/*********************************************** * Chrome CSS Drop Down Menu- (c) Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com) * This notice MUST stay intact for legal use * Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for full source code ***********************************************/
Minnesota National Guard
From war to work

Leech Lake, Minn — It's hard to miss the military theme at Grand Vu Resort on Leech Lake Several American flags wave among the log buildings, and statues of soldiers are displayed prominently along the driveway

Larger view
Jeff Anderson, a long-time Army National Guard solider, reflects on his military service and how it has impacted his resort business during an interview on Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 Anderson's family owns several resorts on Leech Lake near Walker in northern Minnesota (MPR Photo/Ann Arbor Miller)

Near the lakeshore, owner Jeff Anderson stooped to brush away the snow crusted on a slab of granite It's engraved with the names Greg Riewer and Josh Hanson

"I lost two of my friends over there So I got together with my buddies and made a nice little memorial for them," Anderson said

Anderson's mechanized infantry unit had a tough deployment in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 They were on regular combat patrols Two members died, several were wounded, and their tour was extended by four months


Anderson came home from Iraq to a resort that suffered in his absence

"While I was gone I lost a little over $100,000 It was tough A lot of things I would do on a regular basis when I was here, I came back and found it just wasn't done," Anderson said

In the coming weeks, many members of the Red Bull Infantry division will return to their civilian jobs Many will likely change their career path within a few months About one-third of the troops will be unemployed, and some will find they just can't go back to their old jobs

The Minnesota Guard members who have already returned offer some insights on the tough transition that this round of returning Red Bulls will face as the return to the workplace

At Grand Vu resort, the Army Commendation Medal that Jeff Anderson received for pulling an injured soldier from a burning vehicle after a bomb attack hangs with others in a display case

Larger view
Anderson in Iraq

When Anderson was gone, the manager he hired to run the business quit For a while, his dad and brothers helped, but they all had their own businesses to run

Near the end of his 16 months in Iraq, Anderson's dad suffered a stroke and Jeff was sent home about six weeks early He arrived home just as the tourism season was starting, faced with the task of rebuilding his struggling business

Anderson said being busy helped to keep the nightmares at bay But the bad dreams came back this winter, nearly three years since he came home

"It was kind of nice though to come back and jump right into the resort, because it kept my mind busy," Anderson said

Anderson said he's still glad he was deployed and he'd do it again even though the experience changed him in many ways

On one hand, he's less patient with people, but he's also more relaxed about his business and his life

"I take more time for family, take more time for myself Before I was deployed I was always busy working, work, work, work, that type of thing," he said "But now after being over there and losing our friends and things, you realize life is pretty short"


Many National Guard members found their perspective changed when they came home from deployment A paycheck was less important than relationships, and a job with meaning

Ray Pizarro was deployed in the same unit as Jeff Anderson, the Moorhead-based 136th Infantry Pizarro said before he was deployed he worked for a paycheck, but that didn't make sense after his tour in Iraq

"It doesn't matter if you get paid in two weeks if you're not there to spend it, and you don't want your buddy to get hurt," Pizarro said "So your focus is really different It's a matter of survival It's live or die"

One veteran struggled to deal with customer concerns that suddenly seemed trivial

Pizarro had a job waiting at Home Depot when he returned At first he worked part time, using vacation time accumulated while he was deployed

But some days he would call in sick from the parking lot because panic attacks kept him from getting out of the car He struggled to deal with customer concerns that suddenly seemed trivial

"I lost a couple of friends over there We had some serious injuries I've seen some weird stuff I know I could have died as well The little things don't bother me anymore, and it's tough listening to little things bother other people," Pizarro said

Pizarro sought counseling and found medication that eased the panic attacks He also realized he couldn't work at a job that wasn't a mission He found a job at the VA helping veterans process claims

"It's given me a new mission to help other veterans that are hurting It really replaces a lot of lost-ness," Pizarro said "Knowing I can be there to help a veteran is a pretty amazing powerful thing for me"

Having a mission, a meaningful job, can help veterans make the transition back to civilian life


Federal law requires companies to hold a job for deployed Guard members, and those positions can't be eliminated as part of a layoff Many Minnesota businesses do much more for returning soldiers

Dennis Brazier owns Central Boiler, a wood furnace manufacturer in Greenbush that employs 200 people

When one of his employees was deployed in 2006 and 2007, the company sent care packages, gave the employee his annual profit-sharing bonus and helped his family

Brazier said losing an employee critical to the company was a challenge, but other employees pitched in

"You just don't go out on the street here and find people like him," Brazier said "There definitely was a loss to the system by not having him So when he left, everybody had to make up for his lost input"

But Brazier said having everyone help support the deployed worker improved morale and created a support system that was in place when the employee returned

Fargo insurance agent Traver Silbernagel needed support from his employees to keep his business afloat while he was deployed

He was among the first National Guard troops sent to Iraq as a member of a North Dakota Engineering Combat Battalion, which deployed early in 2003

His unit had only three days' notice before shipping out In response, Silbernagel quickly called a staff meeting
"We all sat down and said, 'OK, how are we going to do this? Because I'm going to be off the radar completely,'" Sibernagel said "I didn't know what communications I was going to have, how frequently I was going to be able to talk to people, if at all"

Silbernagel spent much of his 14-month deployment in Iraq at Camp Anaconda He helped build earthen berms to protect the camp, and pulled regular guard duty He rarely left the camp, and despite daily mortar attacks, Silbernagel said he mostly felt safe

When he came home, he relaxed for a week with family, then went back to work He said just catching up with his business was overwhelming

"In some respects it's kind of like starting your life over again," said Silbernagel "You need to reacquaint yourself with your friends and your family, with your job"


