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Minnesota National Guard
Behrends discusses service of 125th Field Artillery

Sergeant Major Tom Behrends, rural Brewster, said that serving overseas in Europe a couple of years ago helped prepare him for his current station in Iraq "It gave me a real good foundation for what's going on here," he said "We figured out how to communicate with our families back home" among other important lessons, he mentioned Sgt Behrends, who participated in a teleconference with various media on Thursday, August 3, sharing his experiences, has been serving at the Convoy Support Center (CSC) Scania, Iraq, 115 miles south of Baghdad, for the past few months The mission is to provide convoy escort support "up and down the main supply route," said Sgt Behrends, as well as defense to the CSC

Having grown up in Worthington, Sgt Behrends has served in the Army National Guard for twenty-five years He first joined in 1981 as a member of the Company A, 2nd Battalion, 135th infantry, and over time served as a mortar man, mortar squad leader, infantry squad leader, and then infantry platoon sergeant After the Minnesota Army National Guard went through a re-organization in 1992, Sgt Behrends served as the chief of firing battery, and later as the first sergeant for A Battery, 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery He went on to serve as Sergeant Major for the fire support element, 34th Infantry Division Artillery, and over his career has earned many military honors

A couple of years ago he was first stationed away from home in Lakenheath, England, guarding an Air Force base, although prior to that he had traveled to Norway twice for training exercises In August of 2005, he took the position of Command Sergeant Major for the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery, based in New Ulm, as they deployed for Iraq After completing some training, the 125th Field Artillery "flew seven hours to Europe," Sgt Behrends said "We had a holdover for a couple of hours," he noted, and then flew five hours to Kuwait, where they had more training From there, they traveled to CSC Scania Sgt Behrends mentioned that there's a nine hour difference between his location and home "It's an honor being chosen," Behrends said of his position as Command Sergeant Major "It's a fun job to have," he said of helping his fellow Soldiers cope with serving away from home "I've got a real good relationship with the chaplain," he said, who assists him with his work "I think they're doing fine," he said of the Soldiers with whom he serves

The Soldiers' living quarters are half tents and half buildings that Sgt Behrends likened to hunting shacks in northern Minnesota The senior officers and senior NCOs live in trailers, Behrends commented, and said that one of the biggest challenges is dealing with the heat "It's a different environment," he said "It's hard to adapt" Thankfully, Sgt Behrends said air conditioning is found everywhere from the vehicles to the living quarters, which really helps in the 120 degree temperatures

Besides providing convoy support, the Soldiers have been helping meet medical needs in the area, and recently treated "350 locals," Sgt Behrends said He also thanked New Vision Coop, which has supplied seed corn to the Iraqi people "Believe it or not, a lot of corn is grown here," he stated, with the help of irrigation Sgt Behrends sees a lot of progress happening in Iraq "It's going to take time to get things turned around here," he mentioned "It reminds me of 1776we're in country building mode right now" He said the primary goals in the country are to "get the security forces up," and that those forces "are increasing numbers and getting better" The populations where he serves is primarily Shia, he remarked, which had been greatly oppressed under Saddam Hussein's regime "They have the opportunity to make their lives better," he said, now

Sgt Behrends thanked the people back home for supporting him and his fellow Soldiers in Iraq, and remarked that the families also need support "My hat is off to the wives, significant others, and families," he stated His family includes wife Jennifer and children Brittany, age 20, Haylee, age 14, and Travis, age 7

Tri-Country News, Round Lake, MN

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Minnesota National Guard leaders visit traveling tribute in Austin

Posted: 2018-05-22  10:16 AM
Traveling Wall AUSTIN, Minn. - A replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was on display May 16-20, in Austin and leaders of the 347th Regional Support Group took the opportunity to visit during the event's closing ceremony.

The display, dubbed the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, was hosted by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Austin and featured a near-replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C.

"It was an honor to be part of this humbling and moving tribute to our Vietnam veterans," said Col. Stephen Schemenauer. "The traveling Vietnam Wall is a powerful display, and this event provided an opportunity to meet, and thank, service members from WWII to present-day conflicts. Regardless of their branch of service, or the era or conflict in which they served, we all share a common bond."

Minnesota Aviators lead multi-state National Guard partnership for NTC rotation

Posted: 2018-05-21  03:51 PM
2-147 NTC FORT IRWIN, Calif. - The Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion is working together with aviation units from four different states to provide support to the Tennessee-based 278th Armored Calvary Regiment during a rotation at National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

Making up Task Force Ragnar is Utah-based B Company, 1st Battalion, 211th Assault Reconnaissance Battalion; Nevada-based B Company, 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion; Michigan-based C Company, 3-238th GSAB; and Minnesota-based A, D, E and Headquarters Companies, 2-147th AHB and F Company, 1-189th GSAB.

"Early coordination with the units across four states combined with exceptional unit leadership and motivated Soldiers helped us to quickly build the task force when we closed on Fort Irwin," said Lt. Col. Kevin O'Brien, Task Force Commander. "I was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism and teamwork of task force Soldiers. This was an outstanding training opportunity that challenged every Soldier to grow as individuals and units daily."

Deployed Minnesota Guardsman honors grandfather, Hmong heritage

Posted: 2018-05-17  09:57 AM
Brandon Xiong CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - "My heritage is Hmong," said 21 year-old Minnesota National Guard Spec. Brandon Xiong from his desk at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. "A low-key culture that originated from southern Asia. Hmong is not a place, but it is a people."

Xiong, the eldest grandson of the late Col. Song Leng Xiong, is deployed in Kuwait as an information technician for Area Support Group - Kuwait.

"We were not nomadic, but have been in many different conflicts," said Xiong. "Many places I go, I am questioned about my nationality and when answered, end up being even more confused. There is a movie called, "Gran Torino", where Clint Eastwood is introduced to the Hmong culture and I think it portrays the Hmong people not so terribly."

Month of the Military Child recognizes contributions of military kids

Posted: 2018-04-07  01:54 PM
Minnesota National Guard FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn.- The month of April is designated as the Month of the Military Child to recognize the contributions and sacrifices military children make so their family members can serve. An estimated 15,000 children in Minnesota have been affected by the deployment of a parent.

"Military children bear a lot while their family members serve," said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. "It is up to us to support these resilient kids and help to lessen their burden."

An event to honor military kids in Minnesota will take place April 13, 2018, at the Mall of America rotunda from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Activities will include appearances by the Teddy Bear Band and meet and greets with Nickelodeon characters.

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