CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq - Contingency Operating Base Basra was quieter than usual July 18 There was indeed activity There was activity in the motor pool and the Division Main Headquarters Building There was construction, KBR workers disembarking buses into the dining facilities, Sabre Security Guards were at gates and Soldiers did their usual choking through the dust while marching from point A to point B But the base was quieter
News on the base had spread from Soldier to Soldier that during the indirect fire attack the night before; the indirect fire that had every Soldier on base donning their protective gear; the indirect fire that had medics scrambling with the instinctive sense of urgency drilled into them through years of training; the indirect fire that had every unit demanding to see "eyes-on" all of their Soldiers to account for them; during that indirect fire, we had lost men
As 34th Red Bull Infantry Soldiers filtered to their duty stations, the information filtered with them, passing from Soldier to Soldier until all the combinations of stories started to sound alike and started to make sense Once it all made sense, everything got quieter
We lost three men We lost three Soldiers We lost three Red Bulls
Minnesota National Guardsmen Spc Daniel Paul Drevnick, 22, of Woodbury, Spc James David Wertish, 20, of Olivia, and Spc Carlos E Wilcox, 27, of Cottage Grove were killed when COB Basra was attacked by rocket fire July 16
By the next morning, an official "ramp ceremony," in which Soldiers saluted their fallen comrades as their remains were placed on the ramp of a plane to take them back to their loved ones, had already taken place
Every Soldier on base found out and, in their own way, mourned and gave respect to their fallen comrades, while at the same time continuing their mission No one did it exactly the same way A combat zone doesn't afford the luxury of dramatic, mournful acts But whether Soldiers were simply hanging their heads in mourning or choking back tears while their noses stung and their eyes welled up, they all were quieter
The Red Bulls lost three good men The young men, who were serving their country, doing their work honorably and proudly, and doing it all in the name of the Americans they protected, are gone
They paid a price higher than any other
And the Red Bulls, in our mourning, in our continuing of the mission these men carried out, in the deep-down strength we find in their courage and in their honor, when we think about Daniel Drevnick, David Wertish and Carlos Wilcox, are quieter
Specialist Daniel Paul Drevnick
Drevnick was born April 13, 1987 in St Paul, Minn He graduated from Woodbury High School and enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard March 28, 2005 He graduated from One Station Unit Training as a military police officer at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo On March 2, 2009, Drevnick deployed to Basra with the 34th Military Police Company in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Drevnick, who planned to earn a degree in law enforcement, was attending Century College in White Bear Lake, Minn before deployment He was a drag racing partner with his dad and raced his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution at tracks all over the Midwest
Drevnick felt his unit was part of his family and when he returned from his leave, he said he was happy to be back with family
"Drevnick was one of a kind," said a fellow Soldier from 1st Platoon, 34th Military Police Company "Even when you're down and having a bad day, one glance from him and his sense humor was enough to bring a chuckle"
Another Soldier agreed about Drevnick's positive spirit "Drevnick was a great Soldier, but an even greater friend Dan always had an excellent attitude and an ability to bring people out of bad moods"
One way Dan tried to lift people's spirits was through attempting to grow some grass in Iraq His parents sent him soil and seeds Because Drevnick was happy to interact and lift the spirits of his friends, it was characteristic of him to show up three hours early to his shift He wanted to hang out with his friends
Drevnick is survived by his mother Roberta Freese and his father Ken Drevnick
Specialist James David Wertish
Wertish was born January 18, 1989 in Redwood Falls, Minn and is a graduate of BOLD High School in Olivia, Minn He enlisted into the Minnesota Army National Guard on February 28, 2006 He graduated from One Station Unit Training as a military police officer at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo On April 15, 2009, Wertish deployed to Basra with the 34th Military Police Company in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Soldiers in 1st Platoon said Wertish brought laughter to his friends and would literally give you the shirt off his back "He loved snowmobiles and playing Rock Band II He could always make us laugh with his humor We could count on him to improve our day"
Improving fellow Soldiers' days by making them laugh and playing Rock Band II seemed to go hand-in-hand with Wertish It wasn't so much that he was good at the game, but more that he was entertaining, said one Soldier about playing with him "Playing Rock Band II was an experience to behold It wasn't about the music, rather the experience"
James loved working on his family farm and snowmobiling He broke his collarbone while snowmobiling and deployed late because of his injury
After healing, he was glad to get back to his unit and his buddies were happy to have him
Wertish is survived by his parents David and Kim Wertish, two sisters and a brother
Specialist Carlos Eduardo Wilcox IV
Wilcox was born April 29, 1982 in Golden Valley, Minn He graduated from Tartan High School in Oakdale, Minn He enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard March 15, 2006 after a short break in service from the United States Army Reserve He graduated from the Health Care Specialist Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas in November 2006 and was assigned as a health care specialist to the 204th Medical Company in Cottage Grove, Minn He transferred to the 34th Military Police Company June 1, 2008
On March 2, 2009, he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Carlos' friends in the 1st Platoon, 34th Military Police Company described him as a good friend and a good Soldier
"Wilcox always hassled us about the White Sox beating the Twins in baseball He was a big White Sox fan," said one Soldier
As much as his friends in the unit found it fun to joke around with him, they were always somewhat amazed by how professional and astute Wilcox was
"Wilcox always took care of us," said one 1st Platoon Soldier "If anyone was hurting or had a medical issue, he took care of it"
