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History
Minnesota National Guard
1st Brigade Combat Team to stay in Iraq until summer

Daisy Pellant and her four kids, all younger than 10, have been marking the days in their St Paul home until their husband and dad comes home from Iraq with 2,600 other Minnesota National Guard troops Each month since March, the family has counted down the time with candles on a cake "The last cake was our three-month cake with three candles, and it's a little disheartening to have to go back to eight candles," Pellant said "We were at 80 days and counting, and now it's 200-something"

Chief Warrant Officer Ron-Michael Pellant's Red Bull Brigade, slated to end its yearlong Iraq deployment in March, is being kept an extra 125 days -- until August -- as part of President's Bush's troop surge

The decision, both here and in Iraq, was met with shock and disappointment, as well as criticism for how the announcement was made Many in the military heard it first from the news media or through e-mail messages from their families

Word of the delayed homecoming prompted the Pellant kids Thursday to craft signs on their home computer for a peace rally One read: "Let My Dad Come Home He's Served Long Enough!"

Max Pellant, 7, said he grew so upset at school that he went to see a counselor

"He told me to draw my anger," Max said "So I drew a firework crashing with me on it"

Ron-Michael Pellant, 39, said in a telephone interview Thursday night from north of Baghdad that he still hadn't received official word that his time in Iraq had been extended

His wife forwarded to him an e-mail from Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, the state's adjutant general

Shellito wrote: "Is this a raw deal? Of course! We have every right to be angry, but the reality is the long awaited homecoming will be pushed back"

From Iraq, Pellant said: "There are tons of rumors afoot Morale, outside of this, had been fine But mix this in and everyone is like, 'Oh, geez' Everyone, including the bigwigs, is trying to figure out what's going on"

Several Minnesota Soldiers in Iraq said Thursday, via e-mail, that they were annoyed that word of the extension went to family members and media sources back home before they got official word

National Guard officials said different time zones caused the delay Using a considerable e-mail list, the Guard sent out an announcement shortly after 9 pm, when it got official confirmation of the extension That was the middle of the night in Iraq

As a consequence, many Guard families knew what happened before the troops did

"I just read it on Yahoo, of all places, that we will be extended," wrote one Soldier in an e-mail message, who requested anonymity so he wouldn't get in trouble

"I guess Yahoo knows more about what we are doing than we do I'm at the 'whatever' point I'll do whatever they want me to do I signed the damn papers The rumors have been running rampant, effectively destroying morale for some Soldiers"

A 21-year-old medic from Minnesota, stationed in Fallujah, has seen three of his fellow Soldiers die in the last six weeks In an e-mail released by his family on condition that his name not be used, he wrote that troops were "irate" that their families got word first

"Mom and Dad," he wrote, "we had been hearing rumors for several weeks now that five brigades currently in Iraq would get extended No one, however, seriously thought that a National Guard brigade would be among those five Now the rumors are reality so I'll be forthcoming: It came as a total shock to all of us" 'I've been preparing the kids'

As stunned as the Soldiers are, the families back home are trying to adjust

"It's like running in the Twin Cities Marathon and having someone pulling up a wire and tripping you when you're on the final hill on Summit Avenue," said Daisy Pellant, who works as a school counselor

Her kids have harsh words for President Bush and his decision She tells them that, while they don't agree with the president, he's not trying to hurt them or the troops

"I've been preparing the kids, saying it looks like this might happen," Pellant said "So I really wasn't surprised Just disappointed" She's now telling the kids that their dad will be home in September "because I don't want to get their hopes up and disappoint them again"

As a mom, Pellant said she's suffering from what she calls "coping burnout" dealing with the laundry, the dishes and other mundane things And then there are "the profound questions," she said

After school Thursday, 9-year-old daughter Ruby said: "I'm really, really, really mad because I've been waiting a long time Why don't the people who voted for Bush go over there? Why are Bush's daughters not there?"

John Dinsmore of Fergus Falls, Minn, has two sons in their early 20s who are serving in the same B Company that has suffered three deaths in six weeks

He, too, received an e-mail from Shellito before his sons, Joe and Sam, were notified about the extension

"They did express some disappointment and, yes, as a father I'm disappointed, but not surprised," John Dinsmore said "I've been very critical of the foreign policy behind this decision, but I was concerned the only way to accomplish this so-called surge would be extending the deployment And now that's come true"

Dinsmore, 51, is active in support groups for National Guard families in Minnesota

"This is going to take a psychological adjustment for the Soldiers over there and the families back home," he said "It's tough, but the ones having the toughest times are families with husbands over there As a parent of adult Soldiers, it's not as tough"

Gov Tim Pawlenty and US Sen Norm Coleman, both Republicans who have generally supported Bush, expressed disappointment about the extension Pawlenty said he wonders if the surge of troops will accomplish its purpose

"I am skeptical about the surge because it's belated I wish it would have happened a year ago, or two years ago or three years ago," he said at a Capitol news conference

But Pawlenty, who has been to Iraq twice as the guest of US Sen John McCain, R-Ariz, also said a total withdrawal of troops from Iraq could prove disastrous

"If we prematurely withdraw from Iraq at a time or a manner that leads to chaos or genocide or open regional conflict in the Middle East, we will have a worse situation on our hands," the governor said

Coleman complained in a letter Thursday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying he was "extremely disappointed" by Bush's decision

'They deserve better'

Coleman said he met with members of the combat team during a visit to Iraq last month "[T]hey told me how excited they were to see their families, to return to their employers, and to rejoin their communities at the end of their scheduled deployment in March

"They deserve better than to find out just two short months before their planned return that their tours will be extended"

Employers are required to keep jobs open as long as necessary for deployed National Guard Soldiers

Coleman also criticized the "insensitive manner" in which the extension was announced

"To find out that their Soldier's stay has been extended is heartbreaking To find out by watching the news on TV is completely unacceptable," Coleman wrote

Pawlenty and Shellito talked by telephone with the top National Guard commander on Thursday, and were told the extension would be no longer than 125 days Shellito acknowledged that he did not know whether the length of the extension might be changed

"I don't know As of yesterday and the day before, I was planning for the reintegration I don't have a crystal ball to look forward," he said

Shellito, who visited Minnesota troops in October, said he was mainly concerned with families at home who had been ready for a March return

"They were mentally prepared to stop," he said "That's when they were coming home That's when they could hug each other Now that's changed

"What I'm afraid is that all those that were hanging on by the fingernails to make it to the point, now it will not happen"

By Curt Brown, 651-298-1542 and Mark Brunswick, 651-222-1636
1/11/07

Source: www.startribune.com



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