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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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