"Wilcox was planning all sorts of training to better prepare our Soldiers in the event of a medical emergency," said another 1st Platoon Soldier "He could answer any medical question you had"
Carlos, who graduated from Metropolitan State University with a bachelor's degree in biology, had aspirations of going to medical school and becoming a doctor He was on track to achieving his goal, working as a military healthcare specialist with the 34th MP Co and looking forward to taking the medical school entrance exam after his deployment
He had asked his mother, Charlene, to mail him books so he could study for the exam during his down time in Iraq "He knew that God had called him to be a Soldier and a doctor," she said
He also loved to travel and spent a semester studying in Granada, Spain
He was fluent in Spanish
Carlos' friends and family said he worked as a security officer at The Ugly Mug in downtown Minneapolis Friends gathered at the bar July 17 to remember him The gathering drew people "out of the woodwork," bartender Rob Gregg said, "which I think is kind of a testament to the kind of guy (Wilcox) was"
Gregg described Wilcox as "just the nicest guy," very calm, very laid-back
"A lot of times, with security staff downtown, those guys get a lot of attitude Carlos was the opposite of that," Gregg said "He was always very professional"
"My son loved his country, and he died an honorable death," said Charlene Wilcox He was "a man of God and loved his family"
He attended Light the Way Church in Cottage Grove
"Three of the coolest guys we will ever know"
The three young men were teammates When there was trouble with their air conditioner, Drevnick had an idea to hook up three AC units that weren't being used Drevnick, Wilcox, Wertish and another Soldier set up the other units From then on, they had a cool place to go when it was sweltering hot outside
In addition to being teammates, they were friends There were inside jokes and laughs between them, and the laughs brightened the entire platoon
"Wilcox, Wertish and Drevnick made this platoon so much more fun and made this deployment bearable," said one Soldier "They lit up the room"
One Soldier said of his three buddies, "they were three of the coolest guys we will ever know"
Commentary by Sgt Joe Roos, Multi-National Division - South
July 21, 2009 "¢ Basra, Iraq
This report contains information gathered from the Associated Press, the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press
Visit the Minnesota National Guard's Our Fallen Troops page.
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Camp Ripley earns top environmental award
Posted: 2017-04-26 02:09 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The Department of Defense announced that Camp Ripley was selected as the winner of the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation.
The awards recognize individuals, teams and installations for their exceptional environmental achievements and innovative, cost-effective environmental practices.
"The winners' efforts strengthen the Department of Defense's position as a resourceful environmental steward, both at home and abroad, and demonstrate our continued commitment to fulfilling mission needs through advanced environmental practices and technologies," stated James A. MacStravic, performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
Minnesota Guardsman finds work with victims in the military and the local community rewarding
Posted: 2017-04-26 10:57 AM
COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. - Staff Sgt. Nicquie Neely has been working with victims of sexual assault for four years in the Minnesota National Guard and also volunteers as a victim advocate in the community. As a victim advocate, it's her job to believe and support victims through a difficult process that can often involve extensive medical care and legal proceedings.
"Ever since I joined the Guard and heard about the SHARP program and learned what a victim advocate was, I always wanted to be one," said Neely. "And then I learned that you had to be an E-6 to be in that position, so the minute I got promoted I asked my commander if I could go to the training."
Neely is a combat medic and the full-time training and administration NCO with Company C, 134th Brigade Support Battalion. In addition to military victim advocate training, Neely also attends regular training with the civilian organization she volunteers for - SOS Sexual Violence Services in Ramsey County.
Minnesota National Guard Remembers the Holocaust with Jewish Community Relations Council
Posted: 2017-04-24 10:43 AM
Washington - Members of the Minnesota National Guard and the Air Force Reserve traveled to Washington D.C. with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (also known as the JCRC), to visit the Holocaust Museum, April 4, 2017, to honor the victims of the Holocaust. Also, traveling with this group were St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers along with students from various high schools around the state. For those in uniform that day, it was an opportunity to see, hear and experience the stories of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Each Service member who attended was asked to bring back a summary of their experience in the form of a presentation, professional discussion or briefing to their respective unit in order to help other Guard members better understand and remember that horrible event, to honor the courage of the victims and survivors, and to remain vigilant as members of the U.S. military.
"The honor and privilege of accompanying members of the Minnesota National Guard to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. met so many goals," said Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the JCRC. "I wanted to reinforce the importance of the commitment of the U.S. military to democracy. After all, it was the Allies that defeated Nazi Germany and ultimately put an end to the Holocaust."
Learning to instruct professionalism and discipline
Posted: 2017-04-19 02:15 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - It was a challenging and rewarding two weeks for members attending the Army National Guard Funeral Honors Instructor Course, April 1-14, at Camp Ripley.
Soldiers of National Guard units from all over the United States took part in the course designed to educate team leaders in a variety of funeral honor detail tasks, traditions and responsibilities.
"It's a stressful course, but for our job, we have to be prepared to do our job under stress; and we all really benefitted from that," said Class Honor Grad, Sgt. Ryan Valline of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry.