22  10:25 AM
Saber Strike SPP PABRADE, Lithuania - Since 1996, the Minnesota National Guard and the Croatian Armed Forces have been partners in the National Guard's State Partnership Program. Beyond the bond of the NATO commitment, a mutual trust and unique bond has been forged amongst the warriors of each respective nation. From Camp Ripley to Karlovac, the soldiers have found a common cause of continuous improvement. Exercise after exercise, there has been a greater appreciation of one another's culture and customs.

You don't have to look to far to see this dynamic. When asked if he had ever worked with Minnesota National Guardsmen before, 1Lt Emanuel Hamer of the Croatian Armed Forces said, "This is my fourth time working with 2-136 "Bearcats," each time we grow closer and stronger. I feel like they are members of my unit. I'm glad I have this opportunity to learn new techniques and share some of our own with the Americans."



7 Nations, 4 Branches, 1 Mission; Saber Strike '17

Posted: 2017-06-20  02:14 PM
Saber Strike 17 PABRADE, Lithuania - As the sun begins to set on the Lithuanian countryside, the final touches are put on the camouflage netting designed to break the silhouette and conceal the position of the Tactical Action Center, or TAC, of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division on June 17, 2017. As part of the multinational exercise of Saber Strike '17, the 1/34th ABCT is providing support to the Air Assault Task Force Commander, Col. Charles Kemper.

As the first ever combined air and ground assault in the annual Saber Strike exercise, this year's exercise has set a milestone in testing the compatibility of seven nations and all military branches.

"We want to reassure all of our NATO Allies that we are in this together," said Kemper. "We're part of the team and we can demonstrate capability."



Minnesota Aviators complete successful eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise

Posted: 2017-06-20  08:30 AM
XCTC FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard's 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion wrapped up support for an eXportable Combat Training Capability (XCTC) exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, recently. The unit was part of Task Force Ragnar, the exercise's aviation element, supporting the Tennessee National Guard's 278th Armored Calvary Regiment as they prepare for a rotation to the National Training Center in 2018.

"Our mission is to support a brigade element here," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Otremba, with the 2-147. "But I think our ultimate mission is to train for an austere environment which sets us up for success at NTC next year."

The task force conducted aviation support missions including air assault, sling load, deliberate attack, defensive positioning and key leader escorts. They also conducted aviation-specific training in personnel recovery, downed aircraft recovery, field maintenance and air traffic control operations.



CERFP exercise tests Guardsmen, new evaluation team

Posted: 2017-06-08  01:42 PM
evaluators DULUTH, Minn. - Minnesota National Guard members serving in a variety of roles tested their skills as evaluators and domestic response assets during a Combined Training Exercise simulating a chemical explosion in the harbors of Duluth from June 3 to June 9, 2017.

The exercise was the first time in nearly four years that the specialized 55th Civil Support Team - which would respond to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) threat before any other Minnesota National Guard unit - worked in conjunction with the 84th Troop Command's CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package. In practice, the CST would provide the initial response and hand the mission off to the CERFP, which is capable of mass decontamination and casualty support as well search and recovery expertise in the event of collapsed or damaged structures.

And as crews of CERFP Soldiers donned protective gear, established decontamination lanes and prepared for swells of simulated victims seeking medical attention, a few select Soldiers quietly observed it all.



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