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Minnesota National Guard
War zone, Minnesota

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune
Actors rehearsed the action before shooting a scene from "Souvenirs," being filmed at Traxler's Hunting Preserve in Le Center, Minn The setting was chosen by the filmmakers to re-create the wintry battles during World War II's Battle of the Bulge

A snowy woods in southern Minnesota stood in for a World War II battle zone as an independent movie called it a wrap


What: An independent feature film about how military service played a part in three generations of a Minnesota family

Budget: $12 million

Stars: James Cromwell ("Babe"), Jonathan Bennett ("Mean Girls")

Director: Sam Fischer

Release date: Not yet known


Actor John Cromwell
Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

It looked like a classic midwinter hunting accident Two men in woolen coats and carrying rifles helped a third through snowy woods to a waiting jeep The man in the middle limped awkwardly, his left pant leg stained red

"You're gonna be all right," said one man to the wounded man as they laid him across the back seat

"Cut," yelled the director "That's good"

The scene on Friday afternoon was Traxler's Hunting Preserve, a game lodge in Le Center, 90 minutes south of the Twin Cities The landscape was chosen for its resemblance to the Ardennes in France, where the Battle of the Bulge was fought in the winter of 1944-45 The three actors, John Cromwell, Aaron Courteau and Reed Sigmund, dropped character and returned to shivering in their World War II Army infantry uniforms as they awaited the next setup

It wasn't a Hollywood scene by a long shot Fishing shanties formed a tiny village where extras and crew members could shake off the sub-freezing chill Production assistants dragged supplies to and fro on toboggans The director's traditional folding chair was perched in a snowbank and its occupant, Sam Fischer, made snow angels between takes

Locations both hot and cold

"Souvenirs," a $12 million independent production featuring a Minnesota cast, crew and financing, was entering its last days of principal photography The film is the story of a generation-spanning Minnesota military family James Cromwell, the kindly farmer in the film "Babe," joined the production from Los Angeles to play a taciturn World War II veteran His lookalike son, John, who lives in St Paul, plays the character as a younger man The only other Hollywood actor in the film is Jonathan Bennett, Lindsay Lohan's boyfriend in "Mean Girls" He plays the old veteran's grandson, who is deployed to Iraq as a member of the Minnesota National Guard's Red Bulls Production of the film began in July, with a limestone quarry near Mankato standing in for the Iraqi desert

The movie, slated to wrap filming this past weekend, doesn't have a release date or distributor yet, but producer Craig Christiansen said a number of parties have expressed interest based on the footage shot so far

For a low-budget production, "Souvenirs" boasts impressive production values Last summer the Cokato limestone pit rumbled with the sounds of two Black Hawk helicopters and five battle-ready Humvees The vehicles, along with a squad of National Guard personnel on a training weekend, were lent to the film by the Department of Defense, which approves of the script's pro-military and pro-family themes,

During the World War II scenes, rare US military planes fly overhead, while one of the few surviving Ford-built jeeps clanks across the battlefield alongside German halftracks

"There hasn't been a P-38 fighter featured in a film since 1946," said Christiansen "There's only a handful of them in the world, and three can get airborne"

Those vehicles were also lent to the production, by local collectors of military antiques In effect, a movie about battlefield souvenirs is being made with battlefield souvenirs The troops in the World War II scenes are military re-enacters volunteering their time

Despite production challenges including large-scale explosions, bullet squibs, and hauling bulky handheld video cameras through unstable ankle-deep mashed-potatoes snow, the filming has gone smoothly

Armorer John Brindley, who provides the film's guns and oversees their safety issues, did get some curious stares when he brought 30 machine guns and a briefcase with "explosives" warning labels into Bloomington's La Quinta Inn, however

"As you pass through the continental breakfast area, well, people were interested," he said

Colin Covert "¢ 612-673-7186
By COLIN COVERT, Star Tribune
Last update: January 18, 2011 - 12:04 PM


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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.

Minnesota Guardsman Receives Award for Combating Drugs in his Community

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
Minnesota National Guard ST. PAUL, Minn. - "The battlefront is no place for women to be," said Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Kurtzweg, 125th Field Artillery, in an article published in 1976. "There are certain jobs girls say they can do, but they just can't do ... the battlefront is no place for women to be. Other countries in the world use women in combat, but the U.S. has not come around to that way of thinking." Kathy Berg, a New Ulm reporter summarized at the time. "So women in the New Ulm unit take care of personnel files and pay records and leave the fighting to the men."

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."

Securing the Bold North: Minnesota National Guard supports Super Bowl LII

Posted: 2018-02-02  10:45 PM
Super Bowl 52 MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - More than 400 Minnesota National Guardsmen are supporting security efforts in Minneapolis ahead of Super Bowl 52.

"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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