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The 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor's Delta Company are nicknamed the "Drifters", which is fitting title considering the unit's role as a Convoy Security Team (CST) in the drawdown of American forces in Iraq
As the number of troops in Iraq dwindles, so does the amount of equipment that has played a part in sustaining nearly a decade of war
The Drifters and other companies throughout the Minnesota National Guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, earn their keep by providing convoy route security for both military and civilian trucks as they navigate the still dangerous roads of Iraq
The convoys leaving Kuwait typically include empty flatbed trailers to be loaded with equipment when they arrive in Iraq
Before a convoy can leave Kuwait, there is a laundry list of things to do First, the Drifter's must ensure all of their radio and communication equipment is functional on the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle These are the vehicles that are tasked with providing security
Maintaining this equipment is vital as it provides the Drifters with the ability to communicate with other MRAPs on their convoy
After those checks are complete, the civilian truck drivers are briefed on the mission and what is expected of them on that night's convoy In order to bridge the language gap, the truck commander will go through a series of large posters written in both Arabic and English
Following the briefs, drivers and Soldiers board their vehicles and depart for Iraq
The first stop is the border checkpoint known as "K-Crossing" Upon arriving at K-Crossing, the MRAPs are topped off with fuel and staged for the drive north
As the CST for this particular convoy, their mission is to ensure the route to Camp Adder is free of threats Typically they are looking for hidden explosives on the side of the road and suspicious vehicles that might be carrying insurgents
The Drifters move slowly and meticulously up the Iraqi highway using high powered lights to scan the side of the road for anything unusual, whether it is a rock that appears out of place or an unnatural part of the landscape that could be hiding an explosive device
The CSTs travel through areas that have seen previous threats The driver, Pfc Adam Erb, a tanker from Minneapolis, Minn keeps the speed down to provide the truck commander, Staff Sgt Scott Whittemore, a tanker from Pequot Lakes, Minn, a clear view of the road
The same can be said for gunner Sgt Chad Swenson, another tanker from Elk River, Minn Swenson pokes out the top of the truck's turret and scans the road with sophisticated optics mounted to his machine gun
In addition to darkness, Swenson must also deal with the elements of the harsh Iraqi desert
"It is hot in the summer, but don't ever let anyone tell you the desert isn't cold," he said after temperatures dropped to 39 degrees Fahrenheit
While this group of Drifters is well focused on the mission at hand, they also keep the mood as light as possible It is not uncommon to hear laughter mixed in with some of the chatter going on over the vehicle's intercom radio system
Three hours out of K-Crossing the group pulled over to get a count on the semi-trucks in the convoy It is common for the truck drivers to make wrong turns and occasionally break down making it imperative to maintain accountability for all vehicles on the convoy
Sgt Swenson counts aloud over the radio from his gunner's hatch so Staff Sgt Whittemore is assured every vehicle is where it is supposed to be If a truck does fall out of the convoy, it may be up to one of the Drifters to go track it down, making for an even longer night
Fortunately, all of the trucks were accounted for and after a short break, the Drifters were ready to make the final push to Camp Adder
For Staff Sgt Whittemore, commanding a CST becomes an art form, "Clearing the route for other vehicles to follow, really paints the picture for the entire convoy I can do whatever I feel is necessary to ensure the security of the convoy behind us"
After nearly six hours on the road, the sun begins to rise in southern Iraq The Drifters roll through the gate at Camp Adder with everyone on the convoy safe and accounted for
From here the Drifters will fuel up their vehicles and grab some breakfast before heading to cramped transient housing for some well-deserved sleep It is now 9 o'clock in the morning
When the Drifters wake, they will start the process all over again, only this time they will be heading south to Kuwait to await orders for their next mission
Story and photos by Spc Bob Brown
1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
8 Nov, 2011
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.