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Minnesota National Guard
Vets' mild head injuries, concussions don't linger

Most soldiers surveyed recovered quickly from concussions, minor injuries

A few years ago, psychologist Melissa Polusny set out to answer a question that has haunted the US military since the start of the Iraq war

With so many soldiers suffering mild head injuries from exposure to blasts and roadside bombs, how would they cope in civilian life? Would they suffer the after-effects for years to come? And could these injuries aggravate another troubling disorder -- post-traumatic stress?

The answer appears to be no, according to a study of Minnesota National Guard troops who served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007

Polusny, a researcher at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, surveyed 953 Guard members during and after their deployment

She and her colleagues discovered that the effects of mild brain injuries or concussions -- the so-called "signature injury" of the war -- probably wear off in weeks or months When veterans have lingering symptoms, such as memory and concentration problems, that's more likely due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than a concussion, according to the study released Monday

The researchers did, however, find powerful evidence that combat leaves its mark in multiple ways

A year after returning home, 42 percent of troops reported "problematic drinking" And overall, the rate of PTSD nearly doubled in that transition year, from 8 percent to 14 percent, as did depression, from 9 to 18 percent

Surprising findings
But Polusny said she was most surprised by the concussion findings "The thing that we struggle with as clinicians is, what is the effect on veterans if they have PTSD but also are reporting that they were exposed to a blast?" she said

The fear, she said, was that the combination could be more devastating than PTSD alone, but the study found otherwise Essentially, she said, the symptoms of veterans with mild head injuries were no worse than those of anyone else with post-traumatic stress

It's believed to be the first study to show "that a history of concussion/mild traumatic brain injury alone does not contribute to long-term impairments," the authors reported That's good news for the soldiers, Polusny said, because it means their symptoms can be treated

"What's important is if a veteran is having difficulties in adjusting back to civilian life," she said, it's probably not because of mild head injury "If what's driving these post-deployment problems is really PTSD, then we ought to treat the cause of it"

As part of the study, Polusny asked the soldiers to answer questionnaires while still in Iraq, shortly before they finished their 16-month tour of duty in 2007 Then she asked the same questions a year later

Curiously, only 9 percent reported a brain injury while still serving in Iraq; a year later, 22 percent said they'd had a brain injury during combat

"We're curious about that too," Polusny said She speculated that some soldiers may have been reluctant to admit to injuries while still "in country," but felt freer to talk about them once they were home

The surveys showed that concentration problems, irritability, headaches and other physical complaints were widespread among returning troops, whether or not they'd had a head injury or a PTSD diagnosis

Higher rate of PTSD
Still, those reporting head injuries had a higher rate of post-traumatic stress than others -- about 30 percent, compared to 14 percent as a whole, she said However, that may not be due to the injury itself, but to other factors

Since the start of combat, thousands of troops have suffered brain injuries, most of them minor, when they were exposed to nearby blasts As a result, the military has been screening returning troops for signs of traumatic brain injury "However, our results suggest that screening for concussion does not accurately identify veterans in need of help," the authors wrote

Polusny noted that in civilian life, most people tend to recover from concussions within a relatively short time The study, she said, suggested that's true in combat as well The report appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384
By MAURA LERNER, Star Tribune
Last update: January 4, 2011 - 12:27 AM


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Forging a path to career success

Posted: 2018-03-16  08:45 AM
Col. Angela Steward-Randle ST. PAUL, Minn. - Col. Angela Steward-Randle grew up in a military family - her father served in the Army on active duty - but it was a chance encounter with a friend at college that led her to want to make the military a career.

"My story is no different than many others," Steward-Randle, the Director of Human Resources, Manpower and Personnel for the Minnesota National Guard said. "I was in college and looking for financial resources to help pay for it."

Her college friend suggested they attend a summer training with the Reserve Officer Training Corps that had no obligation and could earn them some money. The friend never ended up going, but Steward-Randle did. After earning recognition as the top honor graduate and receiving an offer of a scholarship, she was hooked.

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Posted: 2018-03-09  03:13 PM
Counterdrug WOODBURY, Minn. - Staff Sgt. Benjamin Kroll, an analyst with the Minnesota National Guard's Counterdrug Task Force who is assigned to work with the Hennepin County Sherriff's Office was recognized for his achievements as the Analyst of the Year during the 2018 Minnesota Association of Crime and Intelligence Analysts Training Symposium in Woodbury, Minnesota, March 7, 2018.

Through a partnership with Minnesota law enforcement agencies throughout the state, the Minnesota National Guard Counterdrug Task Force (MNCDTF) supports the anti-drug initiatives to counter all primary drug threats and vulnerabilities through the effective application of available assets, said Maj. Jon Dotterer, Counterdrug Coordinator for the State of Minnesota. The goal for the program is to support federal, state, tribal, and local agencies in the detection, disruption, interdiction, and curtailment of illicit drugs.

Kroll is one of sixteen service members on the Counterdrug Task Force that provides this force-multiplying service to our communities against illicit drug-use. With the information that law enforcement provide through their patrols and daily operations, Kroll and his colleagues across the state assist by putting together a figurative picture with all of the gathered information which aids in identifying how to move forward with legal action to deter or prevent the sale or use of illegal narcotic drugs.

Women Opened Doors in Minnesota National Guard

Posted: 2018-03-08  09:05 AM
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The Minnesota National Guard has "come around to that way of thinking" since those early days of gender integration. In the last 44 years women have made momentous strides toward inclusion and acceptance. Their accomplishments are testimony to their fortitude and the progressive development of the Minnesota National Guard.

When an accomplished female Soldier is credited with breaking barriers she will often pass that honor to the women that preceded her. Brig. Gen. Johanna Clyborne is such a leader. She acknowledges that she is one of the first females in the Minnesota National Guard who has held key leadership roles, however she sees it differently. "I feel responsible for all women in uniform," said Clyborne. "Women before me opened the door, now I've cleared the room. It's up to the women behind me to hold the room."

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Posted: 2018-02-02  10:45 PM
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"This is what we do," said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard. "When the local community can't meet the public safety needs, they come to the Guard. We're their normal partner, we're a natural partner, and we're their preferred partner when it comes to filling in the gaps that they can't fill."

At the request of the city, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton authorized the Minnesota National Guard to provide support to security efforts leading up to and during Super Bowl 52. The Guardsmen are providing direct support to and working alongside law enforcement officers from across the state. Like their civilian law enforcement partners, Minnesota Guardsmen are focused on ensuring a safe experience for the residents and visitors who are attending the Super Bowl festivities.

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