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Minnesota National Guard
Guard specialists are 'brothers in arms'

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq " William "TK" Threlkeld and Brett Meyer are definitely "brothers in arms"

Both are specialists in the Minnesota Army National Guard deployed to Iraq attached to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 136th Combined Arms Battalion, both are diesel mechanics, both are from small towns in central Minnesota and both are on the same Humvee gun truck for a Quick Reaction Force here

Being "brothers in arms" also is common for Bravo Company Soldiers because they need this type of camaraderie in their company's combat operations mission This company also is the only one in the 1/34 Brigade Combat Team tasked with a combat operations mission

This company's tasks include route-clearing patrols in their Bradley Fighting Vehicles and up-armored Humvees, searching for weapons caches in their battle space and providing security for combat forward outposts containing pumps that provide water to Camp Fallujah and another camp

This mission doesn't bother Threlkeld of Little Falls

He said his motivation stems from "my brothers next to me and to my left and right" "Here at Bravo Company, we're fighting our hardest to make sure (that the people back home) can sleep safe at night," said Threlkeld, a married father of two children under 5 "And hope that we can make them proud when we come home"

This company from the 1/34 Brigade Combat Team, has already made the deputy commander of the 1/34 BCT, Lt. Col. Paul Zimmerman of Waseca, Minn, proud

"It's amazing what the 34th boys can do in this God forsaken piece out in the twin garden spots of Ramadi and Fallujah," he said "Bad guys all around and they go out there and make it work And constantly improve what is going on"

Company commander, Capt Chip Rankin of Litchfield, Minn, elaborated on "what is going on" in Fallujah, the largest city west of Baghdad

He said his Soldiers and Marines attempt to prevent insurgents from bringing arms into Fallujah and destabilizing the city
"Which I think is important for the overall security of Iraq in general," he said

Meyer of Pierz, Minn, said, "It's a pretty bad place but if you're with the right group of people you make it all right"
For TK, who joined the Guard to say thank you to the veterans who served before him, he wouldn't want it any other way

"I thank God every day we're in Bravo Company," he said "I'm glad to be here"

Meyer, who joined the Guard after 9-11, agreed

"Bravo Company is an excellent company and I'm proud to be with the people we are," he said

They deployed with Company E, 134th Brigade Support Battalion

But Meyer said even as "outsiders", Bravo Company has received them very well and considers them part of the company
This company headquartered in Crookston, Minn, also is the right company for this mission, said Rankin

He said most of his Soldiers from Minnesota cities like Thief River Falls and Fergus Falls are blue collar workers like the residents living near the camp

"They have a lot of things in common in their work ethics and how they make a living back home," he said

This company didn't always do combat operations For the first four months of its deployment, it was responsible for manning entry control points and towers to provide security for the camp It did have the forward combat outpost's mission

"I think the full combat operations piece which evolved four months into country is the reality that we are pretty well trained and we're very confident on the Bradley fighting vehicle system," Rankin said "And as an infantry company maximizing its potential as infantry Soldiers"

The deployment hasn't maximized the potential of TK's and Meyer's mechanic skills Instead they have been tasked with every other mission at the camp, including entry control points, patrols and now QRF

Threlkeld and Meyer are in the same Humvee during a QRF They either drive the Humvee or man a M240B machine gun from the Humvee's gunner turret They switch off each week

A driver's responsibilities include watching for roadside bombs alongside the roads, said Meyer
"(The roadside bombs) are the most stressful thing we've got," he said

TK added that as both a driver and gunner, he watches for suspicious people alongside the road and he attempts to memorize the roads from the day before

Meyer noted that gunners also watch for people in the fields and suspicious vehicles

Meyer said he liked the patrols better because it gave him a chance to interact with the local populace more
Threlkeld said he thought patrols were more dangerous though

"You're out there more," he said

But comparing the two missions, he said he doesn't like QRFs because a mission usually means "something bad happens"

But rest assured that this company of Soldiers will pull through because they are a true "band of brothers"

"We're proud as heck to be here," said TK "I think everyone of us would rather be here than anywhere else"

By Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood, 1/34 BCT PAO

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