| More than 1,000 Minnesota National Guard members given big send-off on Iraq mission
By Tad Vezner email@example.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/
Litchfield and Local Veteran Honor Gen. John Vessey at Armory Open House
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM
LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Camp Ripley welcomes new command sergeant major
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.
Norwegian youth recognized for response to vehicle accident
Posted: 2017-02-22 09:59 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Norwegian youths Stian Dahl and Haavard Engen received the Camp Ripley Garrison Commander's coin from Col. Scott St Sauver February 19, 2017, in recognition for reacting to a vehicle accident they witnessed earlier that week.
As part of the U.S.-Norway Reciprocal Troop Exchange, Norwegian youths ages 19-20 are matched up with a host family in order to spend an evening experiencing American culture. In most situations the "Buddy Weekend" as it's called allows the youths to go shopping, attend events and have home-cook meals along with their host family.
"We are able to match up youth members with families all over the state," said Staff Sgt. Tim Krouth, Buddy Weekend organizer. "Lots of the families have hosted one or two of our Norwegian friends for several years in a row now, it a great way to relax and see some of Minnesota."
To the top of the mountain and back, NOREX 44 members embrace the Norwegian winter
Posted: 2017-02-21 01:25 PM
HALTDALEN, Norway - After two days at a base camp near Haltdalen, Norway, Minnesota National Guardsmen participating in the 44th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange were ready for the most challenging aspect of their four-day field training exercise - a ski march up the mountain.
It was Day three of the FTX, meaning members of the 44th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange had slowly adjusted to surviving and thriving while living in a winter environment and also honed their skills on cross country skills well enough to begin a climb that would take nearly three hours.
"Our goal was to get you to know how to use the winter, see how the Norwegians use the winter, and how we survive the winter so we can conduct combat," said Vidar Aune, one of several members of Home Guard 12 guiding the Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen during their training here. "By getting the experience living outside in the snow, you manage to survive it and handle it quite well."