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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: 2017-04-24 10:43 AM Washington - Members of the Minnesota National Guard and the Air Force Reserve traveled to Washington D.C. with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (also known as the JCRC), to visit the Holocaust Museum, April 4, 2017, to honor the victims of the Holocaust. Also, traveling with this group were St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers along with students from various high schools around the state. For those in uniform that day, it was an opportunity to see, hear and experience the stories of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Each Service member who attended was asked to bring back a summary of their experience in the form of a presentation, professional discussion or briefing to their respective unit in order to help other Guard members better understand and remember that horrible event, to honor the courage of the victims and survivors, and to remain vigilant as members of the U.S. military.
"The honor and privilege of accompanying members of the Minnesota National Guard to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. met so many goals," said Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the JCRC. "I wanted to reinforce the importance of the commitment of the U.S. military to democracy. After all, it was the Allies that defeated Nazi Germany and ultimately put an end to the Holocaust."
Posted: 2017-04-19 02:15 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - It was a challenging and rewarding two weeks for members attending the Army National Guard Funeral Honors Instructor Course, April 1-14, at Camp Ripley.
Soldiers of National Guard units from all over the United States took part in the course designed to educate team leaders in a variety of funeral honor detail tasks, traditions and responsibilities.
"It's a stressful course, but for our job, we have to be prepared to do our job under stress; and we all really benefitted from that," said Class Honor Grad, Sgt. Ryan Valline of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry.
Posted: 2017-04-18 01:42 PM ROSEMOUNT, Minn. - The Soldiers of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division had a unique opportunity to speak with one of the U.S. Army's five Muslim chaplains April 7-10, 2017. U.S. Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Khallid Shabazz, I Corps deputy command chaplain, travelled from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Minnesota to provide professional development for the division chaplain section.
"Soldiers perform at a higher level when they are spiritually fit," said Minnesota National Guard Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Buddy Winn, the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division command chaplain. "And, it's our job as chaplains to make sure Soldiers have their spiritual needs met, regardless of faith. Having Chaplain Shabazz here as a Muslim Chaplain provides the diversity in religious background that we can't provide internally."
There are five major religions supported by the chaplaincy: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist, but over 200 religions are recognized. Chaplains can only perform services for their particular religion, but they can provide support for all Soldiers, regardless of their faith.
Posted: 2017-04-14 04:25 PM ST. PAUL, Minn. - For the third consecutive year, Minnesota service members were honored with on-court recognition and other VIP treatments as part of the Minnesota Timberwolves Heroes of the Pack Program.
"We are very appreciative for what the military does for us, and we wanted to give something back to honor the military," said Roger McCabe, who along with wife, Nancy, is a driving force behind the recognitions through the FastBreak Foundation and Roger & Nancy McCabe Foundation. "This is our way of doing it."
Having lived through the Vietnam War - and with Roger and Nancy both having parents who served - the two philanthropists decided a few years back to build upon existing recognition efforts already underway by the Timberwolves. And with that, recognitions that were typically happening at Target Center in November expanded to include Minnesota Service members from all branches at every home game - a total of 41 honorees per season.