| 34th ID takes over civil mission in Basra
May 22, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq - More than a year ago, militias controlled Basra - its ports, its commerce and its violence
Then, in March 2008, the Iraqi army swept through the city and drove the Mahdi Army militias from the docks That calmed the situation for both Iraqi residents and the British troops stationed near the city, one of Iraq's most populous
Since then, the Iraqi army has assumed much of the security responsibility in the area, said Brig Gen Jerry Lang, deputy commander for the 34th Infantry Division, which took over Multi-National Division-South from the 10th Mountain Division on Wednesday
Now the goal is to build up municipal and government services for 95 million people spread across an area slightly bigger than Georgia
"We are focusing on building on civil capacity, working on the governance and the rule of law," Lang said during an interview in his office at division headquarters
The reconstruction refrain is familiar in a country that desperately needs both armed guards and trash service This time, Lang said, the Iraqis will drive the rebuilding process In the past, he said, the Americans were so eager to spend money that they approved projects and distributed funds before fully understanding what the local population needed
"We don't want to do something just because we think it should be done," Lang said "And in the past, that, I think, has happened sometimes, that we have gone out and spent valuable taxpayer money on a project that wasn't necessarily something that the government or the people of Iraq really needed"
Basra and its surrounding provinces need a lot
The seaports handle 85 percent of the country's imports and exports, yet the main commercial port at Umm Qasr operates as if it were the late 1960s, a British official said earlier this week Both the city of Basra and the surrounding agricultural fields lack water treatment and distribution systems The courts in a nearby province recently had a backlog of 900 pending civil and criminal cases, Lang said
Violence in the area persists, Lang said, and encounters with roadside bombs and explosively formed penetrators - unusually powerful bombs - have risen slightly in recent weeks The perpetrators are still militia members, although their numbers are smaller and their arsenal seems much weaker than before the March 2008 sweep
"Their abilities are certainly degraded," Lang said
Yet the insurgents remain deadly An Iraqi police officer was killed Sunday by a roadside bomb, and an Iraqi police general survived an assassination attempt earlier this month On May 10, US Army Maj Steven Hutchinson died from wounds suffered in a roadside bomb explosion
It's unclear whether the uptick in violence is a sign of more trouble to come or a test for the newly arrived American troops, several Army officers said in recent days
A few months ago, the British oversaw Basra and its province The Americans had troops on the ground in eight other southern provinces but ran them from Camp Victory in Baghdad
About a month ago, the 10th Mountain Division moved down to Basra and took over a newly formed MND-South to combine the nine provinces under one US command
The 34th Infantry Division took over MND-South on Wednesday The division oversees 14,000 coalition forces and 4,100 Iraqi army troops There are also more than 100,000 Iraqi police and an additional 4,500 Iraqis who control the borders, according to 1st Lt Jeffrey Gruidl, a spokesman for the division
Lang said their job now is to help southern Iraq improve its services so it can eventually sell its resources to the rest of the world
Already, some Iraqis are doing just that Southern Iraq has three commercial airports, some of the country's richest oil fields and some of Islam's most cherished religious sites
Private tour buses take hundreds of visitors from the Iranian border to Karbala and other cities each week The government has built a business center near the Basra airport, with the hope that international oil companies will rent offices to set up shop and buy into Iraq's oil trade, Lang said
But that business center remains up to $3 million shy of completion, Lang said Before that final investment comes, the city and the area must be a place that can take care of its own citizens
That's why he thinks it's a perfect time for the 34th Infantry Division The division includes Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard, who have deployed to Iraq before Last time, the unit spent 22 months away from home, first in training and then in an extended 16-month stay in Iraq before going home in July 2007
About 1,100 members of the MND-South command are from the Guard, including Lang, who at home is the general manager for a ready-mix concrete company with 350 workers It was the legal staff from the 34th - which includes a civilian judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys - who cut those 900 court cases by 300 in the past few weeks, Lang said
"We bring in our civilian skills as well as our military skills," Lang said "There's a lot in Iraq that we can do to assist them"
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Camp Ripley strikes first before wildfire season
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Minnesota Guardsman earns recognition through Leads 2 Enlistment program
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM
DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
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.