| Group working to make Washington County first Yellow Ribbon county
March 11, 2009
Everyone wants to know how the Soldier is doing.
No one asks how the Soldier's family is doing.
That is the message that military personnel took to a group gathered at Oak-Land Junior High School in Lake Elmo Monday night. The listeners were there to form coalitions and support systems to keep families of Soldiers deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan from feeling alone, isolated and bereft in a sea of child care, household chores and daily demands.
The meeting was called by a number of Washington County leaders after meeting Lt. Col. Barbra O'Reilly and Col. Kevin Gerdes at a Washington County Board of Commissioners meeting at which the board commended the send-off of the 34th Infantry Division, Army National Guard Division Headquarters in Rosemount, known as the Red Bulls.
When people at the county meeting asked, what can we do, they were directed to the city of Farmington, which has become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community. Residents there formed themselves into a number of groups to provide services and support to deployed families.
Farmington followed a template to become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community, following research by the Warrior to Citizen campaign developed at the University of Minnesota. Should Washington County become a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon county, filling the template offered by the organization, it would be one of the first counties to do so.
What it is like
At the opening of the gathering Monday evening, military families explained why the need exists.
O'Reilly described her own deployment to Afghanistan, during which she left two young daughters at home with her husband.
She described the experience as being in a canoe, one that keeps its balance as the family paddles across a serene lake. But when the word comes that the Soldier will be deploying, "It upset my canoe," she said.
"You're waiting for the inevitable day when you have to go," she said, and the water gets rougher as the day comes closer. "As I left, I slipped into a world of the execution mode, but my husband and daughters were still in the canoe," O'Reilly said.
What's more, he was not unlike most military families, who are reluctant to ask for help.
"He's at the end of the lake, and there's a portage," she said. It's time to ask for help from friends, neighbors and the rest of the community, but that is a tough task for most military families.
Micki Gerdes, wife of Col. Kevin Gerdes, told her story from the perspective of the family left behind.
Everyone wants to know how the deployed spouse is doing, what they can do for the Soldiers fighting "over there."
No one asks what they can do for the family.
"I raised my right hand and took an oath to go wherever this country would send me," Kevin Gerdes said. "Micki and my boys did not. They were drafted."
Micki Gerdes talked of being isolated and lonely, of needing household help that was not coming. Co-workers were either indifferent or against the war, and said so. Her sons didn't want anyone to know that their father was deployed and they were "different." Teachers were both sympathetic and indifferent, she said.
No one is looking for sympathy, Kevin Gerdes said, and no one needs to say "I'm sorry" about a deployment. But support and understanding would be helpful.
With regular army, those deployed will train and prepare at a fort, and their families will be living among one another and support one another. But what is needed is "Fort Minnesota," as there is no single military installation in the state, O'Reilly said.
And that is the point of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, to gather the support for military families into a concerted effort.
After the formal presentation, those attending broke into groups to talk about what segments of the community can do to help. Elected officials from the community listened to Annette Kuyper of Farmington, who discussed the process that her community underwent to become a designated Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community.
Other groups were educators, social service network providers, veterans groups, clergy and others. In the group connected to the clergy, the question came up, "how to find the families?"
Because of privacy issues, there are not lists of the deployed that are released. Community members simply have to ask, pay attention, and refer friends and neighbors. Kuyper added that once residents in her community became aware of the programs, efforts "bubbled up" to locate those who need help.
The purpose of the meeting was to generate interest in the community and that was accomplished, said Sen. Kathy Saltzman, one of the organizers,
The next step is to make sure that everyone left the meeting with a task and contact information on how to get that task completed. The groups should meet every week for the next five weeks, to help find the people within the community who can be of help.
Saltzman emphasized that the movement is not to create new organizations or programs, but simply to mobilize current programs, as well as offering support for the families of the deployed.
The group created an e-mail address email@example.com to provide a common point of discussion for the group.
Yvonne Klinnert " Lake Elmo Leader
Read more at the Lake Elmo Leader
Go to the Minnesota National Guard's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon page for more information about the Minnesota National Guard's award-winning Servicemember reintegration program.
148th Fighter Wing Excels at Combat Hammer
Posted: 2015-05-21 03:44 PM
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah - Approximately 180 Airmen and Block 50 F-16's from the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn. participated in an exercise known as Combat Hammer while at Hill AFB, Utah in early May 2015. Combat Hammer is a Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) that evaluates weapon systems in their entirety.
While the exercise was about a week long for most 148FW Airmen, it was quite a bit longer for those Airmen actually building the bombs and missiles. "Typically, we are one of the first assets to show up at a deployment," said 2nd Lt. Mylii Pukema, 148FW Munitions Officer. "We show up about a week before most everyone else, so we can build up the weapons and have them ready when the jets arrive."
"It's a common misconception that weapons come already built," said Pukema. "Different weapons have different levels of configuration that have to happen. It can be a lot of detail that goes into configuring a weapon or it can be relatively simple, it just depends on the mission."
148FW Munition's Airmen were evaluated from the time the weapon came out of the box. How they practiced safety and followed tech data during the building of the weapon were key components to the evaluation process.
Red Bulls Welcome New Command Sergeant Major
Posted: 2015-05-17 10:38 AM
ROSEMOUNT, Minn. - Soldiers and family members of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division gathered at the division headquarters Sunday, May 17, 2015 to witness the change of responsibility of the Division command sergeant major.
"We are here to say thank you and farewell to Command Sgt. Maj. Joel Arnold and welcome Command Sgt. Maj. John Lepowsky as the new command sergeant major of the 34th Infantry Division," said Brig. Gen. Benjamin Corell, assistant division commander of maneuver.
According to General Baron Friedrich von Steuben, inspector general of the Continental Army in 1779, "The choice of non-commissioned officers is an object of greatest importance: The order and discipline of a regiment depends so much on their behavior, that too much care cannot be taken in preferring none to that trust but those who by their merit and good conduct are entitled to it."
Department of Defense Recognizes Metro Region Minnesota Employers
Posted: 2015-05-14 01:10 PM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - - Minnesota Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) State Chair Nick Ostapenko recognized Metro area employers as outstanding employers of Minnesota National Guard and Reserve members, at the Minnesota ESGR Region 7 annual employer support awards banquet, May 11, at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Hilton Hotel in Bloomington, Minn.
"Our Nation has relied heavily on Guard and Reserve Service members since entering continuous operations more than a decade ago. Employer support enhances retention rates in the Armed Forces and in the end, strengthens our national security," said Ostapenko. "Recognizing supportive employers is vital to ESGR's mission. Our ESGR members actively promote awards as a key element in furthering employer support, while strengthening relationships between Service members and employers. We are here today to award and honor the sacrifices made by so many employers year after year."
Camp Ripley hosts Ripley Rendezvous
Posted: 2015-05-13 10:59 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Twelve Councils of the Boy Scouts of America, Central Region, will participate in one of the largest scout camporees May 15-17 at Camp Ripley.
According to the Boy Scouts of America, this is an official area-wide rendezvous including scouts from Minnesota, North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, western Wisconsin, Iowa and parts of Canada.
"All Boy Scouts and Venture Crews, from the area, are invited to this once-every-four-year event at Camp Ripley," said a spokesman for the Central Region Councils.