While troops are deployed in a combat zone, their uniform and mission become their identity, according to Lt. Col. Barb O'Reilly, chief of deployment cycle support for the Minnesota Guard

Getting back to work is an important part of the transition from the identity as a soldier to that of a civilian, O'Reilly said

"If they're not employed, the next thing that happens is financial difficulties," O'Reilly said "Financial difficulties lead to relationship difficulties, which lead to other challenges"

O'Reilly said about one-third of the troops returning this year will be unemployed Some were unemployed before deployment and others might plan to go back to school A study of troops who returned in 2007 found their unemployment rate was twice the state average

Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association Chaplain Dan Carlson works with Guard members who come back to law enforcement jobs Many Guard members are police officers or firefighters

Carlson said for many, public safety jobs are a mission, much like the military, so they don't have trouble coming back to work But he said deployment changes everyone

For many, the change is positive for some, it's hard to leave behind survival skills learned in a combat zone

Carlson said employers and returning troops need to talk about what's changed during the deployment "Every story and every individual is very unique So it's critical they spend some time to figure out what experiences those returning vets have had," Carlson said "And a lot has changed in your organization, and you need to identify those changes and then see what issues you may have because of the change"

Workplace issues range from simple policy adjustments to crisis interventions


Minnesota is recognized as a national leader in programs designed to support returning troops But some don't take advantage of them

John Weisenberger, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is a veterans representative for the Department of Employment and Economic Development in western Minnesota
He said some veterans have to find new work when they return to civilian life for a variety of reasons Some can no longer work in a retail job because they don't have the patience with customers For others, driving in traffic triggers flashbacks to the streets of Iraq, and they need to find jobs that don't involve travel

Weisenberger's job is to help veterans find work or go back to school But he said the best programs can only help those who ask for it

"There's a lot of this macho, mano-a-mano thing; 'I don't need help I can deal with this on my own,'" Weisenberger said "As a Vietnam veteran who went through some stuff, I can testify to the fact it took me 20 years to realize I needed help I hope it doesn't take these troops that long"
The tough economy might make it more difficult for returning Guard members to find a new job, but Weisenberger said veterans return from deployment with new skills and new challenges

He said recognizing how they've changed is critical to a successful transition from soldier to civilian

by Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
February 8, 2010

Article source: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/02/06/beyond-yellow-ribbon/

Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

Minnesota Nice Extends to Puerto Rico

Posted: 2017-12-08  12:08 PM
Minnesota National Guard CAMP SANTIAGO, Puerto Rico - It has been more than two months since Hurricane Maria stuck Puerto Rico, leaving a trail of disaster behind it. The island was in dire need of some extra help. More than 230 Air National Guardsmen from 29 states have been deployed to the island and are helping in any way they can.

Eleven of those Airmen are from the Minnesota National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing out of Duluth, Minn. and the 133rd Airlift Wing out of St. Paul, Minn., are no exception in their desire to lend a helping hand. They have been at Camp Santiago, Puerto Rico, since before Thanksgiving and will leave around mid-December. Their mission is to feed military and civilian hurricane relief workers, giving them the much-needed fuel to complete their mission throughout the day.

Governor Mark Dayton installs new Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General

Posted: 2017-11-04  04:16 PM
TAG installation ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton administered the oath of office to Maj. Gen. Jon A. Jensen, installing him as the Minnesota National Guard's 31st Adjutant General during a ceremony in St. Paul, November 4, 2017.

"General Jensen has been a tremendous leader of the Minnesota National Guard throughout his years of dedicated service," said Governor Dayton. "He has served in two top leadership positions, as the Commanding General of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, and also as the Chief of Staff at the Guard's Joint Force Headquarters. I am confident that he will continue to provide the same outstanding leadership as his predecessor, General Rick Nash."

Jensen most recently served as the Commanding General of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. He previously held positions as Deputy Commanding General, United States Army Africa and Southern European Task Force, Minnesota National Guard Director of the Joint Staff and Minnesota National Guard Assistant Adjutant General - Army.

Guard Heritage Suffers with Loss of Artillery Unit

Posted: 2017-10-04  11:22 AM
ETAB ANOKA, Minn. - The Minnesota National Guard lost one of its most historically significant units when the 151st Artillery's E Battery, (Target Acquisition) cased its colors in a ceremony at the Anoka High School Aug. 19, 2017.

The Target Acquisition Battery (ETAB), 151st Field Artillery is one of the oldest and most decorated units in the Minnesota National Guard and the 34th Infantry Division. "Both Minnesota and the Division lose the proud lineage that goes back to Civil War days, through WW1 and WW2, and had a significant amount of battle streamers," said 151st Field Artillery Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Patrick Cornwell.

The 151st Field Artillery draws its lineage from the 1st Regiment, Minnesota Heavy Artillery of 1864 which fought two major campaigns in Tennessee during the Civil War.

In one month: Minnesota Guardsmen support Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria

Posted: 2017-09-29  02:25 PM
Minnesota National Guard ST. PAUL, Minn. - In the span of a few weeks, three major hurricanes hit different parts of the southern United States, causing widespread damage and destruction and requiring the response of agencies around the country. The Minnesota National Guard is one of the many organizations that have responded, sending Soldiers and Airmen to Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

"This is the most gratifying deployment of my career," said Capt. Jeremy Maxey with the 133rd Airlift Wing who was called back from his vacation early to go to the Virgin Islands. "It means a lot to be able to actually directly help people. It's why I serve. Throughout my career I've deployed numerous times, but this is the one where you actually see the people you serve."

The start of the month brought the first request for assistance. On Sept. 1, two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and 11 personnel from the St. Cloud-based B Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment left for Texas following Hurricane Harvey to transport personnel and equipment in support of response efforts.

Article archive